Henderson—Most churches are wanting to grow, but Nathan Whisnant is leading Airline Baptist in Henderson to lose—not members, but pounds—through a Christ-centered health program with an evangelistic emphasis.
The program was written by Pastor Whisnant and is called “Imagine Not As Much.” In a recent interview, I asked Whisnant some questions that may help other pastors and churches understand the outreach plan and discover ways it could be used in their ministry locations.
What is Imagine Not As Much?
Imagine Not As Much is a way to learn to glorify God with your body, to reach and maintain a healthy weight, and provide a bridge to share the gospel.” The class involves four sessions addressing nutritional fitness, physical fitness, motivational fitness, and spiritual fitness.
In the nutritional fitness session, participants are taught what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. The physical fitness session focuses on how to incorporate anaerobic and aerobic activity into one’s daily life. The motivational fitness class deals with pushing through eight typical mental road blocks faced when trying to change one’s food intake lifestyle. The spiritual fitness class helps participants connect healthy living with a desire to glorify God.
Why did Whisnant start this program?
The motivation for starting Imagine Not As Much came out of Pastor Whisnant’s own struggle with weight, and success in weight loss. He is just under six feet tall, and in 2013 he weighed 215 pounds. Over a period of one year, he lost 40 pounds and his wife, Tammy, lost 60 pounds.
His brother suggested that there are many people who will not come to church to hear the gospel, but they might come to have a need in their life addressed, and the gospel could be shared in that setting. Whisnant accepted the call as being from the Lord and set out, with the help of his wife, to produce a curriculum and start classes.
How is the program evangelistic?
The class is evangelistic in two ways. First, it is an outreach for members of the church to invite their unchurched friends and family members. Second, the gospel is shared explicitly in the fourth session, giving attenders an opportunity to receive the Lord.
The class is then followed up with group and individual coaching. At this time, Whisnant is writing a daily Bible devotional for participants to use long term.
What have been the results so far?
The first class was offered in June. Fourteen people signed up, and 12 completed the course. During the four week course, the group of 12 lost 115 pounds, with other measurable results regarding blood pressure and sugar levels.
Since the course ended and the coaching portion began the group has recorded a total weight loss of 255 pounds. They have started a second group, and one of the women prayed to receive Christ and wants to be baptized.
How can other pastors and churches use the program?
If other pastors or churches are interested in the Imagine Not As Much program, he and Tammy are willing to share their resources and help any way they can—even if it means traveling to the church and coaching a pastor on leading the class. He only requests his expenses be paid. They are also willing to host a family in their own home to train them to teach the material.
What are some of the positive benefits to the church?
Some of the benefits of using Imagine Not As Much listed by Pastor Whisnant include:
1. People are losing weight, becoming more healthy, and living healthier lives.
2. Members are finding a non-threatening way to reach out to the lost.
3. People who receive Jesus through this program will be connected to a local church.
4. The church is able to minister to people at a point of need in their lives.
5. The participants are growing in discipleship and spiritual disciplines.
6. The church is able to help other churches see a path to reaching new people for Christ.
7. The church is able to model healthy living to the community.
Nathan and Tammy Whisnant would have been satisfied to experience the blessing of weight loss and a healthier lifestyle alone. However, it seemed to them that what they had experienced was a way to reach out to others with the good news of salvation through faith in Christ.
Pastor Whisnant has a desire to see more people added to the kingdom of God. Imagine Not As Much is just one tool he, and others, can use toward that goal. (WR)