Ex-bouncer helps new church fight despair

Ben Greene

Pastor & writer

  • Church planting & multiplication

Jeff Harrington Lion's Den Church

When life becomes a lion’s den, Jeff Harrington knows what to do.  

The 6-foot-5-inch, 295-pound Air Force veteran doesn’t depend on his size or military training. Nor does the former biker bar bouncer resort to force like he once did. 


Instead, Harrington invites people to the same experience that changed his life: a local church proclaiming Christ. He and a core team started the Lion’s Den Church this year in Waimea on Kauai, Hawaii. 


“Jesus is the way,” Harrington said. “That’s how we can walk through the life we’re living in the world today.” 


He serves Christ followers with biblical teaching to trust God in the dark times. He’s confident they can live in faithful obedience no matter what they’re experiencing.  


Struggles are real, but nothing’s too difficult for God

Lion’s Den has the potential to help the island’s people, who often persevere to survive and thrive. However, the cost of living here — the median house costs more than $1 million — is incredibly challenging.  


A college degree is difficult to afford, but finding work and housing without a college degree may be even more challenging. Drug addictions and criminal behavior also harm families and individuals. 


Harrington knows well the challenges facing locals. His childhood and adulthood both fractured at times. He had violent family members, plus his choices created bankruptcy, homelessness and drug addiction. Today, he’s prepared to serve people no matter how hopeless they feel. 


“I’ve experienced so many things in life that happen here that I have genuine empathy,” he said. 


The power of the gospel that overcame Harrington’s challenges generates his hope for the community. He was saved in November 1988 after a Damascus-road-like vision in which Christ told him, ‘You are going to hell.’  


Since then, he’s seen how God can restore and rebuild a life without regrets or waste. 


“There’s no trash; it’s just compost,” he says of his hardships or the island’s challenges. “God uses it to grow things.” 


Related: Converge pastor riding Harley to Hell's edge 


The gospel connects even when culture creates troubles


A unique challenge in Hawaii is cultural tensions between white people and Hawaii’ls Indigenous people may create gospel barriers. Harrington said 6% of the people on Kauai believe in Jesus Christ, whil 60% of the island’s residents affiliate with no faith at all. 


“It’s as dry spiritually as it is physically and environmentally,” he said of Kauai, especially on the west side, where life difficulties occur more frequently. 


The spiritual resistance comes, in part, because of the perspective that churches and plantations were part of the same system that exploited individuals and separated families.  


“We cannot be seen as somebody dictating or taking from the culture and the community,” he explained. “We’re going to be serving the community.” 


A church with the gospel at its core leaves the California native without doubts about what God can do among the 73,000 people on Kauai. The aloha spirit of Hawaiian culture includes natural bridges to the good news of Jesus, such as peacemaking, generosity and hospitality. 


“The aloha is very gospel-centric when you look at all the components of it,” Harrington added. 


Those cultural connections form a foundation for the new Converge church to offer encouragement for life’s hardships. Harrington hopes the congregation can help their neighbors when life leaves them in a lion’s den. 


On a trip to Haiti, he saw that God can give abundant life and deep hope to people in the most severe challenges. 


“I know that can happen here in Kauai,” he said. “Even if things are hard, they can experience the joy of worshiping Jesus Christ and living with him in their day-to-day struggles. That’s what I want to bring here.” 


Converge's 10 districts have committed to deploying 312 church planters before 2026. Read more inspiring church planting stories and learn about the goal to send out 312 church planters in five years.

Ben Greene, Pastor & writer

Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.

Additional articles by Ben Greene