Walking on Water with Pro Surfer Bryan Jennings
Twenty years ago, Bryan Jennings started the surfing outreach ministry Walking on Water. He wanted to use his surfing abilities to share his faith with local junior high and high school students. The surf camp continued each year and eventually grew into a worldwide ministry that uses surfing as a platform to share about Christ. Over the years, Bryan wanted to create a film that countered the party lifestyle that had become popularized in the surf culture. Out of that desire, he has helped produced surfing documentaries including: Walking on Water, The Outsiders and Noah’s Arc. We sat down with Bryan five years ago and talked with him about his faith, how he started Walking on Water and what he feels like his calling is in life.
“Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8-9
Bryan shared how he started Walking on Water in 1995 and how it went from a single surf camp to a movie and events.
“I was 20 years old, had become a pro surfer and was really excited about the Lord in my life at the time. I had some kids looking up to me so I thought, how do I tell these kids about surfing that I love, and Jesus that I love…and it went to the idea of a surf camp. We did our first surf camp with only ten kids. I thought we were going to do a one-time surf camp. I wasn’t thinking I would start an organization or company. It wasn’t like that. But I thought, ‘Hey I need to make a living because pro surfing doesn’t pay a lot unless you’re Kelly Slater.’ So I did the first surf camp, and then another one the next year, and the next, and it just kept growing and growing.
I was tired of seeing surf films out there that only promoted the whole party lifestyle, like that’s what life is all about- I already tried that out and guess what? That’s not what life is about. I thought, let’s make a movie about surfers who are believers. I had no idea how to do that, didn’t know what the heck I was doing and one guy stepped up to the plate and said, ‘I’ll pay for that. Go make the movie.’ It was amazing, we went and made it and Tom Curren came with us to the Canary Islands and God did more than we could have ever imagined.
We showed the movie and had around 500 people at the first event and we said, ‘Wow people actually showed up to see this. This is cool. Why don’t we do more events?’ Then it went to [making] more movies, events and tours-anything we came up with, thought of, and prayed about, – we just went towards it and did it and God blessed it. It was amazing. I think we had the right hearts…it had nothing to do with money; it had everything to do with blessing kids through the sport of surfing.”
Bryan reflected on how he has responded when faced with criticism of his purpose and calling.
“I think any guy, especially guys, think that we just want to conquer the world. We want to make a lot of money, we want to be the provider, or if family members are in some business, we feel like we should be in the business. For me it was tough because it was like [people questioned], ‘Are you a surf bum? You’re going to go make a movie? Are you just trying to surf as long as you can? What are you doing?’ And sometimes I’d even ask myself those questions. But then something amazing would happen that would confirm I need to do this. Whenever I look at kids, I see myself and remember I was a kid, totally lost and trying to figure out what life is about and is God real and will this make me happy. So I look at these kids and I have the answer [for them]. As weird as that might sound to somebody, I know I have the answer. And it’s so fun giving the answer. I get to give out the best gift that’s ever been given to mankind-the gift of Jesus Christ dying on the cross and being raised from the dead, dying for our sins so that we get to go to Heaven-I get to give that gift to everybody I meet. It’s actually an addiction. I’m addicted to telling people about Jesus because there is nothing more rewarding.”
Do an outreach! Find something you are passionate about. It can be a sport, hobby or craft. Pray and ask God to show you how to use it as a platform to share your faith. There are lots of resources available on how to share your testimony at an outreach. Start with something small. Invite some friends, neighbors or co-workers to your outreach. It can even be meeting with someone one-on-one to mentor them and sharing the Gospel when you meet.
Don’t measure success in numbers. Whether it is an outreach or a movie, God looks at the heart. You may have hundreds of people or just a handful, but the most important thing is that you share the life-changing message of Christ. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of the people that you invite. Ask Him to give you insight what words to share, questions to ask and how to respond.
Get addicted to sharing Jesus! Think of the excitement you had when you first accepted Christ. As we share Christ with others, we will get to share in their excitement too. Sharing your faith can be as simple as talking about the message you heard Sunday at church with your co-workers, talking about how you came to Christ with a friend, or inviting others to an outreach at church. Remember to be obedient as the Holy Spirit guides you in sharing your faith. He will empower you.
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