THE act of surfing can be a spiritual experience, a chance to be one with the nature God created.
This holds true for Mark Johnson, a surfer and former Next Gen pastor at Wrightsville Beach
Inspired by his draw to the ocean and his abiding love of Jesus, Johnson became convinced that
his two passions would go great together. “God put it on my heart,” says Johnson, and he started
18 july 2021
to see if there
would be any
appeal in a surf
the same time, Matt Beacham, regional director
of Christian Surfers and a University of North
Carolina Wilmington graduate, held an interest
meeting in the hopes of creating something along
the same lines. The two eventually got together,
and Wrightsville Beach Surf Church was born.
Run by volunteers made up of local ministry
staff and Christians throughout the community,
the non-denominational group meets early every
Sunday morning at Crystal Pier for surfing and
fellowship, with the sunrise as the backdrop.
James Connolley, Wrightsville Beach Baptist
Church’s current Next Gen pastor, has been one
of Surf Church’s informal leaders since its incep-tion
in the spring of 2020. Connolley explains that
the original intent was to reach surfers with the
“Everywhere there’s a wave breaking on
Wrightsville Beach, we want a surfer in the lineup
who can be a light for Christ,” Connolley says.
The group also conducts a weekly Sunday
Bible study and devotional time, which has grown
well beyond surfers.
“It’s not just surfers, but people from all
walks of life,” says Christian Rutherford, Youth
and Family Ministries Director at Harbor United
Methodist Church in Wilmington.
The word has spread that Surf Church is a wel-coming,
laid-back event; current weekly atten-dance
averages around 110.
Wrightsville Beach resident Theresa Kramer
loves surfing and looks forward to participating in
the Surf Church fellowship afterward. She appreci-ates
that the message is brief and often delivered
Waves to Worship
Passions for surfing and the gospel lead to the creation of a new church
at Wrightsville Beach
BY VERA WILSON | PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALLISON POTTER