On Sunday mornings, Brady Boyd talks to big crowds from a big stage on the north end of Colorado Springs. Standing there, wearing a sport coat and talking in a clear voice with only a hint of his Louisiana youth, he reveals the will of God — or at least Brady Boyd’s version of it — to New Life Church.
In Boyd’s mind, and in the minds of most of his listeners, this is the God who created the world in six days before taking a day to rest, the God who controls our universe, the God who cares about every person sitting in the sprawling auditorium.
All over Colorado Springs, church doors open each Sunday morning, and the faithful, and not-so-faithful, wrestle with the will and the word of God. It’s so routine. And so weighty. The eternal Creator, majestic and mysterious, is brought straight into 2019.
Boyd is not from the school of grandiose preaching. His voice doesn’t rumble. He walks the stage, without notes and without a pulpit, and shares his thoughts as if in a relaxed one-way conversation.
“Preaching is a huge honor,” Boyd says from his corner office with a superb view of the Rockies. “It’s a joy to open the Scriptures and bring truth and hope to people who are hungry for it.
“Every person who shows up at New Life shows up because of their own good will. They don’t have to be here. We’re not shaming them to be here. We’re just inviting them to come.”
His listeners could be sleeping or hiking or watching TV or even slinking off somewhere to sin. “It’s a miracle to me,” Boyd says of the big audiences who come to listen.
He has a point. Boyd preaches in a city where, according to a 2013 Gallup poll, only 35 percent of residents describe themselves as “very religious.” This places Colorado Springs in the bottom third of American cities for devotion. While Boyd speaks to thousands, tens of thousands remain at home.
Boyd, 52, didn’t expect this life. He grew up near the Texas state line in a modest home in Logansport, La., population 1,561. He indulged as a young man in, by his description, years of unfocused and ungodly living. While driving on a lonely stretch of Louisiana highway in August 1988, he dedicated himself to Christ.
He’s not one of those preachers who projects a know-it-all aura. Faith, to him, is a wonderful yet fragile gift. Simple, yet complicated. Unfathomable, yet obvious. He struggles each week while preparing his sermon, sitting alone in this office as he contemplates the message he will deliver to thousands.
“I feel inadequate almost any time I walk on the stage,” he says. “Preaching keeps us in a humble place. I’m very aware of my own brokenness and my own flaws and my own humanity when I walk on the stage, yet knowing that there’s grace for me and if I can receive grace I can give it away.
“Yes, it’s very humbling. I’m telling the greatest story that’s ever been written to people who really need it from a guy who had to receive it.
“I would never preach a sermon that I haven’t embraced myself. I’m never going to stand in front of New Life and preach on a topic that I haven’t wrestled with in private. I think that keeps me focused. It keeps me humble. It keeps me hungry for God. It keeps me dependent on God. I preach out of a sense of dependency. I realize that if God doesn’t bless it, it’s just a good speech.”
Boyd marvels at the resilience of the church, founded more than 2,000 years ago. Early followers of Christ were murdered because they refused to bow to authority. Later “followers” of Christ, in turn, murdered those who refused to bow to religious authority. American church members embraced slavery, saying it was God’s will. Other Christians risked lives to abolish slavery. The story of the church is an epic, lovely, ugly, complex saga of flawed women and men trying, and failing, to imitate a flawless man named Jesus.
“All the criticisms and messiness the church has survived for 2,000 years, and the church still holds a place in people’s hearts, that has to be the work of a divine inspiration, in my opinion,” Boyd says. “That has to be the work of God. It has to be the idea of God for the church to exist or it would have fallen by the wayside.”
Boyd is not talking specifically about New Life and its history, but he could be. Founded by Ted Haggard in 1984, the church enjoyed dazzling growth and built a glorious campus before teetering on the edge of extinction after a sex scandal forced Haggard’s departure in 2007.
When Boyd considered the immensity of his task when offered the challenge of leading and reviving New Life, he almost said no.
Today, the sanctuary is filled with members and guests listening to a modest man who struggles, along with them, to understand God’s teachings.
About 2 on Sunday afternoons, a weary Boyd returns home after delivering two sermons and heads for bed. When he awakens, he immediately starts thinking about his next sermon.
“Sundays,” he says with a laugh, “come around with alarming regularity.”