With faith: Former pastor starts a new journey

Fulton's Scott Nicholson prays with the IAHS Indians before a recent game. A medical condition forced this former preacher and basketball announcer to change careers. He is now a district representative for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a non-profit organization that combines two of Nicholson's passions: sports and faith. (Courtesy photo by Laura Orr)

Fulton’s Scott Nicholson prays with the IAHS Indians before a recent game. A medical condition forced this former preacher and basketball announcer to change careers.(Courtesy photo by Laura Orr)

In some ways, Scott Nicholson is doing something completely different with his life. In other ways, it’s exactly what he’s always been doing.

Nicholson is now the District 1 representative for the Mississippi branch of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a national non-profit religious organization that combines athletics with spirituality — two things Nicholson loves. “In short, it’s sports plus faith,” as he explained it.

“There is a great misconception to what FCA really is,” he said. “Everybody has the idea that FCA is just a 30-minute Bible study. But we serve as an arm to the local school system to try to help them build their FCA programs in a positive manner.”

The area Nicholson represents includes nine counties, including Itawamba, and more than 60 schools. He is one of two FCA representatives covering the area. His job will involve traveling to schools in Itawamba, Prentiss, Tishomingo and Alcorn counties and acting as an arm to their Fellowship of Christian athlete “huddles,” or group meetings. In total, Nicholson will oversee the FCA’s presence in 40 schools, including all three Itawamba County high schools.

It’s a lot of schools and a lot of responsibilities. The day before his interview, Nicholson left Itawamba County at 7 a.m. to meet with officials at Booneville High School. After that, he spoke at a Rotary Club meeting at Booneville. From there, he traveled to Kossuth to speak with the high school’s head coach, Jaley Adams. Then, it was off to Corinth to meet with a youth pastor and two business owners. After that, it was back to Tupelo for an FCA board meeting.

“I pulled back in my driveway at 9 o’clock that night,” he said. “That was my day yesterday.”

But the former pastor of Fulton Free Will Baptist Church and ICC basketball announcer is used to busy schedules. That’s nothing new. What is new is everything else.

In Feb. 2013, Nicholson’s vocal chords ruptured. Although he was able to have his vocal chords repaired through surgery, his voice had lost much of its previous strength. As a man who survived financially on the power of his voice, Nicholson was left with some hard decisions.

“That was my livelihood,” he said. “We began to pray about either healing or letting the Lord lead me in another direction.”

In June, Nicholson found that direction. He was offered the position with the FCA. He decided it was the way to go.

“It’s an exciting new venture,” he said.

Once he begins the job in earnest next year, Nicholson will spend his days meeting with coaches and other school officials and help student “huddles” become more focused and organized.

“We don’t come in and take over the programs,” he explained. “We come in and work as an encouragement … We go in and try to teach them principles on how to build their ‘huddle’ beyond just Bible study.”

The goal is to try to get FCA members to do more to try to win their peers to Christ … to be positive examples to their peers.

“That’s the cool thing about the FCA to me: Being able to put the Word in the hands of kids,” he said.

Just like any leap of faith, this one comes with its fair share of doubts. Because the group is non-profit, Nicholson will be responsible for raising enough donations to justify his salary. It’s a scary proposition.

“The most intimidating part in this is the largest step of faith I’ve ever taken,” he said. “I’m going from being a full-time pastor to being a full-time missionary who relies on the prayer and support of others.”

Nicholson is currently deep in the fundraising portion of his new career, spreading the message of what the FCA’s ministry is trying to accomplish and has accomplished already.

“I can’t do it without the help of the people of Itawamba County … the churches of Itawamba County,” he said. “If they could see the impact this ministry is having on the lives of kids in Itawamba County, then it would be a no-brainer to want to give to this ministry.”

Although fundraising’s been going well, Nicholson knows he still has a long way to go. But he’ll get there. He has faith.

adam.armour@journalinc.com

About Adam Armour

Adam Armour has been writing and taking photographs for "The Itawamba County Times" since 2005. His words and pictures have earned 18 Mississippi Press Association Awards, including several "Best of" category recognitions. He has written and independently published one novel and is currently working on a second.

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