Traveling team shows feats of strength in witness to God

Published 9:33 am Friday, April 10, 2015

NW0410 Strength Team F

Shouts of encouragement filled the air at Sinking Creek Baptist Church as Jon Andrickson worked his hardest to bend a horseshoe into the shape of a heart.

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This was not your typical church service, but that is exactly the kind of experience the Mike Hagan Strength Team likes to share with visitors to their traveling ministry shows.

The Strength Team took the stage at the church and then proceeded to break towers of concrete blocks with their forearms, shatter wooden boards, bend rebar while holding it between their teeth, blow up a hot water bottle until it bursts and many other feats of strength.

“I bet many of you are sitting out there thinking I’ve never seen something like this in church before,” Hagan said. “I bet some of you are thinking ‘What does this have to do with Jesus?’ This has nothing to do with Jesus. It has to do with people, and there was nothing Jesus cared about more than people.”

The Mike Hagan Strength Team features four strong men from a cast of 13 who travel to different churches, community organizations and schools to share their unique blend of shows of physical strength combined with tales of spiritual power that have happened in their own lives.

“We are not here to show off,” Hagan said before the show began. “We are here to find some common ground, to bring people into the church who might not have been here before. We hope they understand that God loves them, that God designed us and made us. We hope people will open up their hearts and have a relationship with God and have a revelation of God’s love for them.”

Hagan has 14 years of experience with the Strength Team and started working with the John Jacobs Power Team in 1986. Hagan also played professional football for five years; two with the Seattle Seahawks and three in the USFL. He started working with the Power Team during the off times of the football seasons.

“I gave my life to Christ, and it changed dramatically,” Hagan said. “I would do the ministry in between seasons and it became something I wanted to do.”

Hagan worked with Sinking Creek Baptist Senior Pastor Jayson Hoagland while traveling with the strength team, which opened the door to the ministry at Sinking Creek church.

“Our primary goal is to reach people with the story of Jesus Christ and His gospel,” Hoagland said. “We want to see lives changed and hearts transformed. This is a unique venue that we were able to offer. The Strength Team performs, but they also share their testimony about the spiritual strength God gives with the salvation of their soul. They use feats of strength to get the audience’s attention and then they are able to share their testimony.”

Prior to the show beginning, the lights dimmed and a countdown clock appeared on the wall. As the seconds ticked away, many in the audience joined with the countdown waiting for the moment when the strong men would appear.  Hagan, along with Andrickson, Shawn Harden and Warren Alford, worked the audience into a high energy with pumping, up-beat music as they charged down the aisle.

For their first strength act, the men took turns breaking two stacks of 10 concrete bricks with their forearms. Then Andrickson races around the stage shattering wooden planks with his hands. From there, Harden held a piece of rebar between his teeth while he bent it into a pretzel-like shape. Andrickson followed up with this by blowing into a hot water bottle until it burst like a balloon.

The team took a break from the action to allow Andrickson to share his story with the crowd.

“May 19, 2013 is the most important day in my life,” he said. “That is the day I gave my life to Christ and my life turned around. We all have a testimony to share and we all have story.”

Andrickson grew up in New York City, and had a Christian family, he said. He started to fall in with the wrong crowd and drugs became a problem in the neighborhood, so his family moved to Miami. However, he still found his way into the drug world.

“I made my own choice and got involved with the things of the world,” he said. “I knew of God. He was in my head but not in my heart. I had this disconnect in my life and it felt like a major depression. I felt the despair and I self-medicated with drugs for temporary relief.”

Andrickson then married and had a daughter. He worked to be a good husband and father but said he still battled his addiction. One day, when his daughter was five-years-old she came home and asked to go to church.

“My heavenly Father used the one person I could not say no to,” Andrickson said. “So many people had been after me to go to church and had asked for years, but He went through my daughter to get me where I needed to be.”

The family started attending a church in Miami. His wife was saved, but Andrickson had not yet made that decision. He went to church every Sunday and cried because he did not feel worthy of the love God had for him, he said.

“One day my pastor came to me and asked me if everything was okay,” he said. “I told him I did not feel worthy to accept the gift that God had provided of salvation through his son. The pastor told me that it doesn’t matter what I do, that all of our good deeds do not matter to God. It is what God has done, and I realized, who am I to reject his gift and that completely changed my life.”

After sharing, the team turned back to their strong man acts. Alford transformed a normal skillet into a burrito by rolling a skillet into a spiral.

“This is how the Strength Team does dishes,” Andrickson exclaimed as the crowd cheered.

The team also ripped a car tag, phone book and deck of cards in two and broke a wooden baseball bat in half. The team finished out the night by squeezing drink cans until they exploded.

Alford shared a short sermon based off of the Bible verse, John 3:16. An altar call was given and around a dozen people made decision for salvation or to rededicate their lives to God.

In the past year, the Strength Team has helped lead more than 18,000 people in personal decisions for salvation or life rededication, Hagan said. The team will soon be going on mission trips to Peru and Cuba. The team will be at Sinking Creek Baptist Church each night through Sunday at 7 p.m.