Brawler-turned-pastor transforms Mont. church & town by Erin Roach

NOXON, Mont. (BP) — There was a petition circulating to remove violent brawler Jim Webley from town when God intervened and changed not just Webley’s life but, years later, the course of a church and a Montana community.

In his early 20s, Webley was working in the gold mines of Nevada, entrenched in a rough lifestyle of drugs and alcohol, and through weekly fighting he had “put some people in the hospital,” he told Baptist Press. People just wanted him to leave town.

One Sunday morning, Webley was driving his young daughter Sara to get milkshakes when they passed a little white Baptist church building in the Nevada community.

“I absolutely never went to church down there, but I could feel God pulling me in that direction,” Webley recounted. “He was telling me I needed to get into church.”

Webley had an 8-inch jet lift on his ’78 Chevy, so he parked behind the church in hopes his buddies wouldn’t drive by and see his recognizable truck.

“I remember walking into church with Sara and every person in that congregation knew me, and I think they were flabbergasted to see me coming through those doors,” Webley said. “The pastor was probably 10 minutes into his sermon and he just kind of stopped preaching and stared at me.

“I was wearing an Ozzy Osbourne shirt with the sleeves cut off. On the front he’s holding a dove and on the back he’s got the dove’s head in his mouth.”

Webley and his daughter quickly sat down, and he remembers being disgusted with the pastor. “He’d be preaching and he’d be trying to be funny, but it just made me madder. But then he said, ‘The Word of God says,’ and he would read from the Bible, and I remember sitting there going, ‘There’s such power in that.’ I was taken aback by the Word of God.”

After the service, no one approached Webley to talk. When he got home, his wife Melissa didn’t believe he had been to church. But he went back the next Sunday, as well-dressed as he could manage.

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