Friday, October 07, 2005

Breaking stuff in the name of the Lord

From: The Sun

HIGHLAND -- They are giants for Jesus.

Members of Team Impact, a Dallas-based group of gym junkies on a mission, use uncanny strength to share their faith in God.

Six members were invited here by Immanuel Baptist Church and are scheduled to continue their bat breaking, telephone-pole lifting and rubber-bladder bursting tonight and Sunday night. They plan to lead Sunday morning worship services.

"They're incredible,' says Andrew Beck, a 6-1, 140-pound, 19-year-old intern at the Highland church. "They can pound their way through anything. I wish I could do that. I'm a little jealous.'

The house was packed Wednesday night for the former football players, professional wrestlers and no-holds-barred fighters. Close to 100 awestruck people responded to the altar call.

Christian Vines, 4, wasn't running to the stage, but he did return Thursday to see the guys he thought were stronger than Superman.

Christian's eyes shifted toward one of several television monitors that had been repeating a Team Impact trailer while people entered. The audience filled to about 1,300 a few hundred fewer than the night before.

The auditorium lights faded and the stage lights strobed. Young and old clapped and shrieked some swinging glow sticks.

Instantly, Immanuel Baptist was transformed into Hyundai Pavilion at Glen Helen during Ozzfest. But don't mistake the mission or the message: Team Impact was pumping up the audience for the Lord.

With nicknames like "Big' and "The Bear,' the musclemen in purple and black warm-ups took turns snapping bricks, some eight layers deep. They were loosening up.

Trey Talley, a former Mr. Teenage Arkansas, picked up a can of lighter fluid and soaked seven brick stacks. He set them ablaze.

Whap! Crack! Pow!

The flaming stacks turned into rubble. The sanctuary smelled of burned gasoline and fire retardant. Talk about being on fire for God.

Their moxie makes them candidates for the snake handlers and poison drinkers Jesus refers to in Mark; by faith they are able to do outrageous things.

Talley, who was emceeing this particular night, quickly clarified this is not simply "a macho program.' He dedicated the next feat the rolling of a frying pan into a steel burrito "to all the moms in the room.'

Hoops. Hollers. The crowd was insatiable.

The show crested with the sermon.

The Bear 315-pound Randall Harris of DeSoto, Texas says humans are sinful and in need of a savior. He then tore in half a Yellow Pages phone book, which represents God's record of his sin. The blood of Christ, according to the message, shreds that record.

This is the message of Team Impact's first visit to San Bernardino County. They have performed at hundreds of locations this year, including Immanuel Baptist and 34 area schools this week.

Immanuel Baptist spent about $30,000, largely raised through corporate donors, to support the school performances. The strongmen permitted to promote Christianity or the church at schools.

Their message for public institutions is decidedly pro-clean living: stay away from drugs, alcohol and destructive friends.

The festivities resumed and so did the screaming. It was deafening.

It was Richard Williams' turn. Williams walked away from an estimated $4 million NFL contract by backing out of the 2002 draft days before he was expected to be selected in the third round. Now Williams, all 390 pounds of him, makes a living by crushing walls of ice, running through two-by-fours and spreading the Gospel.

"Impact is not when we break concrete or when we break a bat,' Talley says. "True impact is when people invite Jesus Christ into their hearts and lives.'

After some more antics and another charge to purpose-driven living, about 75 people came forward and committed their lives to Christ.