As I sat in the small computer lab at Christ for the Nations Institute, I about fell out of my chair. A friend, Ben Hornby, had enrolled in the MDiv program at Regent University in Virginia Beach. Ben mentioned that he met someone who knew me. Of course that piqued my interest. Ben went on to share that it was someone I played football with from my time at Bridgewater College. At that point I was definitely scratching my head as to which teammate would have enrolled in seminary. Honestly, I could not think of one person. Imagine my shock when he revealed in the next paragraph the mystery person: Brian Britton.
This roughshod was indeed my former teammate on the football team.
As I sat stunned in that cramped lab, I reread the email again to ensure I did not misread anything.
Let me take you down memory lane.
During my freshman year in the fall of ’92, we played football together at Bridgewater College. Record wise, we were a dismal 3-7. But that fall season was one of the most significant seasons of my life. The day after a pummeling at the hands of Emory & Henry College, 51-7 (which was also the score at halftime!), I surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus Christ.
My eyes were opened to the fact that I was a wretched sinner in need of a great Savior. I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. I was born again. God gave me a new heart as I trusted Christ for my eternal salvation. Life forever changed that day because when Jesus steps into the picture, he changes everything.
While much happened off the field, I was going full speed on the gridiron. I had actually met Brian during high school on my campus visit to BC once they announced the hiring of a new head coach. I was grouped with Britton, Donnie Coleman, and the starting offensive guard dubbed, Tank, for a quick tour of the campus.
Britton was a mean, beer guzzling son of a gun. Though reserved off the field, he had ornery mean streak on the field. He was the starting right tackle on offense; I was backup linebacker on defense, which meant scrub team in practice against the starting offense. We had an altercation or two on the field during practice. One former teammate, our strong safety, William Prince, wrote concerning Britton:
Brian was always very determined. He work hard to better himself. I always admired his work in the weight room as he was one of the strongest players on the team. He may have looked the part of a madman, but deep down he was always a big teddy bear.
He certainly had the madman part down as I could attest to that. But I certainly never saw the big teddy bear side of him in college.
However, change was coming. Let me explain.
After graduating from Bridgewater College in ’94, Brian spent several years in the ranks of coaching football on the collegiate level. It was in this stage of life when Britton surrendered his life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. As stated earlier, Jesus changes everything. This is certainly true of Brian’s life story as well.
Nineteen years after learning that this former hellion of a teammate was now on fire for God while studying in seminary, we are now running together in kingdom friendship to see Christ made known throughout the earth. Every time we are able to connect face to face, we instantly pick up where we previously left off. Thankfully we run in some of the same circles so our paths oftentimes unintentionally cross.
Besides our first name and the fact that we both played college football on the same team for a perennial powerhouse (cough, cough), we do have a few other things in common: (1) we’re both full-time vocational ministers; (2) we both graduated from Regent University; (3) we both married international women: he married a Russian woman and I married a Polish woman.
While studying at Regent University, Brian met his future wife, Valerie, who was an international student. Together, they form a dynamic kingdom couple as they raise a precious daughter. For many years, they pastored a church before transitioning to focus on missions work and itinerant ministry.
Brian carries a heart that has been baptized in the love of God. When he ministers, he delivers hard hitting truths in a manner that is digestible for the hearer because it is presented from a heart of love. It is easier to receive from one whom you know cares deeply from the heart. He won’t avoid the hard issues, but he’ll always attack it in a posture of love. Brian loves deeply because he has drank deeply of the Father’s love.
Minister and author, Bill Vanderbush, writes concerning this man:
Brian is a river of glory. By that I mean when you hear Brian minister, you feel the tangible goodness of God and you know without a doubt that the Lord is present. As a friend, I have come to respect and admire him deeply for the consistent and faithful way he carries the Father’s heart for people. The light of heaven’s love shines in his eyes; and being in his presence is peace. I told someone one day that if every believer had Brian’s spirit, the world wouldn’t be so confused about what God is like.
Many friends the world over have likewise testified of such qualities that they have seen firsthand in the life and ministry of this man. As Brian travels worldwide preaching the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, a consistent byproduct has emerged time and time again: Brian is recognized and received as a spiritual father. Across the globe wherever he has trotted, there is bound to be a spiritual son or daughter whose life he has touched through the love of Jesus. Whether ministering in Pakistan, Iceland, Brazil, Indonesia, or the United States, there is a trail of spiritual sons and daughters whose heart cry is to “know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10). In love, Brian points them heavenward to follow Christ wholeheartedly until the very end.
If your life has been impacted by the ministry of Brian Britton, I want to invite you to share in the comments below. Take a moment to share a story that captures a life-changing moment, or something funny that makes you smile when you think of Brian, or simply a brief word that you want to share to express your appreciation for his influence in your life.
I’m so proud of this guy. He’s the real deal. And I must agree with our former teammate with an added twist to the equation: Brian Britton is a big, soft teddy bear who oozes the love of Jesus!