HFR founder Samir Becic is extremely honored to present to our readers a rare and exclusive interview with Dr. Ed Young, who is one of the most influential Christian leaders in the entire United States. He is also the senior pastor of Second Baptist Church, one of the largest and most health-conscious churches in the country.
Becic said “when I entered Second Baptist for the first time while research a story about the fittest churches in America, I was beyond surprised at how many separate gyms just one campus had, and they have six campuses.”
The fitness facilities are important in combining fitness and spirituality, two of the most important components of a healthy lifestyle. Becic explained “Spiritual awareness is one of the key components of healthy lifestyle that impacts the whole body and rejuvenates the spirit. Physical fitness and healthy nutrition allows that spirit to flourish to new dimensions and many people experience a closer relationship to God.”
Becic is impressed how Dr. Young is one of the leading Christian role-models, not only in spirituality, but also in physical fitness and healthy lifestyle. He believes churches should help over 70 million believers lead a lifestyle in order to fight obesity, considering that a 2006 Purdue University study found Christians to be the religious group most prone to obesity.
Dr. Ed Young is a leading candidate for our 2016 list of the top fittest Christian leaders in America, and one of the men who hopes to change that statistic. This interview is a great start!
Dr. Young, I already did a story on how Second Baptist is one of the fittest churches in America. I am very impressed with your fitness program, which occupied more than 15,000 square feet of fitness space on one of your campuses. How did you arrive at the idea of creating such an elaborate workout area for your congregation?
Dr. Young: I believe that the body is the temple of God. As Christians, we’re taught to be responsible for the gifts that God has given us. Therefore, life is the first and most precious gift that we have. So when I came to Houston 37 years ago, I saw it was important to create a sub-culture in a world-class city. People come to Houston from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all economic strata. We wanted to create a small town in the middle of this exploding metropolis. Part of our ministry is to give opportunity for all people, from children to older adults to participate in a wide variety of physical fitness activities. Now hundreds of people avail themselves of this ministry every single day.
Please tell us about your book, 365 Days of Total Heart Health and what inspired you to write it?
Dr. Young: I co-authored with two dear friends – Dr. Mike Duncan, a cardiovascular surgeon in Houston, and Dr. Rick Leachman, a cardiologist in Houston. They both work at keeping their own bodies physically fit through diet and exercise. We also realize there is a spiritual dimension to health and well-being. We got together and wrote two different books that deal with body, soul, and spirit.
What is your favorite exercise to improve heart health?
Dr. Young: For years I have jogged, and now I work on an elliptical three to four days a week. Also, I do some light-weight work out, as well as stretching exercises.
How important is health and fitness in your life?
Dr. Young: My goal in life is not to rust out, but to burn out. Therefore, in order to continue to grow and progress spiritually and emotionally, the physical element is a necessity.
Will you please share your health and fitness routine with our readers?
Dr. Young: The bottom line is, I’m addicted to exercise, and I think that is a good addiction. When your mind is dull, your body is weak, and it is more difficult to concentrate, even on things that speak of the eternal.
How does health and fitness improve your spirituality and vice-versa?
Dr. Young: To seriously exegete Scripture and apply it to life, I think you have to be mentally and physically equipped. You have to have a degree of endurance in order to stay in the battle, and in my case, to fulfill my calling.
You and your son, Ed Young, Jr. are both physically active. Do you feel like you instilled the values of fitness to him? What are the benefits of family fitness to you?
Dr. Young: My three sons, Ed, Ben, and Cliff are all three physically active. They enjoy different sports. We were primarily a basketball family, but we participated in all the sports. It’s just a lifestyle with a young family. Even my wife, Jo Beth, at long last, is now engaged in physical training. In fact, a big part of parenting my boys was the time we spent in athletic endeavors together. Sports provides the opportunity to model character and sportsmanship. We take those qualities into all walks of life. I also found that kids open up and talk shooting baskets in the driveway, more than if you sit them down for a “serious discussion.” There is a comradery that organically materializes during physical activity.
Since the mega-churches of today hold such a strong influence on the opinion of mainstream America and can definitely be a stronghold in fighting obesity, what do you think is the most effective way of utilizing this to increase Christian health and fitness?
Dr. Young: Remember that the Bible says more about gluttony than almost any other deadly sin. If we in the church are to emulate Jesus Christ, who walked miles every day, we need to have a built-in plan of physical fitness, as well as, spiritual disciplines in order to make life work.
Followers look for daily guidance from pastors and heads of ministries on the best way to live and raise their families. Do you think introducing healthy ways of living to pastors can assist the Christian community, which is even more overweight than the general population, to become more fit?
Dr. Young: There is an old poem I love that has very useful words: “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day; I’d rather one would walk with me than merely show the way.”
I think when we keep ourselves physically fit, it’s an indication that we also have other disciplines in place in our lives. Spiritual disciplines are most important, but physical disciplines augment our walk with God.
Being a Senior Pastor at one of the largest churches in America can become stressful. What do you do personally to relax and unwind?
Dr. Young: I enjoy people! Surrounding myself with people who fill my life with fun and joy really help me to relax. Also, I love the outdoors, and I enjoy all sports. I not only read books that help me in my ministry, but I enjoy novels, histories, and even biographies—a variety of genres.
If you could give three life-tips to everyone, what would they be?
Dr. Young: My first life-tip would be to get to know God personally. You say, “Well, I’d like to, but where do you begin”? I think you begin with a relationship with Jesus Christ. The great thing is He really wants to get to know you. “Be still and know that I Am God.” It works every time.
My second life-tip is to be a good listener. You can learn a lot if you will actually listen to others.
Third, learn to say, “I was wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. I need you.” It will work in your marriage and in most relationships.
The last life-tip is to have fun and be with people who have fun and enjoy laugher. Life is too short for everything to be in the minor key.
What is it like being a modern-day Christian leader?
Dr. Young: It is challenging because the product I represent is a product that everyone needs. Therefore, it’s a privilege to be able to advertise what God can do for man in Jesus Christ.
Considering you are one of the most influential religious leaders in America, what is your take on the 36% obesity rate within this country? What would you suggest to remedy it?
Dr. Young: It’s a great tragedy. I would encourage parents to begin early teaching their children how to enjoy healthful eating. I advocate the Paleo Diet, which I think is the healthiest diet around and will not only help us to lose weight, but maintain the proper weight proportionally to our body structure. Basically, lean meats and fruits and vegetables. It is easy and accessible.
Which direction do you see this country moving in the next 20 years, in terms of spirituality?
Dr. Young: If America is to survive, we had better learn again how to bow the knee and open up our hands to worship, and to once again become givers. In a world that is supposedly the most connected culture in history – we have become disconnected. Family structure has ruptured, our worldview in America has shifted, and we have all but kicked God out of our land. We don’t say “Christmas” and we don’t pray in schools. We have torn down monuments and scoffed at the flag.
I am concerned about the drift in the core values of our country. That is why I am passionate about voting. I will never say who to vote for, but I do encourage everyone to vote their values. If we are to stop the drift, we as Christians have to voice our beliefs, and one way to do that is to vote in every election.
Would you like to add anything else?
Dr. Young: Anyone who exercises knows about endorphins. When we exercise and get our cardio operating properly, those endorphins kick in and everybody feels better. If you haven’t experienced this, I highly recommend serious daily exercise as a beginning step to have a life that’s balanced, and a life that is increasingly meaningful.