(Photo: Jerry Byrd/FCA)
Thousands of students gathered at athletic fields across the country on Wednesday for Fields of Faith, an annual event developed by Fellowship of Christian Athletes that encourages students to engage with the Bible and follow Jesus Christ.
FCA National Director of Communications Mickey Seward told The Christian Post on Thursday that 439 Fields of Faith gatherings across 37 states had been registered, though not all of them took place Wednesday. The student-led events bring young people together at local athletic fields or gymnasiums for a time of worship, Bible reading and testimony sharing.
Jeff Mosier, the East Central Indiana area representative for the FCA, says there are 51 FCA groups at high schools and middle schools across seven counties in his region. Instead of having a Fields of Faith event at each of their schools, students in the region gathered in Muncie, Ind., for the event, which was attended by an estimated 2,500 to 2,800 people.
"It's very interesting because you have people on the stage from different schools coming together to make a team," said Mosier. "Some of these students have been athletes on the same field against each other, or the volleyball court or the basketball court, and now here they are, side by side, worshiping the Lord together as a team. It's pretty cool."
Five student speakers from four different counties addressed their peers at the Muncie Fieldhouse on Wednesday. Mosier says adults and students alike have said student testimonies are the most powerful part of the event.
Among those who were deeply affected by the gathering was a local pastor, who sent a message to Mosier saying the rally led him to recommit his life to Christ.
"I recommitted to finish well my Journey on this earth," the pastor wrote. "God has been calling me to go deeper with Him... So deep that I'm truly over my head. I just want you to know... FOF are not just for 17 year olds... Sometimes we ministers are afraid to say it... But I am not."
Terry Slack, FCA's Northwest Louisiana and state director, told CP that several years ago there was just one Fields of Faith event for his region. Over time, however, he encouraged local FCA "huddle" sponsors and coaches to help students put together events at their own schools, and this year 19 Fields of Faith gatherings were planned throughout the area.
Students at one school in the region gathered a crowd of 500 people for its rally, which took place last week. Several years ago a student from that school was murdered just months after committing his life to Christ at a Fields of Faith event, said Slack, which may have motivated the students who have organized the event since that time.
"It hits home really hard each time they have one because they realize...you're not promised another day," he said. "The ones that are believers involved in the FCA, they're really out there really promoting it and inviting their friends to come to Fields of Faith down there."
Groups from across the country have been posting photos, videos and written reports of successful Fields of Faith events to social media sites. One Facebook user said 2,300 people attended the third annual rally in Campbell County, Tenn., which has tripled in size from the 700 people who attended just a few years ago. Attendees from many locations have also reported that people committed or recommitted their lives to Christ.
"I was trying to answer a tweet yesterday asking about how Fields of Faith went last night," wrote one Facebook user. "Since I had only so many characters in a tweet to describe it I just used a few words: Humbled. Speechless. Awestruck. Anointed. Holy Spirit. Uncommon Unity. Joy. Brokenness. Choices. New life."
Fields of Faith began in 2002 when Jeff Martin, the Oklahoma Fellowship of Christian Athletes area director, asked God what he should do with his frustration over the spiritual battles facing the young "spectator generation," according to the event's website. Martin found his answer in the biblical story of King Josiah, a young king of Judah who led a spiritual shift in his nation when he gathered his people, read the scriptures to them and had them pledge to keep God's commands.
More than 6,000 students across Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas gathered for the first Fields of Faith in 2002. In 2012, more than 170,000 people in 37 states participated in the event nationwide.