Calif. Pastor Embraces 'Spiritual Fitness' While Preaching From the Pulpit

A northern California pastor delivered his sermon while working out from the pulpit on Sunday to illustrate the importance of being spiritually and physically fit.

Chris Townsend of Emanuel Lutheran Church in Lodi, Calif.,  decided to change his active lifestyle by taking the gym to church as part of his "Fit 4 Life" sermon series during the month of August. Since he began using the treadmill and stationary bike on stage, Townsend lost 35 pounds, which he hopes is an example his members can take after.

"The theme began with 'building our spiritual muscles.' I see a clear Biblical connection with our spiritual and physical fitness," said Townsend to The Christian Post. "We have been given the "temple" and some of us, even as faithful followers of Jesus Christ, we have fallen short in caring for it."

Townsend believes physical, nutritional, emotional, mental, directional and spiritual areas need to work together in a synergistic way and so far, his congregation has responded well to his messages.

"This activity style message has drawn their attention to listen closely and also be able to talk about what's going on here at Emanuel within the larger community. On one hand this has become an outreach as well," said Townsend.

He told CP he got the idea for his sermon series after hearing life fitness coach Don Nava speak at a workshop during the Thrive Conference at Bayside megachurch earlier this year. He said he gained valuable knowledge from Nava through his book Fit After 40 and he prayerfully considered his series before initiating it.

"God finally got me to wake up and start caring for my body which in turn allowed me to be stronger and have increased energy," said Townsend, who said he had this epiphany after consuming diet Mountain Dew soda "multiple times a day."

The series ends on Aug. 25, and although he has spoken about improved diet, reading labels and working out, his main focus is for his congregants to understand the importance of improving their spiritual lives "by reading God's Word, spending time talking and listening to Him and always sharing the love of Jesus throughout the day."

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