Strongman to offer positive message when troupe will visit Sutersville church

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Remember watching men on TV perform such feats of strength as tearing phone books and bending steel bars? This weekend you can witness that live in Westmoreland County.

John Jacobs brings his Oklahoma City-based Next Generation Power Force -- "it used to be Power Team years ago, but I changed the name" -- to the Church of Sutersville on Sunday and Monday.

A power-lifter and football player as a teen, Mr. Jacobs, 50, formed the troupe in the early 1980s, after being inspired by the late weightlifter Paul Anderson, who won an Olympic gold medal in 1956.

Anderson often lifted a table "with 11 or 12 people on it," Mr. Jacobs said. "He was the first person to be called the 'World Strongest Man' who did similar feats of strength. [But] he used his strength to glorify God."

Eventually Mr. Jacobs put together his own team, with guys he knew from high school. The concept caught on fairly quickly, and he said he has visited 30,000 public schools with the message of "academic achievement and personal motivation. It's another way to get kids' attention in the school so that they'll listen to a positive message."

In addition, he has sponsored around 3,000 crusades, visiting churches of well-known pastors Joel Osteen, John Hagee and T.D. Jakes for a more specifically evangelistic purpose. "Back in the '80s we [even] had our own TV program," Mr. Jacobs said.

Some of the other feats of strength that members of the Power Force perform: Biting through two license plates, push-ups with two people on their backs, snapping handcuffs, breaking baseball bats over their heads and lifting logs over their heads.

Two members of his five-man team, Jerome and Shaun King, are former players in the National Football League who say they can bench press nearly 500 pounds each. Another member, Paul Rogers, starred in "American Gladiators."

The Power Force survives solely on donations, Mr. Jacobs said. "We don't put pressure on the pastors to bring in a certain amount."

These days, Mr. Jacobs does the speaking and leaves the demonstrations to the team members.

"The guys are a little younger," he said. "I can probably do 90 percent of the feats, but it's hard to be the [Master of Ceremonies] and the speaker and [still] do the feats. It's not an ego thing; it's a communication thing."

The men will appear at 7 p.m. both nights and at the 10:15 a.m. service Sunday. The Church of Sutersville is located at 1683 Mars Hill Road, Sewickley Township. Call 724-446-1550.

neigh_east - neigh_westmoreland

Rick Nowlin: rnowlin@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3871.


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