When I first met Andrew Morrison, it was at one of the Calvary Chapel Aurora summer youth group events for the high school ministry and we were playing rugby at Olympic Park. Before that day, I had never heard of rugby. After that day, I realized it was probably the hardest sport I have ever played. Oh, and the guy leading this skull-crushing sport was none other than Andrew himself: the man-child that served at CCA in the high school ministry and who loved to pull pranks on everyone in youth group.
There were a few guys from the youth group like Bailey Monroe and Isaac Hardwick there, so I didn’t feel that alone trying out this new sport. Although, I was intimidated by Andrew and his sheer size compared to me as we were on opposing teams. At the time, he was near 300lbs and I was less than half his weight, so I took quite a beating that day during the game. It went as expected: bloody, dirty, and non-stop adrenaline as we went back and forth playing rugby. Regardless, looking back it was actually a good time. Lots of smack-talk, testosterone, and a whole lot of really painful tackles worthy of an ESPN rewind. So that was the start of a discipleship bond between Andrew and I that is still ongoing to this day.
As I continued to go to the high school youth group at CCA, I figured Andrew would only be interested in hanging out with the athletes that went there. Those athletes were usually Bailey, my older brother John, the Fouse boys, Jeffrey Torres, Lomar Rodriguez, the Obinnah trio, and some other athletes that would occasionally attend here and there. Yet, Andrew took the time to invest in the scrawny, 120lbs guy that spent all his free time playing Pikmin, Mech Assault, and other obscure video games that only mega-nerds would like or even play.
At first, it didn’t make any sense why he wanted to invest in me and be that mentor in my life. I mean, we had literally nothing in common. Well, we both were known by Christ and for Andrew. that was enough reason to invite me to join his “Leaders In Training” group, also known as “L. I. T.” This group was a disciple program for hand-picked, high schoolers that wanted to grow deeper in their faith in Christ. It was a group that included Adaeze Obinnah, Alyssa Almond, Bailey, Bella Newberry, Bethany Trantham, Charlie Tomaskovic, Daniel Walton, David Dekhtyaryuk, Heather Baca, Kathryn Koff, Khilah Fouse, Lisa Brooks, Lomar, Mariah Santos, Miciah Lewis, Millie Tomaskovic, Ryan Vincent, Sarah McFarland, Taylor Urling, Zach Fouse, and potentially others that I cannot remember off the top of my head.
It was a really challenging group in that we had to do the following every week: serve at church during service, serve at evangelistic outreaches in the Denver area, memorize Scripture weekly, inductively study Scripture weekly, along with a number of other tasks that were required for this program. In retrospect, it was a high point in my spiritual growth as Andrew, with the aid of Joel Wheelersberg, instilled the truths of Judeo-Christianity into us and for some of us, it still remains with us 4 years later.
Later on, Joel went and started a new church plant called “Calvary Reach” in 2015. Around that time, Andrew left CCA to be the youth pastor at Calvary Chapel Westminister up north of where we were at in Aurora, Colorado. Even amidst all of this change, Andrew still kept in touch with all of us students to the best of his ability.
He would nag us on how we should workout with him or how we should visit him at his new church. Either way, he kept checking in on us and he still does to this day. This accountability and responsibility he took on is one of my favorite aspects that he has as both a mentor and a friend of mine. His constant desire to see the spiritually young in the faith mature is what makes him such a great leader for anyone that learns under him.
Andrew firmly believes in the idea of a church on the move. What I mean by that is inviting someone to hang out with you outside church doors throughout the week by sharing your hobby or trade with them. For instance, if you love to skateboard, then you would invite whoever it may be to hit the skate park with you and as you hang out, talk about stuff that really matters like God. It’s been his way to share the Gospel to people that don’t go to church or have been hurt by the hypocritical mentality found in the Western church. Like Jesus would do when He would minister one-on-one with people doing simple, everyday things like drawing water from a well (1) or simply having dinner together (2). It’s when sacred meets secular and it is a refreshingly powerful way of reaching out to a world that needs to see authenticity and consistency from Christians.
One way Andrew meets people where they are at is by inviting them to workout with him and do Strongman during the week. I started doing this sort of weightlifting with him in the Fall of 2014 and have been hooked on Strongman ever since. I remember when I walked into the “Colorado Pro Gym” for the first time and saw Mike Burke, a World’s Strongest Man competitor, training on Log Press as he dwarfed everyone around him. It was a little insane how big this guy was as he stood at 6’ 6” and weighed about 350lbs at that time. It was this encounter with one of the strongest men on the planet that inspired me to try out this sport. It was the fact that Strongman is so challenging, both mentally and physically, that really drew me into this small niche of athletics that I still train for even now.
Since then, I have trained on and off with Andrew and have done three Strongman competitions (i.e. Team Tom – May 2015, Iron Warrior Classic – December 2016, Team Tom – February 2017) in that span of time with my next competition in just a matter of months. What this type of discipleship also taught me was seeing people in their element outside of the social construct of “Sunday-Only Christians.” What it looks like to be a Christian in the world, but not apart of it. Watching as Andrew would stop everything to attend to the needs of his family or in-between sets asking how I’m doing and how he can help for me. Meeting people where they are at versus having people meet you where you’re at.
It’s a mode of discipleship that I’ve started to emulate as I now invite people I know to lift and minister to them all at once. Sometimes, seeing someone live like Christ says a lot more about if Christianity is really true, then a thousand sermons or a tirade of 140 character tweets.
Through the years, Andrew taught me how to simultaneously be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, yet physically strong as I equally impact eternity. Over the years, he has pushed me to think like Christ and to completely transform the way I see or think about my life. In fact, we still hang out, workout together from time-to-time, and even share a vision for a new form of church that we believe is the next move of the Spirit in the West. Thank you Andrew for being a mentor that made me a man. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!
- John 4:3-30
- Mark 2:14-17