Can you preach the Gospel by bending, smashing and breaking stuff? That’s the mission of the Conquerors Strength team from the US.
Each of their amazing feats has a message behind it. ‘Jesus died for U,’ they tell audiences, ‘like the shape of this horseshoe. But if you accept him into your life, He becomes your saviour.’ Then they bend the horseshoe into an S.
On their last visit to Australia, Mike and Mike from the team dropped into Vision180 to tell Alex about their work, and their testimonies. They may share a name, but they came to the team via very different paths.
Mike Benson was raised a Catholic, so he knew a lot about the Bible, but he’d never met its Author. During his first stint behind bars, he met with some authentic believers who spoke to him about Jesus. ‘And I’d say yeah yeah, I know all that.’
But when he was re-arrested, this time facing a potential life sentence, he remembered those words, and cried out to God. ‘I said: If You’re so good, if You’ve got this great plan for my life, then how come my life is so messed up?’
It was then that he heard God’s voice for the first time. ‘Call on Me, son,’ God said. So Mike got on his hands and knees. ‘I said: God, I’ve ruined this life. There’s nothing I can do with it. So I surrender. It belongs to you.’
His Catholic education had taught him to confess to every sin he remembered committing. He said he was there for quite a while. ‘When I got off the floor, nothing changed around me, but something was different inside of me. And I truly experienced life and joy in that moment. And I’ve never looked back.’
Mike Gruppen’s story couldn’t be more different. He was raised in Sunday school and youth group, and everyone he knew was in Church. But he says his environment made him what the Bible calls ‘a lukewarm Christian’.
‘My faith was really the faith of my parents,’ he said. ‘I was a good moral kid. I made good choices. I didn’t do drugs. I didn’t do alcohol. I’m one of those guys that actually remained pure till my wedding day. But yet behind the scenes, my value and identity was coming from who I was in the world.’
Mike measured himself by his athletic prowess, or how much money he could make in his real estate career. ‘My identity was coming from all those things in the world because I had not had a healthy picture painted for me, as a younger man. I think that the world just shows us that if you’re successful in business, and make a lot of money, you’re going to be valuable.’
the real strength in our lives is our relationship with God
‘I’d been building my life on the sand,’ he said, ‘and every time the storms of life came, they just ruined everything that I had built. And I didn’t realise that my foundation was not rooted in Christ.’
The Conquerors’ work is all about showing young people how to build those foundations. Their feats of strength are designed to highlight the real strength in our lives, which is our relationship with God. Ephesians 2:10 NIV says ‘for we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’
‘What I realised,’ Mike Gruppen said, ‘is that you can never truly understand your identity, until you get into the Word, and see who God says you are.’
Mike Benson had a similar message. ‘It looked like my life was destined to be one of drugs, crime, prison and early death. But then I met Jesus, and He changed the direction of my life, because He changed my heart.’
Though their backgrounds were very different, both Mikes faced a lot of pressure from outside influences, which they thought would define their lives. The pressures you’re facing right now might be different. They might come from your friends, or family, or social media.
But all the problems in your life have one solution; the strength of God, which can help you do things you thought were impossible. ‘That’s the reason behind the name the Conquerors as well,’ Mike Gruppen said, ‘because you have to overcome and conquer the things in life that cause you rejection, and cause you failure, and depression and anxiety.’
So when you see the Conquerors smashing bricks with their arms and heads, or bending iron bars, remember that God ‘gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak.’ (Isaiah 40:29 NIV) It may seem impossible to bend, break or smash all the stuff that gets in your way. But with God’s help, you can conquer anything.
Listen to more of the interview below