Making the connection between physical and spiritual fitness

Mark Cornelison, left, and Buddy Shuh, ministers who competed on ‘The Biggest Loser,’ offering ‘Fit to Serve’ at Findlay Evangelical Free Church.
Mark Cornelison, left, and Buddy Shuh, ministers who competed on ‘The Biggest Loser,’ offering ‘Fit to Serve’ at Findlay Evangelical Free Church.

What do physical fitness and the Christian faith have to do with each other? An area pastor hopes to answer that question by bringing two pastors who were former Biggest Loser contestants to Findlay to talk about how faith and fitness intersect.

The Rev. Scott Tinman, pastor of student ministries at Findlay Evangelical Free Church, met the contestants, the Revs. Allen “Buddy” Shuh of Wayne, Mich., and Mark Cornelison of Houston, through a youth ministry connection and invited them to Findlay.

Mr. Shuh and Mr. Cornelison will help Findlay Evangelical Free Church host “Fit to Serve,” an eight-week program on diet, nutrition, and spiritual fitness they created. A kickoff event will be held with them from 9 to 11 a.m. today at the church, 2515 Heatherwood Drive, Findlay, and the series runs Saturdays from 9 to 11 a.m. through May 3, concluding with a 5-kilometer or 1-mile walk/run.

Mr. Shuh, 44, is a nondenominational Christian pastor. Mr. Cornelison, 45, was ordained in the Baptist church but has also served in nondenominational churches. They were roommates, along with Mr. Shuh’s brother and Mr. Cornelison’s son, on season 13 of the weight-loss reality show which aired from January through May 2012. Mr. Shuh lost 175 pounds and Mr. Cornelison 101 pounds.

Mr. Shuh said for a long time churches have addressed health issues, like smoking, but overeating gets left out of the discussion. “It was almost like OK for a pastor to stand up there and say you shouldn’t smoke but he could be obese,” he said.

Mr. Cornelison and Mr. Shuh now offer help and support on “something that has been a lifelong struggle for us.” The two have presented at churches in Texas, California, and Michigan. They named their program “Fit to Serve” because it isn’t about trying to lose weight for vanity’s sake, but to have the healthiest body possible so they can do whatever God calls them to do, they said.

There isn’t often a connection made between Christian faith and health but “scripture’s very, very clear” that our body “is a temple” and was made by God, Mr. Cornelison said.

Mr. Shuh believes that faith and fitness intersect and if someone is “fully engaged with a relationship with God” then God will help them to live a productive and healthy life. Mr. Shuh leads a health program called “Buddy Up” in Michigan and strives to take what he learned on the show and “pay it forward.”

Since both Mr. Shuh and Mr. Cornelison are pastors, while on the ranch of The Biggest Loser they decided to meet to pray together on Sundays when there were no cameras. “We called it ‘Blurch,’ for ‘Biggest Loser Church,’” Mr. Shuh said. Over time other contestants would join them. Mr. Cornelison and Mr. Shuh baptized two fellow contestants in a pool at the ranch.

"Fit to Serve" is open to everyone, and there is no cost to participate. “For us, it’s about building relationships with people,” Pastor Tinman said.

Each week there will be a “Body Fit,” “Food Fit,” and “Soul Fit” component.

Shari Hart, a member of the church’s praise team and owner of Core Fitness, will speak and a different exercise professional will be featured each week. Nutritionists will talk about healthy food choices and portion sizes and will give recipes and food samples to taste. And, Pastor Tinman said, each week there will be a Bible verse discussed and participants will pray together.

"Fit to Serve" is open to all fitness levels and all ages, including children. However, child care will not be provided.

More information is available at the church’s Web site at Pastor Tinman said "Fit to Serve" will be accepting participants throughout the program so even if people miss the first week, they will not be turned away.