BOSSIER CITY, La. (Christian Examiner) – Being in a "strong man" ministry is physically exhausting and mentally draining, but Brad Hornback makes it a spiritual discipline to speak to seatmates on airplanes regardless of how tired he is, or how tough starting a conversation might seem.
Hornback flies tens of thousands of miles each year as leader of the Lifted in Faith team of six Christians of uncommon strength. They conduct character-building school assemblies, hold evening evangelistic crusades, and do ministry in prisons in the United States and other countries.
"All glory goes to Jesus," Hornback told the Christian Examiner. "We are excited that He has allowed us a front row seat to seeing thousands of lives impacted and changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
He and his team recently partnered with Risk Takers for Christ, a Florida non-profit, for a week-long outreach at nine correctional facilities on the Florida panhandle.
"We played basketball with the inmates and conducted nine strength shows," Hornback said. "This gave us the opportunity to share the Gospel with thousands of inmates during this five-day period.
"To be able to proclaim the Gospel on such a big platform was a huge blessing for us," the Lifted in Faith team leader said "We don't track decisions. Our philosophy is to proclaim the Gospel and leave the results to God."
For this trip, the "front row seat" to see God working started with an airplane ride, when Hornback shared a row – middle seat empty – with a woman on a flight from Atlanta to Pensacola, Fla.
"She seemed intoxicated, somewhat disoriented and was mumbling strange things," Hornback said. "I tried to make small talk with her but she was in her own world."
As the plane took off, the woman began to mumble a bit more loudly and to "act a little obnoxious," Hornback said. He began to pray "for the Lord to allow me an open door to share Christ" with her.
Less than a minute after he prayed, the woman leaned over and asked the man with bulging biceps, "What do you know about Jesus and the Lord's Word?"
Hornback took a deep breath at the near-immediate response to his prayer. Words and Bible references he had prepared to share with inmates of Florida prisons tumbled from his mouth.
"The lady bursts into tears and tells me what's going on," Hornback said. "She's on her way to Florida because her mom's been taken off life support and is going to die within two days. She's divorced; she's lost her daughter; she's been in one abusive relationship after another. She asks if God could possibly still care about her.
"For the next 45 minutes I was able to share several Scripture verses about the truths of the Gospel and the love of God," continued the Christian body builder, who also works in the oil field industry. "She asked me if I would pray for her and the difficult situation she was about to face with her mom and family. After we landed, she said, 'God sent you to me today on this row of the airplane to help and encourage me.'"
Hornback said he hadn't expected a spiritual encounter, but then, he hadn't expected the day not to include one. He prays each day, he said, for God to send his way the people who need to hear the Gospel.
"If you pray and stay aware, God will make the divine appointments for you," Hornback said. "Then pray for Him to speak through you. God says, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you,' and this includes when you're telling someone about Him."
With November and December given over to seasonal holidays, Lifted in Faith's next engagements do not start again until early January.
"It should be another busy year," Hornback said. "Our philosophy is to be proactive in taking the Gospel outside the walls of the church. ... They [prison inmates] can't come to us, so we go to them.
"These are people who are at a point in their lives where they're humble; everything has been stripped away; their pride is gone. They're paying the price for their crimes, but still, they're fathers, sons, brothers. God sees prison inmates as people who are like those of us on our team: guilty sinners who need to be redeemed."
Lifted in Faith, formally organized in 2010, anticipates 2015 to be its biggest year ever in terms of multi-date prison ministries.
"One thing about inmates, they're really searching for hope," Hornback said. "They need hope; they need Good News. God's the one who saves, who convicts, and what we've seen in these environments is that people society has written off seem to be open and receptive to the Gospel -- the news that God loves them and has a plan and purpose for their lives -- even inside prison walls."