July 2008

Seminary, college encourages students to exercise

July 17 2008 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Among the magnolia trees scattered across Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's campus, joggers and walkers, as well as students headed for class, crisscross the Wake Forest campus to exercise.

They also use the seminary's fitness center and intramural sports to get their blood pumping.

"We saw the need to encourage students to be more physically fit," said Seth Bible, director of student life. "Many of our faculty and staff participate. Some participate in intramural events as well."

Students need to treat their bodies like the temple of God, said Bible, who indicated that the school's fitness initiative is similar to one designed by BlueCross BlueShield. Each year it is divided into three sections and, there are six levels of prizes. The seminary gives out water bottles, personal coolers, blankets, and lawn chairs with the Southeastern logo.

More than 130 students and employees are involved in Southeastern's fitness initiative, begun in 2005. Bible said approximately 750 families live in campus housing and estimates a 10-15 percent participation rate among students close enough to use the facility.

As director of student life, Bible's duties include managing the student center, directing all special events and assisting the dean with disciplinary issues. Bible received a master of divinity degree from Southeastern in 2003 and is currently enrolled in the doctor of philosophy program.

Each year between 250 and 300 students participate in intramurals, including flag football, indoor soccer, volleyball, basketball, ultimate Frisbee and racquetball.

The fitness center log averages about 1,200 signatures a month.

The student center contains a 14,000-sq.-foot gymnasium for basketball and indoor soccer as well as an aerobics and free weight room. An activity field is used for intramural sports and for general recreation.

"We encourage our students to work out and use the facilities," Bible said.

He believes it is part of the growth and maturity level of a believer "before they become a pastor and lead a congregation."

In the college, a physical education class is an elective for students. Participation requires the student to exercise three days a week throughout the semester, an hour each session, and write a five-page paper over the notes from the class.

"I can definitely see the evidence of those participating in the program of how it has positively affected their life," Bible said.

7/17/2008 5:28:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Parish nurses attend to health, wellness

July 17 2008 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

Nurses who work with N.C. Baptist congregations say church members are taking a greater interest in their health.

Linda Page, the faith and health ministry coordinator for the Greater Cleveland County area, said nurses help keep the issue before members of the congregations they serve. Page oversees about 20 health care professionals who serve churches as parish nurses, also called faith community nurses.

"I think we've had lives saved because they had parish nurses in place," she said.

The program in Cleveland County uses a volunteer model so nurses don't get paid for the ministry they do in their churches, Page said.

"It really is a calling," she said. "I feel they are God-called."

Karen Bridges, a licensed practical nurse, helped start a health ministry team about two years ago at her church, Double Springs Baptist in Shelby.

"I just felt the Lord leading me to do something for others," she said.

The church supported the effort and now the team has 15 members.

Page said faith community nurses make a difference in churches.

"We really emphasize the spiritual aspect of health and that we are whole persons," she said. "We look more at the body, mind and spirit instead of just the physical side of health."

Faith community nurses help church members "become advocates for themselves in the health arena," Page said. When necessary the nurse will step in and intervene, she said.

For example, when a faith community nurse notices that a church member's blood pressure is high, the nurse might call the member's doctor to let them know. If needed, the nurse might go with the church member to the doctor.

Page also helps churches set up health fairs, using local resources and a booklet provided by the Health Ministries Association, a national group of parish nurses.

Page serves on the health committee at her church, Boiling Springs Baptist. The group recently held a dinner that raised enough money to buy four automated external defibrillators  (AED) for the church.

Bridges' team also worked to buy an AED for her church. She said the team started by providing transportation to a church member diagnosed with cancer.

Now the team provides meals, holds health fairs, hosts educational speakers on fifth Sunday nights, and puts health-related inserts in the bulletins once a quarter.

Members of the team also do blood pressure checks the first Sunday of each month before and after services. They've also conducted screenings to see if church members are likely to have strokes or other diseases.

The team also provided meals and prayer for a family in the community that was having a hard time after losing a loved one.

A walking challenge for church members recently ended.

Bridges said she thinks people in the church are becoming more aware of their health.

"Even after we just got finished with the walking challenge, I've noticed people walking," she said.

7/17/2008 5:13:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Iowa town shows gratitude to Baptists

July 16 2008 by By Richard Nations/Baptist Press

LAMONT, Iowa — Flood debris sitting in the sun produced a foul odor in Lamont, Iowa, a small town of 490 people about 35 miles east of Waterloo.
Some residents piled debris on the curb for sanitation workers to haul away, but they were at a loss for what to do next.
Many of the town’s senior adults and some with physical disabilities had been waiting for assistance to clean out their homes, which were damaged by floodwaters when eight inches of rain fell the evening of May 25.
The mayor of Lamont, Afred Hotchkiss, heard about Southern Baptist disaster relief at a meeting of the emergency management council in the county seat about 20 miles away. He asked if SBC workers could come to the town and help the residents who were having trouble getting assistance.
Ty Berry, disaster relief coordinator for the Baptist Convention of Iowa, responded in the affirmative, and a one-day blitz of the town was arranged for July 9. Twenty-eight workers from Oklahoma, South Carolina, Colorado and Texas converged on the town and cleaned out 11 homes.
The homeowners had signed releases giving the crews permission to remove debris and tear out damaged walls and floors down to the bare wood studs. After a power-washing, the wood was treated with a solution of bleach and water to prevent the growth of mold. The walls and floors were then ready to be re-covered and painted.
Mud was carried out in buckets and left in a pile on the curb for city workers to take to the landfill. Furnaces, water heaters and laundry appliances that were non-repairable were removed from homes.
Residents said they couldn’t believe Southern Baptists would travel from all parts of the country to work with them in their little town.  
“After you go through something like (the flooding), you really appreciate it,” Hotchkiss said of the Baptists’ help. “We had water nearly as wide as a football field across our main street in town from the Lamont Creek.”
Hotchkiss said the town’s Methodist minister “has been going around trying to calm the people down after the flood. But he can only do so much, and people were starting to get upset with the lack of progress.
“I heard about this service, and we arranged for it. You really appreciate the help, and then when these guys are done they stand around and pray with you and give you hugs,” the mayor said. “That’s the really great part.”
As far as anyone in Lamont can recall, this was the biggest flood ever to hit the town.
Hotchkiss patrolled in his “mayor mobile,” a John Deere Gator ATV, as he kept SBC relief workers informed of residents who had signed up for help.
“I think she’s a shift worker and may work nights,” Hotchkiss told one disaster relief worker who had been unable to contact a homeowner at the door or by phone. “She’ll be up in a little while.”
The mayor, who seemed to know most of the town’s residents on a first-name basis, has been on the city council off and on for about 30 years. A tool and die maker in Cedar Rapids, Hotchkiss works nights and handles town affairs during the day.
Southern Baptist workers were washing chairs at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church when the church treasurer, Dian Smith, came by to thank them for assisting with the clean-up. She said the church had 24 inches of water in the basement from the creek behind it.
Everyone in the church membership is just tough, though. We are old and faithful,” Smith said, noting that about 15 people attend the church.
Asked what the church means to her personally, Smith said, “It gives you inner strength. The older ladies have been role models for me.”
She spoke of faith, courage and blessings as she showed off quilts that the Lutheran auxiliary ladies had prepared for shipments to an overseas mission. Nearly 100 quilts were undamaged in the flood and sat in boxes ready for transporting.
Smith, in her early 60s, said she was one of the younger members of the congregation.
“These thrifty Lutheran ladies,” she said. “They didn’t want to throw away any of the pots and pans when we cleaned out the basement.”
Lutheran relief workers helped them scrub the pots and pans, and they are back on the shelves ready for the next church potluck.
The pastor, Roger McKinstry, serves four Lutheran churches in northeast Iowa. He has been a spiritual comfort to the elderly St. Peter’s members. But Smith said the Southern Baptist efforts were a special blessing because “we just didn’t have the energy” to clean the rest of it out.
Norman Wagoner, who has served in disaster relief for nearly 30 years, supervises the Oklahoma mud-out crew. Though he grew up a Methodist, he got involved in Southern Baptist missions work when he married a Baptist.
Oklahoma, along with Texas, was one of the first states to get involved in disaster relief as men’s ministry.
“It’s really rewarding” Wagoner said. “We just wanted to come over here and help these people with their flood and show the love of God.”
At the city hall at noon, women from the fire department auxiliary in Lamont passed out sandwiches, salads, chips, drinks and dessert for the disaster relief workers. Some of the workers from South Carolina, who also are volunteer fire department members, mentioned that they liked the fire department T-shirts the women were wearing. Within a few minutes, a box was broken open and several Lamont Fire Department T-shirts were given out as gifts to the relief workers from a grateful community.
In the evening a roast beef dinner was planned in the town community center on Main Street. A “roast beef sundae” included roast beef, mashed potatoes, bread, gravy and a cherry tomato on top. Salads and plenty of cold lemonade also were served. Amid the Iowa hospitality, the townsfolk profusely thanked the Southern Baptists who had come to help.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Nations is editor of the Iowa Baptist newspaper.)  
7/16/2008 10:20:00 AM by By Richard Nations/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

In run-up to Beijing Olympics, China increasing persecution of Christians

July 16 2008 by By Rachel Mehlhaff/Associated Baptist Press

WASHINGTON — While China appears to be making some religious-liberty concessions on the eve of the Olympics, critics in the United States say Chinese persecution of Christians in the country is on the rise.
China is on the U.S. State Department’s list of “Countries of Particular Concern” as one of the world’s worst persecutors of religious freedom. American experts on religious-liberty conditions in China said that, in recent weeks, there has been a significant Chinese crackdown on many dissenting groups — including Christians in churches not officially registered with or sanctioned by the government.
That, the China-watchers said, has resulted in many new arrests.
Chinese officials have also reportedly been cracking down on other dissenting groups, such as human-rights activists and Tibetan independence advocates.
Daniel Burton, staff writer at the China Aid Association, said Chinese officials kicked more missionaries out of the country last year than in all of the previous 59 years of communist control. The persecution is taking place, he said, under the internal government code name “Typhoon No. 5.” Some of the missionaries ordered to leave had been there for 20 years.
“We are seeing an increase in persecution across the board,” Burton said. “All foreigners (in China for the games) are going to be closely watched.”
Burton’s group, founded in 2002, keeps track of Chinese persecution of religious groups — particularly Christians in China’s thousands of unregistered churches.
In April 2007, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security issued a general nationwide order urging strict “background checks” on those who apply to participate in the Olympic Games. They banned 43 types of people in 11 categories, Burton said.
The categories focus on those the government considers “antagonistic elements,” he noted. That includes “religious extremists and religious infiltrators.”
Sarah Cook, an Asia researcher for the foreign-policy group Freedom House, said China’s ruling Communist Party doesn’t want to take chances that the games will become a platform for critics of Chinese policies. The recent increase in arrests of dissenting Christians and other groups is intended to reduce that risk, she said.
“It is much more subtle now,” Cook said of the current tactics versus earlier waves of persecution. Officials simply go to offenders’ doors individually, arrest them and take them away.
The offenders are sent to detention centers or labor camps. Cook said many average Chinese are not even aware that such crackdowns are taking place.
However, China is making some concessions to Christians on the eve of the games.
Olympic Edition Bibles, printed by the state-sanctioned China Christian Council and its sister organization, the Three Self Patriotic Movement, will be “Chinese-English bilingual and contain the four Gospels with the logos of the Beijing Olympic Games both in the cover and the back,” according to an e-mail from Ou Enlin, of the International Relations department of the CCC/TSPM. The two organizations represent officially registered Chinese churches.
He said the addresses of state-sanctioned churches in Beijing will be listed on the last page of each of the Bibles. The Bibles will be available free of charge at the churches and in the athletes’ housing quarters.
Despite such measures, Nina Shea, director of religious freedom at the Hudson Institute, believes the rest of the world’s Christians need to speak out against Chinese persecution.
“I’m in favor of boycotting the opening ceremony to send a signal that China oppresses religious freedom,” Shea said. She believes Americans should even boycott watching the opening on television.
“I think the Chinese want to do business as usual,” she said.
But, she added, “They are very sensitive to criticism.” Shea said she holds little hope that any international criticism would lead to changes in Chinese policy — which officially bans non-sanctioned churches — but that it would send a signal to officials that the rest of the international community is taking note of their activities.
China campaigned to host the Olympics in order to gain international prestige, Shea noted.
She believes Christians need to pray, but that they also need to do what they can as members of a democracy to communicate their concern to representatives in Congress.
She said Christians should signal to China that many Americans don’t see China as a full member of the international community and won’t until it guarantees religious and political freedom to its people. Only then, Shea said, will China live up to its full potential as a global power.
So far, President Bush and most other international leaders have shown indications that they plan to attend the opening ceremonies, despite the calls for boycott.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, in a July 14 statement, urged Bush to take steps during his Chinese visit to draw attention to the nation’s human-rights violations. The independent, bipartisan federal panel monitors religious-freedom conditions worldwide.
“The international community awarded China the 2008 summer games with the trust that Beijing would improve its protections of fundamental human rights, including the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief,” said Felice Gaer, USCIRF chair.  “The commission concludes that China has not lived up to its promises and continues to engage in serious violations of religious freedom.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Robert Marus contributed to this story.)
7/16/2008 10:18:00 AM by By Rachel Mehlhaff/Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Churches build for fitter future

July 16 2008 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Contributed photo
Members of the Stretching Seniors class at Western Avenue Baptist Church in Statesville meet twice a week to exercise.

While trying to raise membership rolls, some churches look for ways to trim the fat, literally, as well.

"Sports are very popular in America," said Dan Lipp, church building consultant for the Baptist State Convention (BSC) building planning ministries. "I think churches are looking toward (fitness). More than fitness there is the recreational aspect."

Lipp said churches consider recreation and exercise options a draw for both church members and others.

With obesity a growing trend, especially among Southern Baptist churches, many are planning multi-purpose facilities to offer more options to members and reach out to the community.

More and more churches are buying into the "if you build it, they will come" philosophy ... especially when it comes to family life centers.

"You can get a lot of bang for your buck," said Phil Stone, a BSC senior consultant who oversees the building planning ministries, which offers free consultations to N.C. Baptist churches.

While the Convention does not keep up with precise numbers, Lipp said many are considering buildings that serve more than one purpose.

"Every church is looking at this," Lipp said. "Most churches that are building or even renovating during this day and time are giving a hard look at multi-purpose. We have to think about the stewardship in the funds of the church."

The trend is visible nationally as well.

"Recreation and sports ministry undergirds every other ministry in the church," said John Garner, recreation and sports, marriage and family specialist with LifeWay.

Churches come to him to learn how to set up a walking program or an entire wellness/fitness ministry.

More people and churches are taking "the long look" at a better life, Garner said. He sees more senior trips adding adventure elements to cater to a generation that is staying active longer.

Garner said he believes the walking track is the most used part of a church, it if has one.

The No. 1 walking group is senior adults.

"Ministers especially ... they get stressed," said Garner. "They get tired. They don't eat right. They have long, irregular hours. They begin to have physical problems because of that. Some of these programs can really help them."

Lipp said it is a win-win if churches can turn a recreational outlet into an encouragement toward healthy living.

"They are multi-purpose in so many ways — sanctuary, fellowship, education, recreation," said Lipp of the trend "that is picking up speed."

Some churches are not only using these centers as ways to minister to their congregation but to the community at large.

Trinity Baptist Church in Raleigh hosted its first 5K run in 2007 to raise money for a local ministry. The race, which also featured a one-mile fun run and a kid's dash, drew 288 racers and raised about $5,000. The church is planning another run Sept. 13.

Spencer Good, minister of recreation and activities at Trinity, said the church was looking for ways to reach out to the community when the 5K idea was developed.

"Part of outreach is getting people on site for the first time," he said.

Trinity also reaches out through its Recreation Outreach Center (ROC), which opened in September 2004. The church offers Upward Basketball and Cheerleading, a women's basketball league, a walking track, a weekly volleyball game, summer day camps, a cardio room, weight equipment and fitness classes. Good said the activities are open to the community and no fees are charged. The church sees them as outreach opportunities with an evangelistic component, he said.

The ROC has also raised church members' awareness about health issues, Good said. He also includes wellness articles in the church newsletter.

At Scotts Hill Baptist Church in Wilmington, two professional trainers approached pastor Phil Ortego, BSC second vice president, to begin a holistic health and fitness program at the church.
Ortego, who talked to the Recorder just after a run while on vacation in Louisiana, said the trainers are putting together a program that will be based on biblical principals recognizing that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that "we have a stewardship to take care of what God has given us."

The plan, to be launched this fall, will direct and encourage participants through diet with proper exercise and will involve them in growth of body, mind and spirit "to honor the Lord," Ortego said.

When featured in the March 29 issue of the Biblical Recorder, Ortego said his family is physically active and fit. He and his wife, Chris, run "for holiness," he said.

"If our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and we're to be stewards of our bodies, the issue is not that I should be in shape to look good," Ortego said. "I want to be in shape to honor God."

Garner said most anything people do in their leisure time can be used as a ministry tool.

An important thing to remember, Garner said, is that ministry doesn't have to occur at your church.

"Sometimes it's done at the bowling alley," he said. "It's done at the softball field."

Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone is just a quarter mile off the Blue Ridge Parkway, a popular area for cyclists. For several years the church has hosted the "Tour de Bamboo" starting in the church parking lot.

Pastor Allan Blume launches the riders with a devotional thought and says for some, it is their first exposure to church in any fashion.

Fitness program
Garner said one of the most well-rounded programs for churches is First Place 4 Health.

First Place 4 Health just released a revamped version of First Place, a popular Christian health/wellness Bible study plan from the 1980s and '90s.

"It's one of the most balanced Christian programs out there for weight loss and weight management," he said. "It works."

Through its spiritual, physical, emotional and mental components, Carole Lewis said the program applies to the whole person.

As part of the program, people talk about losing weight, but Lewis, who serves as the national director of First Place 4 Health, said "what they will always say is that the spiritual changes is what changed their life."

The 12-week lesson plan involves Bible study, prayer, and Scripture memory as well as information about food and exercise.

Participants are also encouraged to walk. There is a 100-mile plan in the book so walkers can highlight each mile.

"Some of our people go 200," Lewis said. "But some of our people literally can barely walk when they join the program."

National training for leaders is in July, but Lewis said there will be a February 2009 event in the Raleigh/Durham area.

Reaching seniors
At Western Avenue Baptist Church in Statesville, the Stretching Seniors class draws about 16 women ages 68-86 every Tuesday and Friday.

The class started as a class project for a student who recently graduated with a degree in sports management. It began as a one-day offering and expanded to two days because of its popularity.

"They've all gotten really good reports from the doctor," said Debbie Coutchure, one of the teachers of the class.

Using resistance bands, weights, stabilizer balls and even chairs, Coutchure, along with Peggy Furr, teach the class. When it began in March 2007, Furr was teaching it one day a week. By June they had added a second day and Coutchure was asked to teach also.

"It was like the Lord led me there to do that," Coutchure said.

Each time the women exercise 45 minutes to an hour in a multi-purpose room in the church. Some stay afterwards and walk another mile.

During the summer, Western Avenue offers short-term classes. Coutchure said that sometimes includes diet or nutrition classes. And the classes seem to be paying off.

"They are doing a lot more than when we first started," Coutchure said. At first some could only do one or two of each thing, she said but "you can see them growing so much."

All of their numbers at the doctor's office are better.

"They can feel they are getting healthier," she said. "It's been amazing the transformation that's happening since they first started."

Coutchure said it has been a growing experience for them all. The women are encouraging others to get involved too, or at least get healthier.

Recreation training
Garner said he uses people from Hickory Grove Baptist Church, First Baptist Church in Charlotte, and other N.C. Baptist churches to train others in the state to start their own ministries.

Each year LifeWay holds a conference called Rec Lab, the longest-running conference LifeWay does. In January 2009 it will be in San Antonio, and in April 2010 it will be at Ridgecrest Conference Center.

"What it is all about is developing relationships," Garner said, "so later on you can meet needs."

(EDITOR'S NOTE - BR Editor Norman Jameson and BR Managing Editor Steve DeVane contributed to this report.)

Health Care Crisis 

Fat America tips scales toward health care crisis

Churches build for fitter future

NAMB encourages healthier missionaries 

Seminary president practices what he preaches

Seminary, college encourages students to exercise 

Parish nurses attend to health, wellness of church members 

Health epiphany prompts Johnson to wellness theology

Pastor half the man he used to be: Granddaughter worried when he couldn’t keep up

Busting the top four food myths

Obesity in the body of Christ

Spok’n: No waiting for magic medical bullet

Editorial: You do have time to care for your health



7/16/2008 9:39:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Seminary president practices what he preaches

July 16 2008 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

WAKE FOREST — Although the trim Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary president admits to having a weakness for caffeine and salt, Danny Akin still makes a healthy lifestyle part of his daily regimen.

"That which the Holy Spirit occupies should be treated well and indeed should be treated in an honorable fashion," said Akin, referring to 1 Corinthians.

An avid walker and runner, Akin tries to model healthy choices for his colleagues, students and church leaders.

In his 50s, Akins said, "I don't have to impress anybody anymore," but does make sure he exercises at least three times a week. Generally, he aims at four to six times.

His knees aren't what they used to be so when he runs he goes to the high school next to campus to use their rubber track or to the school's golf course. He keeps a treadmill in his bedroom so he'll have a place in bad weather.

"We do believe it is very important for all believers to take care of their bodies," he said.

Family health
Akin said his sons are finding marriage changes their lifestyle. When he was a 140-lb. graduating senior, Akin said he "couldn't gain weight all through school," but that all changed when he got married.

He gained 40 pounds the first year, and he kept gaining - up to 195 pounds.

A doctor friend - who delivered all four sons - asked Akin why he didn't preach on gluttony.

"You ought to take seriously your health," the doctor said.

No family member had lived past 70 until Akin's father, who died in April. Akin knew it was something he needed to address.

Akin began running and even participated in a marathon in 1980.

After he began running, Akin went from 195 lbs to 140 lbs in seven months.

He admits his wife, Charlotte, doesn't exercise much, but "she doesn't push me to do it" either.

All their sons are active.

Timothy is a football coach in Central Asia. Paul continues to play basketball and flag football. Nathan works at the seminary with intramural sports, and Jonathan, a doctor of philosophy student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., is the "most sedentary."

When his family was at Southern, he ballooned up to 190 pounds again.

That time when he lost 40 pounds his blood pressure and cholesterol levels did not go down. He said he is genetically predisposed to have issues in those areas so he still takes medicine to regulate those levels.

"We try to be wise," he said. "I can't think of the last time we had anything fried. We try to be more careful."

There are lots of things you can do to get in a fairly balanced range, he said.

Unfortunately, as you age you burn less calories with the same exercise, Akin said.

"Your body is less efficient in terms of burning calories," he said.

Because of his busy schedule Akin generally preaches two or three times on Sundays. He schedules time on Mondays and Friday mornings where he doesn't come to the office until noon. He spends the time exercising, checking e-mails and writing.

"It's easy to get that time eaten up" with other things, he said.

Akin said he has a weakness for Mexican food but knows "his small frame carries weight in his stomach so it is noticeable. I have to be careful because I don't have room for error."

One other area Akin said contributes to a healthy lifestyle is sleep.

He tries to get at least eight hours a night, but would rather have more.

"I should be in the sleeping hall of fame," he said.

Southern Baptist health
During a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting one year, Akin asked a colleague from Southern what he thought of the Convention.

The professor, who has a background as a northern evangelical, was new to the SBC. He said he'd never met such "wonderful, godly men."

"But Dr. Akin I don't know how to say this ... I've never seen so many fat preachers in all my life," the professor said.

Akin's response: "Oh, it's an art form."

Since that conversation, Akin said he has tried to be more sensitive, but he doesn't mince words when asked, and he openly shares his opinion from the pulpit.

"Some can hardly walk," he said. "It's clear their weight is bad on their heart. It's a bad witness."
Akin said most leaders don't mind when he preaches against alcohol.

"It always gets very quiet" when he brings up the subject of weight, Akin said. "It's a sin issue. It's a discipline issue."

Any time health screenings are done, Akin said Southeastern "students are excessively overweight. Whenever they do the testing, it's not good."

Akin said he would be surprised if a resolution about weight or obesity ever made it to the floor of the annual meeting.

"It would hit so many people between their eyes," he said.

Bible verses
Unfortunately more people take scripture out of context to justify laziness than staying in shape, Akin said.

Using "bodily exercise profiteth little" and "profits not to the same degree" Akin said people need to remember that while we are planning for the eternal we need to be good stewards of the vessels God has given.

There are no specific texts that say you must run so many days a week. Akin said 1 Corinthian 10:31 tells believers to "do all to the glory of God."

That applies to sleeping, eating, working, exercising, and more, Akin said.

Akin uses what he calls Corinthian principles to teach about taking care of the body. Of each activity or action, people should ask "Can this enslave me?"

"Will this build me up, make me better?" Akin asked.

Akin encourages pastors to share on this topic from the pulpit.

"This is a very good thing that He has made (and) intends to resurrect," he said. "What He has given you is a good gift. It should be taken care of in a good way."


7/16/2008 9:09:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Health epiphany prompts Johnson to wellness theology

July 16 2008 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Carl Johnson's health epiphany led the pastor and one-time volunteer firefighter to a lifestyle of wellness that he considers a spiritual discipline.

Others might consider it obsessive because Johnson, pastor of Icard First Baptist Church, trains hard and long to compete in triathlons and Ironman events.

During a yearly physical Johnson, 36, found his cholesterol bordered on high. The doctor was surprised because at 5-8, 130 pounds Johnson looks fit. But he admitted he ate poorly and did not exercise.

He committed himself to do better and was "fairly unsuccessful." It wasn't until he developed a theology of wellness that he realized he was on a spiritual health quest as well.

"I realized it is not OK for me not to take care of myself," Johnson said in a telephone interview. "That's every much a sin as other sins that typically disqualify pastors for ministry. Eventually I would disqualify myself from ministry in that I would become so unhealthy I could not continue in ministry."

When wellness became a spiritual discipline for Johnson, he found it "easier to follow through and justify the time."

Portions of the passage from 1 Cor. 6:19-20 are familiar and often used to preach against prostitution and ingesting harmful substances: "... your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit' Therefore honor God with your body."

Who has heard the verse as a text against gluttony or second helpings at a dinner on the grounds?

Johnson also appreciates the image of Jesus from Luke 2:52, which says, "Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."

"That says Jesus was a whole person," Johnson said. "He walked hundreds, probably thousands of miles. Jesus was a strong man who was fit. Therefore He was able to finish the work that He started."

Eating too much is the only socially acceptable vice among Baptists, Johnson said. While other vices are quickly condemned, we "tend not to really challenge" the actions of a person obviously overweight.

For pastors, typical low pay and high demands lead to packed schedules and unmanageable stress. And who has time for exercise?

Johnson challenges that question.

"It has to become a commitment," he said. "Just like I don't have time to pray and don't have time to read my Bible either but I make time to do that because it's important."

When a pastor finds a spare 30 minutes, is he going to spend it working on his sermon or go for a walk? Johnson encourages churches to reshape their culture so that church members expect their pastors to take time for their physical health, too.

Goal oriented
As a goal-oriented and challenge-driven man, a side effect of Johnson's commitment to wellness was to start competing in triathlons, a race of varying lengths that includes swimming, running and cycling. From there he grew into Ironman events that are triathlons of insane proportions. An Ironman event includes a 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles of cycling and a marathon run of 26.2 miles.

A benefit of training with other athletes is breaking from his isolation of knowing only Christians. "I was completely isolated from the world," he said. "I saw non-Christians only in my role as a pastor. In triathlons they didn't see me as a pastor. I was just another sojourner in life. This gave me tremendous opportunity to share the gospel."

He learned some things about accountability in church too because his new friends noticed and held him accountable when he missed a workout.

Johnson, a graduate of Campbell University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, is careful never to force a fitness standard on someone else and never to let fitness alone be the goal. He refers to 1 Tim. 4:8: "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."

His concern is that men and women in leadership "lose the right to be heard sometimes" when they neglect the temple in which God's spirit lives.

He once attended a preaching conference with a friend who was rattled by the sermon delivered by a popular evangelist. The evangelist's words pierced the friend's heart. Defensively though, he told Johnson, "Who is he to tell me what I can't do? He weighs 500 pounds. He's a glutton."

Health Care Crisis 

Fat America tips scales toward health care crisis

Churches build for fitter future

NAMB encourages healthier missionaries

Seminary president practices what he preaches

Seminary, college encourages students to exercise

Parish nurses attend to health, wellness of church members

Health epiphany prompts Johnson to wellness theology

Pastor half the man he used to be: Granddaughter worried when he couldn’t keep up

Busting the top four food myths

Obesity in the body of Christ

Spok’n: No waiting for magic medical bullet

Editorial: You do have time to care for your health


7/16/2008 8:54:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Pastor half the man he used to be: Granddaughter worried when he couldn’t keep up

July 16 2008 by Charlie Warren, Baptist Press

PINE BLUFF, Ark. — Harold Chandler ain’t half the preacher he once was.

Last year, at 349 pounds, he was two cheeseburgers short of 350. Today he is less than 190 pounds, well on his way to his goal of 170.

Chandler, 58, pastor of Shepherd Hill Baptist Church of Pine Bluff, Ark., had not seen 200 pounds or less since he was 16 years old.

His granddaughter Jessica finally got to him. Last summer when Chandler and his wife were in San Antonio for the Southern Baptist Convention, they took Jessica for a day at Sea World.

Chandler became winded and couldn’t keep up the pace. He kept getting tired and had to rest while his wife and granddaughter were enjoying themselves.

That evening, his granddaughter said, “Papaw, I’m worried about you. You were having trouble breathing today. I think you are too fat.”

He went to a new doctor. With blood sugar between 350-400 and blood pressure running 190/100, he was on three medications.

Chandler opted to try a diet of 700 calories a day and kept records of everything he ate or drank.

He lost 41 pounds the first 30 days, and then upped the calorie count to 800-850 a day.

“Those first three months were tough,” he said. “I was weak. I didn’t have a lot of energy to do anything. Your whole system is changing. Everything in your body has to readjust.”

His wife started buying healthy food and even started eating what he was eating.

Members of his church, where he has been pastor for two years, encouraged him, and he also was motivated spiritually.

It was something I needed to do to fulfill the calling God gave me,” he said. “You are supposed to give God the best you can, and when you allow yourself to get in the shape I was in, I couldn’t give God the best. I gave Him everything I had, but it wasn’t near what I should have been doing.

God does not want us to be in a situation where we can’t do our job because of our physical condition. I couldn’t get around well,” he said. “I was tired all the time. It was hard to get up in the morning and go do things, because I just didn’t feel like I had the energy to do it.”

His weight loss was not without some difficult days.

At the end of the first week, he finished preaching his Sunday morning sermon, but when the invitation was over, he almost didn’t make it to the back of the church. 

“Everything was swimming, and I couldn’t see well,” he said.

At home his blood pressure was 88/52 and his blood sugar was 47. His doctor explained he was taking all the sugar out of his system, which enabled his medications to work more efficiently. He cut the dosages in half.

The next Sunday the same thing happened. Monday, he cut grass and after two strips, could hardly crawl back to the house.

So the doctor took him totally off medications.

His energy level is higher than he ever remembers.

He has some words of wisdom for others who want to lose weight.

“Don’t try to quit eating. Just keep a record for about a week of everything that goes in your mouth,” Chandler said. “Don’t try to decide what’s good or bad, just keep a record. You will be surprised. Most people take in 2,500 to 3,000 calories a day. I was taking in at least that many or more because I love to eat.”

He said once you become conscious of what you are eating and the calories and fat grams, you can decide how to change your eating habits.

“There are things you like that satisfy your hunger and give you energy, without having the calories and fats,” he said. “That’s really the key to it. We need to learn we are what we eat.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Warren is editor of the Arkansas Baptist.)



7/16/2008 8:40:00 AM by Charlie Warren, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Church observers ask: Where have all the good men gone?

July 16 2008 by By Lee Ann Marcel/Associated Baptist Press

DALLAS — It’s not just your imagination. Men are disappearing from the church.
According to the Barna Research Group, there are 11 million to 13 million more American women who are born again than there are born-again men. While nine out of 10 senior pastors are men, a majority of regular church attendees are women.
Not only are women the majority of born-again American Christians, the Barna Group says, “women are the backbone of the Christian congregations in America.”
Perhaps indicative of women’s sense of spirituality, 41 percent of women said they have set specific spiritual goals that they hope to accomplish in the coming year or two. Only 29 percent of men have identified such spiritual goals.
“Women, more often than not, take the lead role in the spiritual life of the family,” said George Barna, president of the research group. “Women typically emerge as the primary — or only — spiritual mentor and role model for family members. And that puts a tremendous burden on wives and mothers.”
Pam Durso, associate executive director of the Baptist History and Heritage Society, agrees that women do play a major role in families as spiritual mentors. “One aspect of that is that mothers generally are the ones who do the scheduling of events and the planning of activities, including church attendance and church-related programs.”
But that’s nothing new, Durso argues. Historically women have dominated the membership of Baptist churches.
“Here is something to think about: Is 61 percent for female participation really a change for Baptists? Over the years, many Baptist churches have had a majority of female members,” Durso said.
At First Baptist Church of America, in Providence, R.I. —  the premier Baptist congregation in the New World — 59 percent of the members from 1730-1777 were women, Durso noted. From 1779-1799, that percentage dropped by only 1 percent to 58 percent.
“So perhaps the question is not where have all the men gone, but is instead where have men been all these years?” Durso said.
David Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church, believes the way churches market themselves affects the demographics of their memberships. According to Murrow’s Church for Men web site, a typical congregation draws an adult crowd that’s 61 percent female and 39 percent male.
“It’s widely believed, and rarely spoken of, that men feel church is something for women, children and grandparents,” Murrow said. “If a man becomes involved (with a church), then he is less manly.”
Murrow says this trend began during the Industrial Revolution in the 1840s. Harsh economic conditions drove men to seek jobs in mines, mills and factories. While men worked, families were left behind for longer periods of time. The only people to be found in congregations were women, children and older men. Women began to add socials like teas, quilting circles and potluck dinners.
“The able-bodied man all but disappeared from the church,” Murrow said.
Murrow mentions on his web site, www.churchformen.com, that many who have grown up in the church don’t recognize the “feminine spirituality.” But to the masculine mind, it’s obvious as the steps in front of the door.
“He may feel like Tom Sawyer in Aunt Polly’s parlor. He must watch his language, mind his manners and be extra polite. It’s hard for a man to be real in church because he must squeeze himself into this feminine religious mold,” Murrow writes on the site.
The tendency of targeting women has grown with the increased popularity of contemporary worship, Murrow added.
Hymns used to be tuned into the masculine heart by alluding to God as a mighty fortress, Murrow noted. Songs such as “Onward Christian Soldiers” spurred men in their faith.
“But now worship sounds like a Top-40 love song,” Murrow said. “They are wonderful and biblical, but it’s not the sentiment that will rally a bunch of men.”
Romantic music is a response to the market of single women, Murrow added.  “They provide a Jesus image who wants to steal away with them ... which doesn’t appeal to men.”
“Are we going to allow the market to drive the church, or the Bible to drive the church?”
Murrow suggests that there’s nothing wrong with the gospel, just the way Christians present it. “We just need to change the culture container that we are delivering it in and should be willing to follow the example of churches who succeed in reaching men,” he said.
A leading example is Christ Church of the Valley in Phoenix, Ariz. The church markets to men through the events promoted, down to the colors and design of the building. The church even changes the range of the worship songs so men can feel comfortable singing.
“Everything we do when it comes to marketing is geared toward men in the 25-45 range ... an underserved demographic in the church market today,” said Michael Gray, communications coordinator of Christ Church of the Valley.
The church offers activities like a motorcycle and sport groups. One of the groups is called The Edge. There men can rappel down cliffs, jump out of airplanes and bungee jump off bridges. The purpose is to cause men to take a step of faith and stretch their comfort zones. The ministry is a spiritually challenging group, not just physically challenging. While the group focuses on adventurous activities, their ultimate goal is to lead people into an adventure with Jesus Christ.
“The Edge helps get men plugged into the church and hanging out with other men, outside a church setting,” Gray said. “It shows that we are men’s men, and we don’t just sit in shirt and tie on Sundays with our leather-bound Bible”
There is more than one way to present the gospel in a way that contemporary men will respond to, Murrow said. But it begins with the congregation understanding it must make an intentional effort to reach out to men.
People have to realize it’s a problem. They need to wake up and look (at) how magnetic Jesus was to men. We have a 70-to-80 percent failure to boys. I don’t think that’s (God’s) will.”
7/16/2008 5:35:00 AM by By Lee Ann Marcel/Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Confront danger of moral failure, Kentucky pastor urges

July 16 2008 by By Mark Kelly/Baptist Press

PADUCAH, Ky. — When Todd Brady heard about a minister at a prominent Texas Baptist church being caught in a sex sting, his first thought was, “Oh, Lord, I pray we never see something like that happen here in our church.”
His second thought was, “What do we need to do to prevent it?”
With that question, the new pastor at First Baptist Church in Paducah, Ky., called the staff together determine what steps they could take to be sure none of them made a bad decision that would bring disgrace to the gospel and the church.
The result was a strongly worded resolution, replete with scripture references, that was mailed to every family in the congregation. The letter sparked a wave of discussion about the dangers of sexual temptation and even pushed the church into a spotlight on the evening news.
“News of moral failure among ministers of the Gospel is sad and alarming,” the statement said. “But we know ourselves well enough to know that moral failure could happen to any one of us if we were not careful and diligent in our pursuit of purity.
“For the sake of the gospel and for the sake of our own souls, we desire to maintain the highest levels of sexual accountability,” the statement continued. “We will be proactive in our efforts and dogged in our determination to uphold the integrity called for by our sacred office.”
The resolution also noted preventive measures the church staff had put in place, from windows in all office doors and a rule about not counseling women and children without another person present, to having accountability partners track Internet usage and regularly praying with one another about sexual purity.
Brady, who was campus minister at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., for 11 years, knows only too well how many people are in danger of moral failure.
“Particularly in my work with young men, I realize how prominent this issue is among college students,” said Brady, who has pastored the Kentucky congregation for just one year. “This issue is everywhere in our society. I read one place where it is estimated that half of Americans regularly access Internet pornography.
We live in a sex-crazed and sex-saturated culture,” he said. “We realize that the gospel, this church and our very lives are at stake with this particular issue. Anything that stands in the way of our sharing the gospel, we need to make sure that it is removed.”
Besides the news about the Texas minister caught in the sex sting, Brady said another factor that prompted him to engage the issue was a presentation in early June at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.
“The Southern Baptist Convention is on record for having stood strongly against sexual abuse,” Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, told messengers to the annual meeting. “We have long condemned those who would use our churches as a hunting ground for their sick and selfish pleasure.
“At the same time, sexual abuse is a growing crisis in this nation and we must continue to do everything within our power to stop this horrendous crime,” Chapman added. “We owe our boys and girls and the women of our churches every protection possible.”
Chapman encouraged churches to use the national sex offender database to screen prospective staff members and volunteers. He also noted that resources for preventing sexual abuse had been posted on the SBC web site.
Brady challenged pastors to get confrontational with each other over the issue.
“This will be of no good if we sign it, put it on the wall and then never think about it again,” he said. “My desire is that we as pastors are continually in one another’s face, asking the tough questions, fighting for our souls, fighting for one another, holding each other accountable.
“Pastors need to provide some leadership by speaking to the issue and acknowledging that we are all, as we sing, 'prone to wander, Lord, we feel it,'” Brady said. “Our churches will be encouraged to know that their leadership is raising the bar, wanting to be held accountable.”
7/16/2008 4:49:00 AM by By Mark Kelly/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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