Breaking Free

Ian Watkins

In the darkest hour, God’s whisper saved one young man’s life and put him on a path to ministry.

Three years ago, a few friends and I decided to start a Bible study and call it Move of God, or MOG. We wanted it to be an invitation for others to get to know God.

I expected it to only be us at the beginning. I mean, after all, a lot of kids at my school knew me and knew who I’d been before I came to Christ. 

The first week, though, 15 people showed up through invites and word going around. Within a year, MOG’s attendance was over 150 every week, and people were coming from almost every high school in Colorado Springs.

Back to the Beginning

It all started after a very unhealthy relationship in high school, sophomore year. I went through a dark depression after we broke up because that was basically my world—you know what I’m saying? I found all my happiness in her, and the loss sent me off into a dark place with a lot of isolation. 

Around that time, one of my friends invited me to Desperation Conference, a three-day event.

He was a Christian, but he was the kind of guy who didn’t jam it down anyone’s throat, didn’t ever disrespect us, but never compromised on his beliefs either. He stood out. 

I agreed to go with him, but the only reason I went was for something to do because my life felt dead. The first two days of the conference, I wasn’t engaged, wasn’t trying to understand or listen. I was just there, thinking ‘No way everybody here is thatserious about pursuing God.’ 

The night before the third day, I’d had enough. I had my dad’s gun to my head. I had a message typed out to my friends, apologizing and saying it wasn’t anything they’d done. They were great friends. 

And in that moment, I heard, “No, just wait.” 

I heard that, a whisper. It wasn’t in my own head. 

Coming to Life 

The next day, I still didn’t want to engage. I thought worship was stupid. All these people with their hands in the air, their eyes closed—to what? 

It was the last song, and I thought, ‘Well, might as well give this a shot.’ I stood up, closed my eyes, and a weight felt like it was lifted off my shoulders. This peace I couldn’t explain came over me. 

Then this dude tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hey, I don’t know what you’ve been through, or what you’re going through or whatever, but God wanted me to tell you he’s proud of you.”

The song finished, and I turned around to thank him, but he was gone. I couldn’t find him anywhere.

We headed out of the conference, but when we got to the car, my friend who took me started crying hard. “Tell me why I had a dream you killed yourself last night.” 

All I could think was: “Dude. God is real. God has to be real.”

We ended up sitting outside his house until 3am just talking. That was the day God said, “You’re gonna start a Bible study.” I didn’t know how. I didn’t feel like I knew anything about the Bible. But I thought, “All right, let’s get it popping.” 

Two of the major issues in high school and, frankly, my neighborhood were epidemic depression and suicide. Once someone even tried to commit suicide at school by jumping off a balcony.  

MOG decided to hold a candlelight suicide awareness event at the local REC center, and about 200 people showed up to participate. We were in the middle of the event, and this lady came in and asked what we were doing. When we told her, she burst into tears. Turned out her son had committed suicide the week before.

Building a Church

One thing I’ve really noticed is people talk about ‘doing missions,’ but it’s always over in some other place, and all I can think is ‘What about here? What’s being done here?’ 

After my first semester of college, Cory and Sarah—World Challenge’s Director of Strategic Partnerships and Director of Catalyst Funding—came to us. We got talking about leadership and missions, and then Cory said, “You got to take care of your own backyard.”

That really resonated with me. I want to build a church in my city, for all kinds of people. 

Cory and Sarah both offered to pour into MOG and really equip us. 

Honestly, I’ve never experienced anything like it. I’ve been a believer for almost four years now, and this is the most consistent mentorship I’ve ever had in my life. Working together with World Challenge is giving us tools to build our ministry and create organization, to sustain what God is doing. 

We believe God wants us to encourage people to walk out the story where God’s grace meets their brokenness. 

We want to be authentic and bring truth in love to our city.

Editor’s Note: MOG is working with World Challenge and its catalyst funding initiative to influence more lives for Christ. If you have a start-up ministry and would like to be considered for mentorship and funding through World Challenge, fill out our online application for Catalyst Grants.