By Arian Moore, Enliven Department Editor
We've heard the terms faith and fitness, church based fitness and health and wellness in church, but what do these terms really mean? What does this look like in action?
I stumbled upon West Ridge Church and was inspired by the passion for overall health. There is an understanding that faith and fitness are interrelated. “In the church world, we don’t talk about food as an addiction, gluttony, exercise, or body image issues, because it’s awkward," said Brian Bloye, Senior Pastor of West Ridge Church in Dallas, Georgia. "However, physical healthiness is a spiritual issue. Jesus offers abundant life to us here on this earth – and it involves what we put in our bodies, how we think about our bodies, and how we manage the margin in our life.” In a recent series titled Margin, Pastor Brian spoke about the importance of physical fitness as an overall component of our spirituality.
This understanding of the importance of physical health is demonstrated in two small groups held at West Ridge Church. One called, Winning My Race, is based on the book of the same name, written by Dr. Ben Lerner. This program offers churches a foundation for covering the essential principles of treating the body as God's temple. The Winning My Race program is offered twice a year at West Ridge and lasts a total of five weeks. The program focuses on five principles, a maximized mind, maximized quality nutrition, maximized nerve supply, maximized oxygen and lean muscles and minimized toxins. To ensure the understanding of these principles, each participant receives the a kit that includes the book, "Winning My Race," MaxT3 exercise videos, a printable workbook, recipes, and a dining out guide. Participants meet once a week to review materials and share experiences.
Lisa Costa is one participant of Wining My Race at West Ridge Church. As a result of completing the program she is now free from high cholesterol medication as well as fibromyalgia medication.
I have the lowest pain level that I have had in 18 years. -Lisa Costa
"It is all thanks to the principles I learned about the way God designed for my body to heal and be well at the Winning my Race Makeover and 28 Day Challenge. I can't wait to be free of all my medicines."Additionally, Costa has lost 12 pounds and is able to exercise daily. Her sleep and her glucose has improved.
Jamilla Smith is another Winning My Race participant. She went from being immobile to walking, running ,hiking and even dancing. "I'm doing things I thought I'd NEVER do again," she said. "The weight loss is great but having my life back is better."
I was recently able to sit on a Winning My Race class and was totally inspired. We spoke about nutrition, emotional attachments to food, scriptures on healthy living and we even ended the session with a workout. The people in the class were of all ages, sizes and backgrounds but they all were seeking a better life; a healthier life.
Jamilla talks about where her life was before the program. "The Saturday before last seasons sign up I was in the ER. I almost skipped church that Sunday but I was so scared I needed the Elders to pray for me," Jamilla said. " I went to one of the leaders and said we had to do the natural if we wanted [God] to do the super natural... The rest is history!"
Run For God is another small group offered at West Ridge that focuses on physical health and its interrelation to spiritual health. This particular group prepares participants to run a 5K or 10K race. In fact, they are required to register. Rebecca Curtis is one former participant of the Run For God small group.
"Run For God has CHANGED my life!," said Curtis. "Back in 2003, I would work out every day and do some running, but soon fell off the wagon. When I started Run for God I weighed 345lbs, I was stressed, and very distant from God. I now have lost over 100lbs, have become much less stressed and become closer to God than I have ever thought I could. I have gone from running in dress clothes (because I missed the memo about dressing in workout clothes) for only 30 seconds in 2009 to completing a FULL Marathon in October 2013. Through this class and hard work my first 5K time was 59:59 and my personal record (PR) 5K went down to 33:50." Rebecca is now the group leader of Run For God at West Ridge Church.
From the testimonies here, its evident that fitness programs offered in a church environment can have a significant impact on its members. The way we treat our bodies is a demonstration of whether or not we truly understand who we are and the price that was paid for us. Bringing this message into churches then, is pivotal, especially in a nation that is both majority Christian and majority obese. For more information on West Ridge Church visit www.westridge.com.
Listen to Jason Carney, head coach of these two programs at West Ridge Church, talk about the two groups.
Discussion questions for consideration:
1. How can I help my church start a wellness program?
2. How might a wellness program at my church benefit its members and the community?
3. If there is already a wellness ministry at your church, how might you help your church focus more on increasing the participation?
Contact Faith & Fitness Magazine for help in starting or growing a fitness ministry at your church.