news-category: Alumni

Alumnus Began His Ministry in Gardner-Webb’s Lutz Residence Hall, Room 111

Clayton King teaching in Uganda in Mandela Stadium

Clayton King, ’95, Has Shared Life-Changing Power of Jesus with People All Over the World

On New Year’s Eve in 2019, Gardner-Webb University alumnus, Clayton King, and his wife, Sharie, shared the Christian message to 100,000 people in Uganda’s Mandela Stadium. It was the biggest crowd they’ve ever spoken to, and organizers believe, one of the largest Christian gatherings ever held in Africa. “It was incredible,” King reflected. “She was the first woman to ever speak from the main stage at this event. They told us between 20,000 and 30,000 people responded to the invitation.” 

King and his wife are partners in the non-profit ministry he founded in 1995 when he was a senior at Gardner-Webb. From his dorm room, Lutz 111, King started with a telephone, an answering machine and a spiral notebook. “I would get 10 messages a day from youth pastors to come and preach,” King shared. Now, Crossroads/Clayton King Ministries offers numerous summer camps at Anderson (S.C.) University, student conferences, and leadership and coaching networks. King serves as a distinguished professor of evangelism at Anderson and holds multiple honorary doctorates.

Clayton King with wife and sons
Clayton King, his wife, Sharie and sons, Jacob and Joseph

In March, when the country shut down in response to COVID-19, lives were put on hold, Uganda was a memory, but also a source of hope. King’s team realized their signature event, Crossroads Summer Camp, might not happen, leaving 5,300 students with nowhere to go. They began to plan an online alternative, which was released when they decided to cancel camp. The free content, “Crossroads: Hometowns,” included messages and worship segments recorded at New Spring Church (Anderson, S.C.), where King is a teaching pastor. 

“We took a big step of faith; we honestly felt like God wanted us to offer this as a free gift to the church,” King asserted. “We had between 17,000 and 20,000 kids go through the program. Our mission is to serve the local church, and we also knew that youth pastors who had been planning to take their kids to camp wouldn’t have the assets, the resources, or the energy to throw together something at the last minute to do with their kids.”

book cover

Because of the interest and the need, the ministry offered more online content in the fall. King also published his 17th book this year, “Reborn,” with Baker Publishing. He is most proud of this work, which focuses on how Jesus changes lives. He writes about 12 broken people in the New Testament who came face-to-face with Jesus. 

The Kings two sons, Jacob and Joseph, have grown up in the ministry. Eighteen-year-old Jacob is preaching now, and has even shared the stage with his dad at New Spring Church. Looking back on his life, King attributes all his accomplishments to the grace of God—starting with his birth mother who gave him up for adoption. “The parents who adopted me were a great Christian family, hardworking, blue collar, Baptists to the bone—the grace of God,” he continued. “When I became a Christian, we were in a great church. It was the grace of God that I had a pastor who took me under his wing at age 14 and discipled me and showed me how to preach.” 

Further, King believes God directed him to Gardner-Webb. He was on his way to play football at Clemson. However, Randy Kilby, former GWU admissions counselor, called to ask him why he hadn’t applied for the Presidential Scholarship, which was due the next day. Kilby told him he needed to be at Gardner-Webb to prepare for ministry and faxed him the form. King completed it and drove to GWU to turn it in. King was awarded full tuition, room and board. 

“There’s no way I could adequately explain how much my experience at Gardner-Webb prepared me for ministry—I mean, it was everything—from my professors to campus ministries to the ministry teams I served with,” King affirmed. “I lived in Boiling Springs from 1991 to 2014 and built relationships with pastors in Cleveland County. Gardner-Webb is the soul of Boiling Springs, being there and having friendships with Tracy Jessup (vice president, Christian Life and Service), Robert Canoy (dean, School of Divinity), Chuck Burch (vice president, Athletics), the coaches, and all the different men and women in the community continue to impact and influence me. To this day, I am close to Tracy Jessup and Dr. Canoy. It’s all the grace of God. He put people and opportunities in my life at just the right time every single time I needed it.”

Clayton King with son
Clayton King shares the stage with his 18-year-old son, Jacob.

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