Pat Kelly: From All-Star Outfielder to Soul-Winning Evangelist
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In the 1979 American League Championship Series the Baltimore Orioles were in a gripping battle with the California Angels. On October 6 the series was in Baltimore’s favor, leading two games to one, with the fourth game deciding whether they would have to face the Angels one more time or go on to play the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. In the seventh inning the Orioles were up 5-0 when a 6’1” left-handed, line-drive-hitting leftfielder named Pat Kelly stepped to the plate. With one crack of the bat he sealed the victory belting a three-run homerun. Unfortunately, the Orioles would go on to lose the World Series to the Pirates in seven games.
Pat entered the major leagues in 1967 as a speedy 23-year old outfielder from Philadelphia, PA. His 15-year career took him through five teams (Twins, Royals, White Sox, Orioles, and Indians) and 1,385 games. He was well-known by opposing pitchers for his speed on the bases. In fact, he reached double figures in stolen bases in his first ten full seasons and nabbed 40 in 1969 while with the Kansas City Royals, his first full season and just nine shy of the rookie record. Pat was also a sure-handed outfielder—he had a career fielding percentage of .978—and could also belt the occasional homerun (five career grand slams). Other highlights of his career include being named to the 1973 American League All-Star team and, of course, playing in the 1979 World Series.
Pat Kelly, now 57, said that as a young man in the major leagues his mind was on self-gratitude. “It was all about the victory,” he says, “money, parties, drinking, womanizing.” He was living a dream and was determined to get everything out of it he could. But in 1975, while playing for the Chicago White Sox, Pat met Clyde White, a bank executive in the Chicago area. At the time, Pat was going through a tough period in his life dealing with depression. “I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown,” he says. Clyde, a Christian, befriended young Pat and invited him to a Bible study where he heard about the personal relationship he could have with Jesus and how that could change his life. Later that evening, Pat gave his life and problems to Christ and hasn’t looked back since. He was a changed man on and off the field witnessing to teammates and fellow ballplayers and becoming active in the communities in which he played.
Pat retired from baseball in 1982 while playing for the Cleveland Indians. He went on to become the executive director of Christian Family Outreach, a family ministry founded by his father-in-law, Howard Jones, the first black evangelist to travel with Billy Graham. Then in 1987 Pat says he felt God calling him into full-time evangelism. That same year he obeyed the call and founded his own ministry, Life Line Ministries in Ellicott City, MD, named after the old hymn by Edwin Smith Ufford, “Throw Out the Lifeline.”
Over the past sixteen years Pat has traveled around the world and across the country proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. His travels have taken him to Africa, India, and Jamaica, and he routinely preaches to churches, revival meetings, and youth camps.
Life Line Ministries is strictly an evangelistic, invitation-only ministry supported primarily through regular supporters and love offerings. The ministry has two main emphases: preaching the gospel to reach lost souls and encouraging revival in churches. This is accomplished through Pat’s preaching and teaching and an extensive audio and videotape ministry. One of Pat’s great passions is seeing revival happen in our churches. “The church needs revival today,” he says emphatically. He believes if the church in America continues on its path of complacency and surface-level Christianity it will eventually be wholly ineffective. Pat attributes this trend of lackluster devotion to a lack of prayer and study of God’s Word. “Satan doesn’t mind Christians reading books and going to workshops,” he says, “but the devil hates prayer and the Word of God . . . a lack of prayer is tragic.” Pat also believes Christians need to stop professing Christianity and start living it. He says, “The greatest sermon is not the one we preach, but the one we live.”
But his greatest passion is seeing lost people saved. Life Line’s key verse is Romans 10:14,15: How then shall they call on Him on whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things.” This passion is also voiced in the ministry’s purpose statement which says, “We seek to utilize all methodology at our disposal for declaring the propositional reality that sinful men, women, boys and girls can only be reconciled to a Holy God by the blood of Calvary’s cross. To proclaim this message of salvation to what we believe is an eternally lost world today.” Some future goals for Life Line are the development of evangelistic literature for mass distribution, the beginning of a weekly 30-minute radio broadcast featuring his preaching and teaching, and the eventual staging of evangelistic crusades across the world.
Pat, a fiery evangelist with a booming voice, says he is now doing exactly what the Lord wants him doing. “You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to baseball,” he says. Looking back to his early days in the major leagues he says he knows the Lord has changed his life completely. His satisfaction is now found in his wife, Phyllis, teenage daughter, April Marie, and doing the work of the Lord. Of living a life in service for the Lord, Pat says, “There is no greater life than the life lived for Christ.”
Pat Kelly and Life Line Ministries can be contacted at: Life Line Ministries, 8730 Town & Country Blvd., Ellicott City, MD 21043. Or by phone: (410) 203-9248.
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