Dan Russell, senior pastor
Battle Ground Foursquare Church
Battle Ground, Wash.
One of Dan Russell’s lowest moments in life was winning his fourth consecutive NCAA wrestling championship. Call it a tribute to irony, but Dan would call it something more—a monumental sea-change, of the spiritual kind.
“Coming home from [the win], I walked in and set up all of my trophies on a shelf, and I began to cry,” the senior pastor of Battle Ground Foursquare Church in Battle Ground, Wash., recalls. “I had accomplished everything I had set out to do, and it was the emptiest, loneliest experience of my life. I recommitted my life to the Lord that night.”
Due to some hurtful experiences involving church and family that had occurred prior to that pivotal night, Dan had spent years in anger toward the church, vowing, above all else, to never become a pastor—even though he knew God had called him to ministry at age 5.
“Even though I willfully walked away from Him, He never walked away from me,” he told Foursquare.org in an exclusive interview. “Everything in ministry for me goes back to my call as a 5-year-old boy. I see everyone in our church as a minister of the Good News. I want to walk alongside them, encourage them, and challenge them to be all God intended them to be. I long to see that message brought to those who feel far away from Him, and to see them restored to the family of God.”
So does that mean he’s given up wrestling? No way. Dan’s successful athletic career facilitates his role as a coach and motivational speaker. He is part of the USA Wrestling National Coaching Staff, and was an Olympic Coach at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. A coaching assignment in March 2007 resulted in a silver medal for the U.S. team at the World Cup in Anatalya, Turkey.
For Dan—who is planting another church in Yacolt, Wash., this summer—wrestling and ministry go hand in hand.
“Wrestling has taken me to 44 nations,” he explains. “I have had the opportunity to pray a blessing on live TV in Iran. I have been in the roughest prison in the former Soviet Union, where Christianity was illegal, and have shared my faith to over 1,000 of the prisoners. In our community this past year, I brought out three Olympic medalists and impacted the entire wrestling community in our county. In one weekend, I witnessed five wrestling coaches come to Christ. This is so exciting to me!”