Johnny Montgomery said doing the best he can to keep his body active is important to him — important because he knows his purpose.
“If I wasn’t in good shape, I wouldn’t have the stamina to hold up to do these things,” he said.
By “these things,” he means help the people God puts in his path as he goes about his life and his work as a realtor. That could mean helping a man who needs a friend to walk with him through rehab, or a woman who needs someone to help her load her furniture as she moves out of an abusive situation.
“It’s a humbling kind of adrenaline to be able to throw some dollies under a washer and dryer and get them in my truck if I have to,” Montgomery said. “I know my purpose here. I should’ve been dead a long time ago, but since I’m still here, my purpose is Luke 10:2 — ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.’”
Back when Montgomery was 44, he and his wife divorced, and he became a single parent — and a full-blown alcoholic. It wasn’t his first experience with using alcohol to cope — he’d done that also about 15 years before, after his mother had been murdered.
“I should’ve been dead — all recovering alcoholics should’ve been dead some way at some time,” he said. But one day in 1990, Montgomery quit drinking. And not long after that, he walked into the office of Gary Fenton, then pastor of Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Birmingham.
“There was still a lot of sin in my life, and I told him that there was stuff that’s eating on me that may draw me back to drinking, and if I go back, I may not come back,” Montgomery said.
Fenton led Montgomery to the Lord right then and there. And Montgomery set out on a journey to figure out how to live out the rest of his life on purpose — and be fit and ready for whatever that purpose was.
He had already finished one Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, a race that involves a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run. He did eight more Ironman World Championships after that.
He started racing for Team USA in other countries and won his age group in a world championship in Canada.
“You’ve only got one body — take care of it,” Montgomery said. “But it’s more than running, biking and swimming that keeps me conditioned — Dawson Church keeps me conditioned too.”
He said as he’s aged, he’s tried to keep both his body and his mind ready to serve the Lord. He and his wife, Liz, are active members of Dawson. When he experienced a second murder in his family (this time his daughter, Megan, in 2019), Montgomery said he turned to God instead of alcohol to help him weather the storm.
Helping those in his path
He also found that a new component of his purpose was helping women who are facing domestic violence. Part of that is through the Megan Montgomery Foundation started in his daughter’s name.
“God puts people in my path for a reason, and I help them all I can,” Montgomery said.
He remembers when Fenton was there for him, along with current Dawson pastor David Eldridge. He said the pastors were the first two people to show up at his house after his daughter’s death, and he’ll never forget that.
“I want to be there for others too,” Montgomery said. “I want to share that God can give us the peace to get through our storms.”
Now 78, Montgomery said God is using his life’s journey to help others, and he wants to continue doing that for as long as possible.
“It’s not about me; it’s about how great and wonderful my God is,” Montgomery said.
Fenton said Montgomery is “an example of the transforming power of Christ. He is enthusiastic about his relationship with Christ and just as enthusiastic about the new life that follows.”
Fenton said in the past 30 years, he’s seen Montgomery’s faith stay strong, even through the loss of his daughter.
“His deep grief and his authentic love for God coexisted during this tough season of life,” he said.
Fenton said Montgomery is also an example of how to prioritize health to be ready for God’s purposes.
“He is avid about his physical health, as good health means that he can continue to serve,” Fenton said. “Johnny loves to share his Christian faith as he sells real estate. His faith and his personality are contagious.”