Church planter uses Kung Fu to build bridge
Sara Shelton, Baptist Press
March 21, 2011

Church planter uses Kung Fu to build bridge

Church planter uses Kung Fu to build bridge
Sara Shelton, Baptist Press
March 21, 2011


– As a child, Ron Wilson dreamed about one day growing up to be a martial arts

instructor. What began as a simple interest in learning to defend himself

against bullies developed into a deep-rooted passion for the skill and practice

behind martial arts. Wilson dedicated himself completely to the study of

martial arts, striving to carryover his passion into adulthood and a career in

the field.

God took Wilson’s passion for the martial arts and

transformed it into a passion for telling others about Jesus Christ. Kung Fu

became God’s vehicle to carry Wilson and his wife, Angela, from city to city

before landing them in Mountville, Penn., to serve as church planters. Martial

arts remain a huge aspect of their ministry at their church plant, The

Connection. “People come in

to take Kung Fu classes, and we start building this relationship, this trust,”

explains Wilson, a Mission Service Corps missionary for the North American

Mission Board. “After a period of time, they’re willing to listen to what you

have to say and as time goes on, I’ll invite them to church. There’s a trust

factor. “And that is basically what church

planting really is — it’s building relationships with people.” Wilson

always wanted to be a martial arts teacher, but he never thought it would be

possible. “I went back and forth with my parents and it was always the same

thing: I needed to get a real job.”

In his early 20s, Wilson

left behind martial arts and went to work in a chemical plant. Just one year

later, he was unexpectedly laid off. His days were suddenly filled with hours

of free time bookended by driving his wife, Angela, to and from work each day.

Like many in his situation, Wilson was left wondering if there was any

sort of plan or purpose for his life.

“Being laid off work I would just watch TV when Angela was

at work,” Wilson said. “And one day I happened to flip to Pat Robertson

and the 700 Club. He was talking about Jesus being our Lord and Savior and it

was like he was talking directly to me.”

Wilson dropped to his knees in his living room and asked

Christ into his life.

“I was crying out to the Lord, ‘Come into my life. Make me

into the person you want me to be. I lost my job … I don’t know what I’m going

to do.’”

BP Photo

Ron Wilson began to see his work in martial arts not just as a career but an opportunity for evangelism as well. See Video.

Within days, Wilson

began to see God answer these prayers. Angela returned home from work one day

with a story about two co-workers that found themselves in an unexpected

scuffle on their lunch break. She told them about Ron’s martial arts

experience and three weeks later, he received a phone call from the two men

asking for a few Kung Fu lessons.

Within nine months, Wilson’s Kung Fu classes had grown from

just a handful of men in his living room to nearly 45 people weekly. Soon, the

Wilsons decided the time was right to move forward with Ron’s long buried dream

of teaching martial arts and opened a Kung Fu studio in South Jersey.

“It was God,” Wilson explains, “I knew that He gave it to


Wilson began to see his work in martial arts not just as a

career but an opportunity for evangelism as well. He began having one-on-one

time with some of his students, studying the Bible and talking with them

individually after class. Inside the classroom, he incorporated scripture

memorization, designating a scripture verse with each Kung Fu ranking as well

as including devotions in the middle of each class helping to relate the

principles learned in Kung Fu to the truth of the Christian life.

“It ties in so great … once you accept Jesus Christ as your

Lord and Savior the Holy Spirit dwells in you and at that point, you have to

let go of resistance and let someone else fill you up,” Wilson

said. “This letting go, not resisting, is essential to the practice of martial


God continued to grow in the Wilsons a passion for

evangelism, placing a call on their lives to move beyond simply teaching

martial arts and into a greater field of service.

“We just felt God calling us to take this to another level,”

Wilson said. “It felt like God didn’t want me just teaching Kung Fu anymore.”

Together the couple made the move to Michigan where Ron

enrolled in the New Tribes Bible Institute to further develop his knowledge and

skill for evangelism. After one year, they returned to New Jersey to continue

work in their Kung Fu school as well as beginning outside campaigns to reach

their community for Christ.

“I had this thirst, and I felt God giving me the ability to

go out there and really share the gospel,” Wilson said.

This thirst became satisfied when Ron met Pastor Norm

Blackaby. The two quickly hit it off and bonded over both of their past

experiences in Kung Fu and ministry. Blackaby saw Wilson’s

Kung Fu classes as a perfect outreach ministry and directed him to the North

American Mission Board (NAMB) for assistance.

“I came to NAMB and they helped me figure out how I can do

this as an evangelistic outreach program,” Wilson said. “I came up with my own

curriculum with Bible verses and using martial arts to tell people about Jesus


For Wilson, the life and career he has now have far exceeded

his childhood dreams. God carried him far beyond simply teaching martial arts

and into a life fully directed at sharing Christ with others. “A lot of times young people

think, ‘if I come to know the Lord, I won’t be able to do this or that.’

That’s not the way He works. He loves us and he knows us better than anybody.

And if you follow Him, He’ll give you the desires of your heart in a way you

never expected — in His way, to glorify Him.”


Shelton is a

writer for the North American Mission Board.)

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