Man vs. Wild vs. Religion? Bear Grylls Shares His Faith

As I was reading entertainment news last night and surfing the web, I wondered what was going on in the life of one of the planet’s most adventurous and controversial survival show hosts: Bear Grylls. You see, back in March Discovery Channel announced that it had parted ways with Bear over a “contract dispute.” Despite receiving high ratings, there was something beneath the surface that caused a dispute with Bear and his production company, so Discovery dropped all Bear Grylls productions.

Last night I was just curious and went to Bear’s website to see if he had signed on with another network. He’s working on show ideas, Bear posted on the site, but nothing is ready for publicizing. I read his latest blog entry and at the bottom he posted an excerpt from his new book Mud, Sweat and Tears. It was chapter 25. Of any part of his life of adventure and exploration, Bear chose to post the chapter that describes his decision to follow Jesus. I’ve posted the book excerpt below. Now, I knew that Bear claimed to be a Christian and that he made the sign of the cross whenever he jumped out of a helicopter or airplane but I didn’t know the depth of Bear’s faith. He outlines it below and, I must say, it seems very genuine. Read below:

Chapter 25

From the US edition of Mud Sweat & Tears… enjoy!


Girls aside, the other thing I found in the last few years of being at school, was a quiet, but strong Christian faith – and this touched me profoundly, setting up a relationship or faith that has followed me ever since.

I am so grateful for this. It has provided me with a real anchor to my life and has been the secret strength to so many great adventures since.

But it came to me very simply one day at school, aged only sixteen.

As a young kid, I had always found that a faith in God was so natural. It was a simple comfort to me: unquestioning and personal.

But once I went to school and was forced to sit through somewhere in the region of nine hundred dry, Latin-liturgical, chapel services, listening to stereotypical churchy people droning on, I just thought that I had got the whole faith deal wrong.

Maybe God wasn’t intimate and personal but was much more like chapel was … tedious, judgemental, boring and irrelevant.

The irony was that if chapel was all of those things, a real faith is the opposite. But somehow, and without much thought, I had thrown the beautiful out with the boring. If church stinks, then faith must do, too.

The precious, natural, instinctive faith I had known when I was younger was tossed out with this newly found delusion that because I was growing up, it was time to ‘believe’ like a grown-up.

I mean, what does a child know about faith?

It took a low point at school, when my godfather, Stephen, died, to shake me into searching a bit harder to re-find this faith I had once known.

Life is like that. Sometimes it takes a jolt to make us sit and remember who and what we are really about.

Stephen had been my father’s best friend in the world. And he was like a second father to me. He came on all our family holidays, and spent almost every weekend down with us in the Isle of Wight in the summer, sailing with Dad and me. He died very suddenly and without warning, of a heart attack in Johannesburg.

I was devastated.

I remember sitting up a tree one night at school on my own, and praying the simplest, most heartfelt prayer of my life.

‘Please, God, comfort me.’

Blow me down … He did.

My journey ever since has been trying to make sure I don’t let life or vicars or church over-complicate that simple faith I had found. And the more of the Christian faith I discover, the more I realize that, at heart, it is simple. (What a relief it has been in later life to find that there are some great church communities out there, with honest, loving friendships that help me with all of this stuff.)

To me, my Christian faith is all about being held, comforted, forgiven, strengthened and loved – yet somehow that message gets lost on most of us, and we tend only to remember the religious nutters or the God of endless school assemblies.

This is no one’s fault, it is just life. Our job is to stay open and gentle, so we can hear the knocking on the door of our heart when it comes.

The irony is that I never meet anyone who doesn’t want to be loved or held or forgiven. Yet I meet a lot of folk who hate religion. And I so sympathize. But so did Jesus. In fact, He didn’t just sympathize, He went much further. It seems more like this Jesus came to destroy religion and to bring life.

This really is the heart of what I found as a young teenager: Christ comes to make us free, to bring us life in all its fullness. He is there to forgive us where we have messed up (and who hasn’t), and to be the backbone in our being.

Faith in Christ has been the great empowering presence in my life, helping me walk strong when so often I feel so weak. It is no wonder I felt I had stumbled on something remarkable that night up that tree.

I had found a calling for my life.


Isn’t that cool? Brother Bear. He makes great observations about the difference between religion and relationship. While I love some of the beauty and mystery of high church liturgy it can also be a buzz-kill for those yearning for the vibrant life that is found in Christ. There needs to be balance. Bear has seen that there is more than ritual or liturgy — there is relationship and that relationship is grand. I wonder what church communities he and his family have found. Are they Church of England, Catholic or independent? Maybe missional communities like the ones Christian Associates starts?

Cool story.

5 thoughts on “Man vs. Wild vs. Religion? Bear Grylls Shares His Faith

  1. Yes you should! 🙂 I would suggest of course ‘Mud Sweat & tears’. But ‘The Kid who climbed Everest’ is also very good. And ‘Facing the Frozen Ocean’. Both books are about his expeditions. Actually his book Living Wild is online as a webbook. But the faith chapter I talked about yesterday, was also posted in an Alpha Newsletter: page 16/17. Actually this newsletter has 2 articles on Bear, the other one is about a friend of his he did an expedition with (Facing the frozen ocean), who came to faith and mentions Bear several times.

  2. Hi! Great blog, thanks. I already read his book a few months ago and I thinks it’s really cool the way he writes about his faith. Great testimony. You were wondering what congregation he’s a member of? He actually goes to HTB (London) which is officially an Anglican church, but very much not ‘ordinary’ Anglican 🙂 I visited this church just a few weeks ago while I was in London, and it’s very charismatic and evangelical with worship/praise and mentioning the Holy Spirit. You might have heard of vicar Nicky Gumbel, who developed the Alpha Course (for which Bear made a promotion film). Check out their website and the Bible in One Year program – look who’s in the banner 🙂
    Just yesterday he posted Matthew 11:28-30 on his Twitter, which was also mentioned in the Bible in One Year. He posts scripture verses and stuff quite regularly which is cool.
    You might also like to read this: He wrote this very inspiring and Jesus-focused article for 24/7 Prayer recently.

    • Thanks for the response, Ann! That’s cool about Bear and HTB. I just spend a few minutes on their website and was impressed. It’s very refreshing to see someone in the spotlight with a vibrant, active Christian life. So many celebrities want to bury their personal beliefs to avoid any reaction. It’s wonderful to see Bear living out his faith in public and private. — John

      • Yes you are absolutely right. He is very outspoken and not many celebrities are, unfortunately. Great he isn’t afraid to share his faith, because I think he’s a real encouragement to both believers and non-believers. Btw he gets ridiculed a lot for it, but that doesn’t stop him.
        I loved the 24/7 Prayer article and gives such a good insight on his views and relationship with Jesus.
        Have you read his books? In all of them, no exception, he gives God the praise, whether they’re survival books or not. Actually ‘Living Wild’ contains a whole chapter about faith and is in fact the whole gospel in a nutshell. You don’t expect that at all when reading a book on survival. At the end he even does an invitation for people to accept Christ: “So if you have yet to find this sort of faith for yourself, be bold, take a step. What do you have to lose? What do you have to gain? Say a simple prayer in your head (don’t worry, no-one but God is listening!) and ask for Jesus to come into your life and stand beside you. Wonders will start to happen, I assure you!”
        Very cool and special!

Comments are closed.