Athletics

Graduate serves Kansas City Chiefs as chaplain

February 10, 2017

Phillip Kelley (’04 and ’06), chaplain for the Kansas City Chiefs, once asked the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Liberty University’s founder, if he could walk alongside him as Falwell served as a pastor. Kelley, who played baseball for Liberty while earning his degree in biblical studies, eventually became Falwell’s personal intern, working toward his master’s degree in pastoral leadership through the Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary.

According to Kelley, Dr. Falwell was more than a fierce warrior for Christian values. He was a compassionate listener who helped friends — and sometimes the not so friendly — understand the love of God.

“I observed him — how he interacted with people and how he prayed for audacious visions,” Kelley remembered. “It was such an incredible opportunity.”

And it taught Kelley more about ministry than any class could.

“He would slowly and gingerly walk me through the responsibilities of being a pastor,” Kelley said.

Kelley took what he learned from Dr. Falwell and went on to pastor churches in Austin and Dallas, Texas, before returning to his hometown to shepherd a church in Kansas City. After speaking at a chapel for the Chiefs, the NFL team offered him the job as chaplain. Kelley and his wife, Frances, now minister to the players and their families before games.

“We just help them to see Christ in an authentic way,” Kelley said. “I really encourage these guys to articulate their testimonies and to use and leverage the platform that God has given them to broadcast the Gospel to the world.”

Quarterback Chase Daniel appreciates the support. “I have a call with (Kelley) almost every single week, just to catch up and to make sure we’re staying strong in our faith and holding each other accountable,” Daniel said.

Not long after Kelley started as Kansas City’s team chaplain, he saw an opportunity to bring more Chiefs fans to Christ. In a partnership with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, at 9:30 a.m. before every noon home game, they turn the Bud Light Party Pavilion into a place of worship.

“And we just bust it out,” Kelley said. “We hand out Bibles. We give people an opportunity to invite Christ into their lives. It’s the only thing like it in the NFL … Hopefully, we will be able to take the idea to other teams, other professional sports.”

Kelley’s association with a major sports franchise has multiplied his opportunities to share Christ. And he’s taking advantage, humbly.

“I just tell people all the time, ‘Look, I’m a broken person who has found Christ, and I just want to share authentically what God has done in my life,’” Kelley said. “And hopefully, by our lives, and by the redemption that Christ has offered, they can
see hope.”

And through it all, the audacious visions of Dr. Falwell often reemerge.

“Christ and Christ crucified — that’s our message,” Kelley said.

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