By Gabriel Stovall
Once during a college mission trip they were coleading, brothers Greg and Rob Wilton got so worked up after playing on opposite teams during a basketball game, someone had to break up the tussle.
Moments after that fight, the Wilton brothers, both currently serving as missionaries through the North American Mission Board (NAMB), were back to loving on each other and planning their next ministry moves together. That’s what happens when a sibling rivalry is bathed in a passion for sharing the gospel.
Born 18 months apart—Rob is the oldest—the Wilton brothers aren’t twins, but they’ve let very little separate them over the years. Now, as both brothers serve through Send Relief, they say the journey of brotherhood, friendship and rivalry has come full circle in a God-honoring way.
Rob and Greg Wilton have been inseparable in sports, sibling rivalry and ministry for their entire lives.
Rob, a NAMB missionary in Pittsburgh, currently oversees the Send Relief ministry center, serves as the Send City Missionary for Pittsburgh and is lead pastor of Vintage Church Pittsburgh.
Greg was recently nameded Send Relief’s national director for refugees and internationals. He will operate out of Clarkston, Georgia, home to Send Relief’s ministry center ministering to refugees and internationals. Greg just completed three years serving with the International Mission Board (IMB) in Southeast Asia.
The brothers’ lifetime of ministry work together dates back to when they grew up listening to their father, Don Wilton, preach all across the country and around the globe.
“We’ve had a journey from birth of being in ministry and experiencing ministry together under our dad who’s been in ministry our whole lives,” Greg says. “Some of our first sermons we ever preached, we were right there together with him. Our first times seeing people come to faith and be baptized, we’ve been together in all of that.”
Their grandfather, John Wilton, was the first family member to become a believer in Jesus. He came to faith in his 30s in South Africa which is where the Wiltons are from. Later on, Rob and Greg’s parents sold all their possessions in South Africa to come and be missionaries in America. So, the Wilton brothers, along with a sister who’s 10 years younger, are first-generation Americans.
“That set a precedence for us that said living a life for Jesus doesn’t have to be dull and boring,” Greg said. “You can be passionate. It can be exciting, and it can be an adventure. It doesn’t have to be dull and boring or lacking tenacity or passion, and I think we’ve just tried to live that out.”
But whether it’s been serving with their dad, doing youth camps across the country or mobilizing young adults into missions through Ignite Mission during their days in New Orleans, there’s always been the dual presence of respect and healthy competition in their relationship.
Neither brother has lost a passion for winning souls to Christ, even if their gifts and abilities allow them to take different approaches at it.
In ministry, Rob is the visionary. He can cast and articulate a vision for ministry that will raise the hair on your arms and make you ready to run out of a room to execute. Meanwhile, Greg is the more detail-oriented one. He’ll make sure that those who are running as the hands and feet of a vision are doing it with genuine passion and follow through.
“Both of us are futuristic. Both of us are competitive,” Rob says. “But where my brother thrives is his ability in regard to on-the-ground mercy ministry and compassion. He’s the tip-of-the-spear guy. You’ll never get Greg to fully sit in an office. Whereas I’m the guy who can lead-all-week-long leadership meetings in the board room.”
Says Greg: “Rob will cast a vision to go find Larry, and I’m going be the one to say, ‘I found Larry, and now I’m loving on him and hanging out with him.’”
“Some of my biggest battles and fights in life have been between me and Greg,” Rob said. “And then some of our biggest victories have been when we’re on the same team and took that passion we had against each other and channeled in the same direction to where we obliterated someone else.”
For a short season, both brothers got the chance to play on the same team again in the same city, Pittsburgh. Greg and his family came to work alongside Rob in Pittsburgh until Greg got the call to relocate to metro Atlanta.
“I was drowning a bit in Pittsburgh and needing some help, and Greg was able to come alongside me,” Rob said. “That’s how Greg got introduced to Send Relief.”
Through Send Relief, the brothers are still on the same team in a sense. But now that they’re in different cities, that competitive streak is rising up in them once again, this time in a most righteous way.
“Oh yeah, it’s definitely another matter of competition now,” Greg says with a laugh. “Now we’re looking at each other in Atlanta and in Pittsburgh, and we’re competing now to see who’s meeting more needs in the context God’s called us into. What better way to be competitive with someone you love and someone who makes you better than when you’re doing it for Jesus.”
Go to sendrelief.org to discover more about our Send Relief ministry centers in Pittsburgh and Clarkston or to find ways to involve your church in compassion ministry.