ABUNDANT HEALTH VIGNETTE
Show up at Carson (Iowa) United Methodist Church and you might just leave a little sweatier than when you arrived. That's because of the passion and energy that the Rev. Brody Tubaugh and his wife, Maddie, bring to Carson's physical fitness ministry.
"Physical fitness means much more to us than what we see or don't see in the mirror," Tubaugh said. "Being physically active is our way of being stewards of what God has given us so that we can better serve God in the world. Workouts leave us with more energy, healthier bodies, better sleep and less time spent at the doctor. All of this allows us to better care for others and share the love of Christ in new places."
The Tubaughs keep fit together. "We use it as a time to build our relationship," he said.
When they begin ministry at the Carson church, he said, "People were always asking us for tips so we told them to show up and we would exercise together. The group workouts are fun, but the best part is the short Bible study at the end.
"It's a great feeling to finish a workout; to follow that with the good news of Jesus Christ is perfect. Jesus' sacrifice – pouring out of himself – for us hits the heart in an amazing way when the sweat is rolling and your legs are shaky. It is easier to allow God to calm your heart and take control when we realize our bodies have limits."
The relationships built are also important. Members share a love for God, family and the quest to care for their bodies. "We've learned to accept each other as we are," Tubaugh said. "That is how we do ministry; the best we can with the power of the Holy Spirit we have been given."
A small but growing church that received a One Matters Award from Discipleship Ministries in June 2016, Carson's members care more about people than their carpet getting dotted with sweat drops. The attention to fitness has helped cue church members into the pain in the community. Tubaugh noted, "It is much easier to show compassion to someone who is in physical pain when you are thankful for the movement you can do. When we pay attention to our physical health, it seems easier to keep our spiritual disciplines in practice."
Church member Frank Olmstead knows firsthand the transforming effect of Carson's exercise ministry. "I decided I needed a life change, both physically and spiritually. Pastor Brody announced that we were starting a Fit for Lent small group consisting of a daily scripture, 30 minutes of exercise and a daily devotional lesson. I wasn't the most active Christian, and I didn't own a Bible, but I took it seriously. I Googled the scripture on my phone and then fumbled around the gym for 30 minutes. It was amazing how much the scripture jumped out at me as I sat there in the gym; the words stuck in my mind more."
During that 40-day journey, Olmstead lost weight while becoming stronger in faith.
"I felt closer to my Lord. I imagined him being as exhausted as I was at times. I realized his path wasn't easy, but it was worth it. I then realized that my path to physical and spiritual change wasn't going to be easy, but it was also worth it." Since the Lent experience, Olmstead has lost 65 pounds and went from 28 percent body fat to 12 percent.
Tubaugh believes Carson's fitness-related programs are replicable in many churches and encourages others to start fitness small groups. To learn more, contact him at [email protected]
Cindy Solomon is a communications consultant and freelance writer living in Franklin, Tennessee.