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STORIES: “Riding God’s Wave”

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Brian Brodersen was your archetypal Southern California surfer living as he did in Huntington Beach, which is known as “Surf City.” But then at the age of 22, God got hold of his life and he began riding God's wave instead.

Brian, in an interview at the recent Calvary Chapel Missions Conference in Murrieta, CA, said, "I grew up in the surfing sub-culture of Southern California and I was involved in just about everything that people were doing at that time - drugs and alcohol and promiscuity. Surfing was the one recreational thing that I did that had some sort of a healthy aspect to it. But, in the course of living in Southern California and doing all those kind of things, I sensed the futility of life at an early age. I felt that if this was all there was to life it was really disappointing."

Brian said that he had been raised in a nominal Roman Catholic and he knew there was a God, but didn't know Him and didn't know that he could.

The Beginning of His Spiritual Journey

“In the course of time, still sensing the futility of life, I began to cry out to God. One night in the late 70s, I said, 'If you are there and if You are real then help me.' The Lord did. One night, in my home, all by myself, I called out to God and asked him to save me and He did and that was the beginning of my new Christian life. It was the beginning of my spiritual journey.”

He immediately moved out of the “Party Pad” he was sharing with his friends and found a new home with two other surfers who had also recently given their lives to Christ.

We began praying and doing little Bible studies and within six months, about 40 to 50 people that we had grown up with in the surf culture in Huntington Beach, began coming and so we had a mini revival on our hands, although we didn't know what that was.

I also began attending Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, because this was the church in the area where the Bible was really being taught. After getting to know the Bible a little bit, the Lord began to open up different ministry opportunities for me. I would pray with people here and there; share Bible verses with them and one thing led to another…

A Wife

Brian said that one night, at a home Bible Study in Huntington Beach, he first saw a “really nice looking young lady” and couple of weeks later he was introduced to her. Her name was Cheryl Smith and what he didn't know was she was the daughter of Pastor Chuck Smith, the senior pastor of the church.

“She caught my attention and she eventually became my wife. We got married at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa on May 23, 1980 and Chuck did the service.”

Brian became an intern with his new father-in-law at Calvary Chapel from 1980-3 and then he felt that God was calling him and Cheryl to move to Vista in North San Diego County.

“There was a small church there that had experienced some problems and so we came in and, at the age of 26, I began pastoring that church,” he said.

“We had a great time starting off with a small group of people. We were there for 13 years and we saw the church grow from a few dozen to about 3,000.

During the course of those 13 years, God opened up a missions door for us and we began planting churches in Europe. Our first church-plant was in northeastern Yugoslavia and then we crossed the border in Hungary and then we just began planting church all over Yugoslavia and Hungary and then in the early nineties in the former Soviet Union and we also began planting churches. We started in Moscow.”

A Vision for England

Brian said that during this time, he began to sense a desire to plan a church in England. He said that his great great grandfather was Lord Cecil Haig who belonged to the Haig family, which was famous for brewing Scotch whisky, so this was his connection back to Britain.

“With the family connection back to Britain there was always an interest in the UK and having been involved in missions in Europe for quite a while God just began to put England on my heart specifically,” he said.

“I had no desire of actually moving to England and pastoring the church, but just going in with a church planting team lead people to Christ and then leave someone to disciple them and one of them would become the pastor over that little flock, just like we had done many times before.

But when I went there for first visit, the Lord immediately spoke to me that the church should be in central London. When I shared this with my English friends they said that I was mad and that it couldn't be done; that there was no place to do something like that and also that people don't come into Central London on Sundays as they all live out in the various suburbs.

Big Ben in London. Illustration copyrighted.Still, we felt God was calling us to do it and the Lord opened some miraculous doors and we were able to get into a school hall near Sloan Square and that only lasted a couple of weeks, but we did some outreach there. Then the Lord opened a permanent place for us to meet near Victoria Station, just between Buckingham Palace and the British Parliament in Westminster at Westminster City School in Palace Street.

We began meeting in the school hall and when we planted the church we had eight people attend that first Sunday. I went back for the States and then six months later, we moved to England. The congregation in the meantime had grown from eight to 20 with the interim pastor who had come, and so in September of 1996, we took over the ministry and we began just teaching the Bible there in London and the Lord kept us there for just about four years and in the time that we were there, we saw tremendous thing happens. Many wonderful conversions and many Christians who were suffering from spiritual malnutrition came and began to be fed.”

I mentioned to Brian that at that time, much of Britain's Church was in a “Signs and Wonders” mode. I wondered how he felt going against the tide?

“We were much going against the tide, but we didn't make that the emphasis,” he explained. “I know that there are some ministries in Britain that stand for ‘truth,’ but they are known more for standing against something, and we thought that's really not the best approach. We wanted to stand for something that that was for the faithful exposition of the Word of God.”

He said there are now some 25 Calvary Chapels in Britain.

But now he is back in Southern California, so I wondered how this had occurred?

“The call to come back to the States was interesting,” said Brian. “I didn't want to come back. We were very content in doing what we were doing in London and we were having a great time, and yet there had always been the thought that perhaps we would end up back at Costa Mesa some day and help Chuck. He would often write or call us and ask if we would come back. I was open to that but it was not what I really wanted to do.

Then just quite honestly, out of nowhere, the Lord spoke to me. Alwyn Wall, who was working with me and had been part of the Malcolm and Alwyn singing group, began to feel really restless. He was one of my assistants and the worship leader of the church and he was feeling that God was calling him out of the music ministry and move more into teaching. He was frustrated because he didn't know where to go and we were looking at planting a church with him in South West London in the Epsom area, and it never seemed to materialize. As I watching all of this and asking God about Alwyn's situation, the Lord spoke to me and said, ‘Alwyn's going to stay and you are going to go.’ It really shocked me. When I first told him that I thought he should take the church, he refused. He is now the pastor. When I left, we had about 300 adults in the church and since I have left, the church has grown to about 500 adults, so that is a blessing.”

Left His Heart in London

“It wasn't a culture shock to come back but it was difficult because we didn't want to come back, because I left my heart in London. I was here in Southern California, but my heart was still there. It was a struggle re-adjusting to life here.

The Lord spoke to me and said one day and said, ‘You could do more for Britain back in the States than you could do from here.’ I realize that now as the resources are here.”

Now Brian is on national Christian radio as the host of To Everyman An Answer, which airs daily on the 350 stations of the Calvary Satellite Network (CSN). He has preached on the air for many years and his teaching program was aired on Premier Radio on London, so he was not a newcomer to radio.

“I actually host four days a week and on three of those four days I'm with Chuck Smith and one of those four days I am with another guest,” he said.

As this is a Bible-Answer show, I wondered what his view was on the Bible illiteracy of American Christians?

He replied,

“I read a book recently written by Dr. Kroll and, according to his book, having surveyed people across the Evangelical board and also lots of students in Christian universities, the Bible illiteracy rate is pretty high among American Christians. The Calvary Chapel Movement, because we are a movement that emphasizes Biblical exposition, the Biblical illiteracy rate is a little lower amongst us, but you still have a number of people who let the pastor do all the work for them. They come and listen to the sermons, but never really pick up their Bibles themselves during the week.”

He added,

“Jesus said, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God' and I think we need to take that seriously and daily apply ourselves to that.”

Brian said that since he has returned to Southern California, he has really pushed missions.

“We have been growing in the area of missions and we've come a long way in the last ten years,” he said. “I see nothing but good things ahead. There's a lot of excitement and I think the mission's vision is increasing among the Calvary Chapel Movement and we've got lots of people here at our Bible College at Murrieta. I'm one of the directors at the Bible College and we have a big emphasis on missions. We've got 500 students on this campus ever semester and we are encouraging many of them towards missions. We are looking at a bright future for missions.”

He said that in the United States there are some 800 Calvary Chapel affiliated churches and another 200 around the world.

I concluded by asking him if he had a message for the people of Britain?

He said,

“I love the people of Britain and I hope to go back there as much as I can. My prayer for Britain is that it would return to the Bible. That's what made Britain great in its days of greatness and so many of the men that we admire as preachers and commentators were all from British stock. I read Lloyd-Jones, Spurgeon, F.B. Meyer, and all of these people on a regular basis and so I'd love to see a new generation of men like those raised in up in Britain.”

In the meantime, Brian Brodersen will continue to ride God's Wave.

Author: Dan Wooding. Used with permission from ASSIST News Service

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