Thorington Road Baptist Church in Montgomery hosted the first Southeast Strongman Classic May 21. Sanctioned by Strongman Corporation, the event featured 33 male and female athletes from seven states and served as an outreach event for the church.
Strongman is a sport that tests strength over several different events, said Brandon Spivey, a Thorington Road member and strongman competitor and promoter. Five women and 28 men ranging from age 18 to nearly 70 participated, representing Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and California, competing in events like Farmer’s Carry, Max Log Lift, Yoke Walk, Axle Deadlift for Reps and Loading Medley.
Making the most of an opportunity
Spivey approached Thorington Road pastor Michael Trull with the idea for organizing the competition at the church because of his involvement in and passion for the sport. Prior to the competition there had been no real strongman presence in central Alabama and, according Spivey, this was the largest competition held in the area.
“When Brandon approached me about hosting one of these events, he was just needing a place to host it,” Trull recalled. “But we decided to provide a few things for those that competed … and offered prayer before and after.”
Athletes and spectators also were invited to worship with the congregation or talk with a volunteer about their faith.
“We offered to pray with any [visitor] throughout the competition about anything,” said Trull, who shared the gospel with several in attendance.
“I have seen a few of these competitions on television, but never thought about hosting one of [them] at the church and [when] Brandon approached me about the event I thought to myself, ‘Why not?’” Trull added. “I just have to believe that God planted a gospel seed in some of those athletes’ hearts and [am] praying one day that some of them will come to Christ.
“I am reminded of Paul’s word in 1 Corinthians 9:19–23: ‘I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.’”
Follow up with athletes
Athletes have reached out to Spivey since the competition to talk about faith, he said.
“Having previously only known [me] through Strongman, they didn’t know [I] was a Christian, so that has opened doors for conversation,” he explained.
According to Neal Hughes, director of missions for Montgomery Baptist Association, the church is always looking for ways to share the gospel. Events like this help connect with community and serve as a gospel outreach.
“For Thorington Road, this event is one of many throughout the year,” Hughes said. “They are constantly connecting with their community through block parties, VBS, etc., mostly on their vast campus, and shared often with neighboring churches. The strategy has served them well as a strong outreach in the River Region.”
Several Thorington Road members came out to support the athletes and help provide a welcoming environment for them, Trull noted, and Hughes said helping with outreach events impacts the congregation as well as the community.
“Through the years, Thorington Road’s faithfulness to evangelism has paid off,” Hughes related. “They have long seeded the inspiration and expectation of God’s people to be engaged in their community’s harvest field. It takes many to do mass events. [This] congregation always steps up to the plate with volunteer missionaries who come eagerly, with a smile and a ‘whatever it takes’ spirit.”
Winners and other high-placing athletes at the event qualified for the 2022 Strongman Corporation nationals and/or regionals, Spivey said. He hopes to host the Southeast Strongman event annually.
Trull added church leaders have floated ideas for inviting strongman or weightlifting athletes who are strong believers to present a seminar on how they train for such events, then to share what is most important to them — their faith.
“The event brought a lot of people to the area,” Hughes noted. “Many of them were lost. Thorington Road loved them, laughed with them, and there were many gospel conversations that day.
“Heaven will tell the impact story, but here is a church that is faithful in telling others the best news this side of heaven. Thorington Road is also faithful to city, state and world missions.”