28 Carson-Newman football players among 61 baptized in Cherokee Lake
Tuesday, Aug 31, 2010
By Lonnie Wilkey
MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (BP)—Sunday, Aug. 8, was already scheduled to be a special day at First Baptist Church here.
Carson-Newman football coach Ken Sparks.
The church was sponsoring its annual “Blue and Orange Day” in honor of the Carson-Newman College football team.
In addition, the congregation was joining seven sister churches in Nolachucky Baptist Association in a joint baptism service at Harrell Park, property owned by FBC on Cherokee Lake. Thirty-three people were to be baptized that evening.
The day got better.
Dean Haun, pastor of FBC, said the church invites the entire team to attend for services. They came early for breakfast, then attended special Bible study during the Sunday School hour led by former University of Tennessee football great and NFL player Scott Galyon, who is now a representative with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
The players then attended worship in which Haun preached a message based from Matthew 7 entitled “Three Keys to Success in Life.”
The team then went to Harrell Park for lunch. Haun was going elsewhere for lunch when he received a call from Ken Sparks, head football coach at Carson-Newman, informing him that “a bunch of their guys” had said they accepted Christ and wanted to be baptized.
Haun left his lunch gathering and went to the park where he discovered 28 football players were ready to march into the lake and be baptized.
“This was one of the most glorious Sundays I have ever experienced as a pastor — to be a part of that with those guys,” Haun said.
He said the church, along with Galyon, planned to do follow up on those who made decisions and provide discipleship for any player who wished to participate.
Haun was quick to credit Coach Sparks. “None of this would have happened without his leadership. He encourages the guys and leads them spiritually.”
The Morristown pastor noted what happened that day “was a collective effort of everyone ministering and preaching the power of the gospel.”
He noted that nine more people from FBC were baptized during the joint service that evening.
“It was a great day,” he declared.
Sparks told the Baptist and Reflector that “the Lord moved and did things that only He could do in calling the young men to obedience to follow Him.”
The veteran coach, known for his Christian testimony in addition to his winning record on the football field, said part of the opening days of football camp are devoted to the Carson-Newman Plan for Life.
Part of that includes the players’ spiritual needs, Sparks said, noting that IMB missionary and former University of Tennessee football star Alan Duncan leads the team through the process and shares the plan of salvation.
The coach noted a majority of the players actually made decisions for Christ the night before the church service.
He had no idea that so many wanted to be baptized when the team went to Harrell Park for lunch and team-building exercises.
Several players approached him, asking if they could be baptized, so he called Haun who immediately came to the lake.
Haun and Sparks explained what it meant to be baptized and then Haun went into the lake to begin baptizing. “Before you knew it we had 28 players baptized,” the coach said.
“It was an unbelievable day,” said Sparks, who is entering his 31st season as head football coach at Carson-Newman.
In the days following, there have been an additional 16 professions of faith. “We need to have another baptism service soon,” Sparks said.
Though Sparks is the fourth winningest active college football coaches in the nation and has won five national championships, winning games can’t compare to seeing his players come to know Christ as Savior.
“That’s what it is all about. It’s better than winning a national championship,” Sparks said.
Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector.
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