It’s been a few years since we last did an interview with you, Mike! Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.
My name is Mike and I’ve been a skateboarder my whole life. When I was 16, I fell in love with Jesus in this radical way that completely transformed me. I thought I’d have to give up skateboarding because the whole industry and culture is apart from God and even kind of hostile against Christianity. But as I grew closer to God, I felt Him calling me to those people that I grew up with, who I know and love. He was telling me that He gave me this gifting and ability for skateboarding for a reason - to use it for His glory.
So, I started trying to reach skateboarders any way I knew how. People from around the world were watching me skate through videos and I felt God say, “These kids are watching you skate, but they don’t know who I am. You should use your platform to tell them.” That’s when I started making videos that mixed skating and the Gospel. I didn’t even know it was a ministry at that point. I just wanted to tell people about Jesus.
My passion to reach people is what made this all happen. It wasn’t my goal to make it my full time job or to start this non-profit. It was like, “OK, God, I just want to be Your son, and Your servant; so use me however you see fit.” He kept blessing it and growing it, and now I’ve been doing it for the past eight years.
What do you think was the biggest challenge in getting the ministry started?
I had barely graduated high school and before I knew Christ, I had a criminal background. I would hear God’s voice say, “Hey Mike, I want you to do this ministry,” and I felt like I was unworthy and maybe unqualified. All these other people that were doing similar things had gone to college and seminary. They had financial backing and a big group of people who believed in them and poured into them, and I felt like a little island. But as I trusted in God, He kept opening up doors and through that, He gave me the confidence to do it.
You recently built a halfpipe in your community. What inspired that?
Yeah, the ramp is in the woods of a local church. After I became a Christian, I felt a burden to reach people locally. I felt like I needed some sort of facility, a place for them to come where we could have Bible studies and stuff. So, I started going around to churches saying, “Hey, you should let me build a skatepark at your church,” and obviously, being this 18-year-old punk kid, nobody would give me the time of day. It was okay, because God’s timing is perfect and through that, God opened doors for me to travel nationally and internationally and kind of start this ministry to reach people globally, not just locally. But over those years, I still felt God calling me to reach local people who I had known my whole life. I reached out again to a church about a year and a half ago and shared this vision with them, and they believed in it and let me do it.
Have you seen any major differences doing ministry locally versus traveling and doing it globally?
Yeah. I would say it’s both easier and harder. It’s easy in the sense that I’ve been here my whole life and I used to work at the skatepark in town, so most of the people I’m ministering to, I’ve known for 10-15 years. They aren’t Christians but they’ve seen me walk it out over the past ten years and they respect that.
But then there is the other side of the coin. They’ve known me for all these years. It’s exciting for people when I go to a new place and they hear my story whereas at home, they know it all so they might tune it out more. There are definitely pros and cons of it.
I hope I am correct in saying this - here in this community, people know they can call me when they are in a spiritual crisis, whereas when I’m traveling, I just show up and I’m gone the next day. I don’t really get to form strong relationships with people that way.
What has the response been from you hosting skate competitions at the the ramp and having Bible studies there?
It’s been good. Obviously, anyone who starts a ministry to an “unreached” group of people wants to do altar calls and have 90% of the group raise their hands to get saved. That’s my dream as well, but I trust what God is doing. I realize that over 90% of the people that come to these events and hear my message, don’t really care about Jesus and have no desire to know Him. Anyone else would probably get yelled at and heckled if they started sharing the Gospel, but I’ve been here long enough that no one heckles me and they respectfully listen. So for me, that’s a win. I know God is using me in whatever capacity He wants.
I was reading in your newsletter that you will be starting a Bible study at a pretty popular skatepark. Can you tell us more about that?
Yes! We are actually going to stop doing it at the ramp and move it to The Skate Barn.
It’s funny because it was one of those things where I had to put into practice something I was preaching. So often people contact me from all over the place, saying they want to start a skate ministry and asking what they should do and if they should ask their church to build a skatepark. A lot of times I say, “Yeah, that’s cool. But it’s more important for you to be at the local skatepark with those people, instead of creating your own community and forcing people to come there to hear your message. I think at least for this ministry, it’s very important that you go and be part of their community and the established culture of skateboarding in your town.”
So when the owner of this skatepark came to me and said, “Mike, I love what you’re doing! You can do whatever you want at my skatepark,” I thought, “man, this is exactly what I’ve been preaching to everyone else!” You know? I have the opportunity to go to this skatepark and host Bible studies! Even more than that, it’s a private skatepark - you need to pay to get in - and the owner said he’ll let anyone who shows up and listens to me, skate for free! It was such a God-ordained thing. The Skate Barn is one of the oldest skateparks on the east coast and even in the country, I think. It’s the epicenter of secular skateboarding. It’s cool that the owner is so into what I’m doing to allow this to happen.
What advice you would give to those who want to effectively and relevantly impact a local scene - whether it’s in music, the arts, skateboarding or something else?
I guess practical advice would be if you want to reach skateboarders, go and hang out with the local skaters and talk with them. Don’t just think you’re going to start a ministry and everyone will come to you and become a follower of Christ because you showed up once. It’s the same with every other scene. If you want to reach the hardcore scene, start a hardcore band, or start going to shows and meeting people - be with them, talk with them, so you can reach them with the Gospel.
What materials do you use for your Bible studies? Is it something you’ve created on your own, or do you partner with other ministries for resources?
My ministry has put out quite a lot of material for other people and skateboard ministries to use including an app, devotionals and other resources. For me, especially locally, it’s easier and more effective to come up with stuff on my own. It kind of goes back to knowing the culture. I can make a skateboard reference in regards to the Gospel, and it’s super relevant to skaters and they get it. Obviously, there isn’t a ministry handbook with skateboard references that these kids are going to get and respect. It goes back to being a part of the culture. If you’re with these people and know what they’re struggling with, God will give you the wisdom to know what to talk about.
How can we, the Come&Live! Community, be praying for your personal life and your ministry? I did hear that you and your wife are expecting a baby! Congratulations!
Yeah! My prayer for my personal life is that I’d always be dependent on God - less focused on myself and more on Christ and who He has called me to be. Like anyone, it’s easy to get caught up in the way this world looks at things and works. Especially as I’ve gotten older, I catch myself comparing myself to that sometimes, and I’m like, “Wait a second! I’m not defined by this world’s standards. My success is defined by my obedience to the Lord.” For the ministry, pray for more relevance in the industry and the culture, and for God to increase our impact.