Stacked cement blocks have crumbled under the fierce force of his forearms. Louisville Slugger baseball bats have splintered in two in his hands.
And John Jacobs, a 6-foot-3, 275-pound weightlifter with a 54-inch chest and bulging biceps seemingly straight from Adonis, has snapped enough locked handcuffs off his wrists to amaze deputies from here to his Greenville, North Carolina home.
But his feats of strength, and those of his mostly ex-NFL cohorts called the Next Generation Power Force, have far more significance than mere flex appeal.
Because John Jacobs surely wants you to consider the power of God as infinitely greater than all this. That will be part of his message when he and his team visit Columbus First Assembly for presentations at 7 p.m. Sunday and Monday.
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“All those things are illustrations — or also a kind of hook,” Jacobs said, speaking by phone in Lakeland, Florida, where his son is a college football quarterback. “It’s a way of getting people, including many who never would ordinarily go to a church, to possibly come to Christ.”
The 58-year-old evangelist knows whereof he speaks. In the late 1980s through at least the year 2000, Jacobs and his musclebound cohorts then known as the Power Team were all over Christian and secular TV, from CNN to “Walker, Texas Ranger,” from People magazine to stadiums of thousands, even in places such as communist Kiev, Russia, and in South Africa in 1989.
And thousands made commitments to follow Jesus, according to Jacobs’ interviews over the years.
They became, in essence, live-action heroes of the Christian faithful, karate-chopping the snot out of anything that taunted them with apparent invincibility.
Today, with a scaled-down presentation without the freak-show flaming stacks of cement blocks and walls of ice they once crashed through, their average crowds range from maybe 200 people to 2,000.
“I still can do it all,” Jacobs said, including bending iron bars balanced against the back of his neck. “But I have done enough of that for a lifetime. And I don’t want to push myself too far these days and then get injured.
“I like being able to show up. People expect to hear me,” he added.
Come Sunday and Monday, he will speak a message of encouragement — something that he believes is badly needed among believers and nonbelievers alike.
“I think people need to know that God’s not mad at them,” Jacobs said without hesitation. “And that God wants to open doors for them, and restore them. And when he restores, he redeems and he reconciles.
“So many people today condemn themselves — so much that I believe that the devil says, ‘I might as well leave them alone. They do a good job of condemning all on their own,’” he added.
The Rev. Rick Glowacki, Columbus First Assembly’s lead pastor, remembers Jacobs and the Power Team from their 1980s and 1990s days of worldwide attention. And he likes the fact that today’s version of the squad comes with a backdrop as strong as their stunts.
“Each one of these men has a colorful story of what Jesus Christ has done in their life,” Glowacki said. “As people hear these stories, I’m hoping that listeners relate to them, and then that these people desire to find the same strength and freedom that these men found through a relationship with Jesus.”
Glowacki mentioned that one team member’s background includes overcoming addiction issues — a timely topic for a Bartholomew County population tackling an opioid crisis.
“These guys have had to deal with plenty of temptations,” Glowacki said.
Jacobs has long been known as an unscripted, off-the-cuff speaker extending a divine hope for the darkest situation. His own life has included plenty of struggles, though it is uncertain how much of that he will share.
Besides, some time must be devoted to people running straight through splitting two-by-fours and even chewing through license plates.
“People in general will forever be fascinated by size, strength and speed,” Jacobs said. “We don’t play an instrument. We don’t sing.
“But this is a communication tool and a tool for evangelism for people who won’t come to church for the Christmas musical or the Easter cantata — and it’s an attention-getter,” he added. “And this is what we can do for God.”
Who: John Jacobs and the Next Generation Power Force team of Christian evangelists performing feats of strength and sharing stories of God’s strength in their lives.
When: 7 p.m. Sunday and Monday. Presentations last 75 to 80 minutes.
Where: Columbus First Assembly, 2100 10th St.
The team: Jacobs’ Christian ministry dates back to the late-1980s and his original Power Team featured on the Trinity Broadcasting Network; Jerome King, who played two seasons in the NFL with the Chicago Bears; brother Shawn King, who played four seasons in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers and three with the Indianapolis Colts; and Matthew Stout, an ex-arena football player and a former powerlifting champion.
Information: 812-376-7833 or columbusfirstassembly.org.