The weekly TGCvocations column asks practitioners about their jobs and how they integrate their faith and work. Interviews are condensed.
Brian Sumner is a professional skateboarder and evangelist pastor originally from Liverpool, England. In 2013, he produced a short film, Foolishness, which John Piper called “the fullest 60-minute gospel word I’ve heard.” Sumner currently serves as city pastor of Rock Harbor Church in Huntington Beach, California, where he lives with his wife and their three children.
How do you describe your work?
I’m a skater, husband, father, and pastor. I skate a few times a week, with my kids or other skaters. I also do lots of preaching and teaching at my home church, and travel as doors open up. When I’m at home, though, I’m focused on being a husband and a dad. Plus, since my wife and I have a unique redemptive story about our marriage, we also spend time focused on helping marriages.
How did you get into skating?
When I was 13 years old, I saw Police Academy 4, was introduced to skateboarding, and thought it was all stunts. I was immediately hooked and got a skateboard for my birthday.
Growing up in Liverpool was tough. I got in lots of fights. But skating became my release. I’d skate for hours, fascinated by being able to jump over a dog or down stairs. As a skater the world changed—buildings were no longer architecture, but skate parks. I was motivated and worked super hard; I wanted to master it.
I eventually got noticed in England and moved to the United States, where the goal was to skate and get free stuff. I ended up at the top of the game, riding with Tony Hawk’s company; being featured in magazines, videos, and tours; being sponsored, with pro decks, wheels, shoes, clothes, and more; even falling in love with an American girl named Tracy.
How did the Lord grab your attention?
Tracy and I got married and had our first son, but then we started fighting. We were incredibly selfish, jealous, and angry. Eventually, we ended up divorced.
I was suicidal and began getting into more fights. I even got arrested. But then I was assigned community service at a Christian thrift store, where I began to read the Bible. God revealed to me my own sinfulness through his Word. I knew he was real—and everything changed. Tracy and I even got remarried. We now have three kids.
What’s next for you?
In the immediate future I’m heading to Costa Rica, England, Texas, and other places to do outreaches, conferences, and church services.
In the longer term I’d like to do more outreach through writing, speaking, and counseling. Skating does gives me an evangelistic platform to a certain group of people, but I feel marriage is a big ministry for us. I’m just finishing up my first book, a 30-day devotional titled Never Fails.
The biggest hindrance to Jesus’s ministry is my ministry. I must become small, and he must become great. So even though I’m thinking about what my next steps are, I’m fine with whatever God wants to do with me. I’m not my own, but was bought with a price.