Todd Garrett: Jesus, Bars, and Beaches
by Hailey Bryant, Journalist Intern
Todd Garrett (’10) was just your average high school student. Raised in Hoover, Alabama, he took part in the usual activities of a young Christian adult, including youth groups and church retreats. “I was a good kid and I stayed out of trouble,” explains Garrett, “I was just into the stupid stuff, like my car and girls.” Though he grew up with parents whom he describes as “strong in faith,” Garrett soon found that having your own faith after you leave home is much more difficult than he would have imagined. As Garrett forged his way into the independence of college life, he discovered the temptations that accompany such freedoms as well as the eventual benefits of rising above a destructive lifestyle.
For the most part, Garrett would say that he refrained from much partying in high school; however, college turned out to be a different story. Though Lipscomb’s campus provided ample opportunity for healthy fun and Christian fellowship, soon after Garrett’s move to Nashville in the fall of 2006 he dove into the party scene, explaining, “That first week, I went to an apartment and did a keg stand.” Soon, Garrett began to party every weekend until he was eventually going out every night, playing drinking games into the early hours of the morning. “Everyone that I associated with partied and drank,” he shares, “That was what we all did for fun.”
As time progressed, Garrett’s previous lifestyle of being grounded in his faith changed as well. He barely attended church, which he had grown up attending regularly. “I went to church when I could get up on a Sunday,” he says. Drinking in excess every weekend made waking up and being fit for church on a Sunday nearly impossible. Garrett does not mince words when he describes the state of his spiritual life at this point, as he says, “My faith was just dead.”
Spring break ’07 rolled around his freshman year and Garrett was seeking yet another opportunity to party. He and some of his friends took off to Panama City Beach for a wild week, he explains, “I went down there to do everything you do in Panama City over spring break.” Most of the guys had fake I.D.s so the clubs and bars were all fair game. Garrett recounts a typical day during spring break: “We would start drinking at 10am, drink all day, go back to the hotel for a few hours to sleep, and then get up and do it all over again.”
During that week, Garrett met a group of fellow Lipscomb students while playing volleyball on the beach. He didn’t know it at first, but this group of Lipscomb students he encountered had a different purpose than he did for being in Panama City. Led by then Campus Minister Dave Clayton (’04), this group was on an all-guys spring break mission trip with a very intentional purpose. “I wanted to create a trip where we could disciple men over the course of a year in such a way where they learned how to grow in intimacy with Jesus while sharing the gospel in difficult environments,” explains Clayton. Even though the deepening of Garrett’s faith journey would not begin for another eighteen months, this random God-led interaction with Clayton on the beach would be the precursor to their eventual friendship as well as their missional relationship.
After two years of the party lifestyle, God’s continual pursuit of Garrett led him to having a complete change of heart in how he was living his life. Garrett found himself back in a bar, yet this time it was not for what was being offered behind the bar that he was after; rather it was the church community that was being presented around him through the just-started Ethos Church. “My junior year came and I gave my life completely to the Lord,” he explains, “I started to see what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus.” He spent the year making new friends who shared his beliefs and abandoned all the things that had once consumed his life. He remembers wondering what people did if they did not drink, saying, “I thought that I would just spend all my time studying but those last two years of college were infinitely more joyful than my first two.”
During Garrett’s senior year he found himself back in the midst of the party scene of Panama City, but this time as a part of the same Lipscomb mission team that had once ministered to him. “I knew the people going to Panama City for a week of binge drinking and partying didn't have an intimate relationship with Jesus or else they wouldn't be going there,” Garrett expresses. Though he had experienced a PCB spring break on the other side, he was not prepared for how emotionally draining the experience would be, saying, “You pour yourself out to people and many times don’t ever see any immediate fruit from the conversation.”
Throughout those experiences, Garrett solidified his relationship with Christ as well as formed a true friendship with the campus minister who once made friendly conversation with a lost freshman on the beach. “Todd is one of my closest friends and one of the best leaders I know. He has such a passion for Jesus, and his heart for those that don't yet know Christ is contagious,” shares Clayton, who now serves as the founder and lead teacher of Ethos Church. Garrett has made immense strides in his walk with Christ; however, he is quick to admit that his life has not been perfect since his spiritual transformation. If nothing else, he is absolutely sure of one thing, “God is so real and so good. He just wants a relationship with us.”
Today, Todd Garrett is a student with Lipscomb’s School of Pharmacy and continues to minister to those in situations similar to his during those early undergraduate years. When asked what he would say to anyone struggling with maintaining their faith and overcoming temptations, he says, “Looking back, I know the continued prayers of my parents had something to do with the Holy Spirit pricking my heart; without their support and the foundation they laid for me, I never would have come through the darkness of that valley. I want to break off this lie that God is boring. Living for God is adventurous; you’re fulfilling your destiny.” By choosing to have faith, Todd Garrett allowed God to completely transform his life while using his past to minister to those around him.