Today's BP Ledger contains items from:
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
World News Service
A Conversation with Tony Merida about
college athletics and Christian ministry*
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) --The following is a conversation with Tony Merida, founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C., with Jason K. Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, recorded at the seminary's Spurgeon Room.
ALLEN: Today we have in the Spurgeon Room Dr. Tony Merida. Tony, it is a joy to host you here on campus and to visit with you and talk about different matters of interest to us: preaching, pastoral ministry, and biblical theology. It will be a fun conversation as well.
I want to talk about college athletics and Christian ministry. Those two topics may seem oxymoronic to put together, but as I have gotten to know you in recent days, we have a few things in common. We both are tall, well ... maybe not. We do have a couple of things deeply in common though. Some are convictions about preaching, the local church, and theological affinities. Also, we both were converted in college; we both were called to ministry in college; and we both played college athletics. You played college baseball at Cumberland College there in Kentucky. I played college basketball at Springhill College in Mobile, Ala.
I have found time and time again in my ministry how things I learned as a college athlete actually help me in Christian ministry. Not how to shoot a hook shot or put a zone-press defense on, but matters of self-discipline, matters of focus, matters of camaraderie, matters of trusting colleagues and building bonds of trust with them, intentionality, and focus. College athletics helped me become the man I am, no two ways about it. I tell folks our country would be much better if everyone had to either be a college athlete or join the military. Certainly there are other arenas than college athletics and military service, but those two do just force you to grow up. It forced me to grow up as a young man and has helped to frame my ministry in 1,000 different ways.
I would love to hear your story a bit -- your conversion and call to ministry -- and how that segued with college athletics and to unpack a little bit of what you learned as a college athlete that you found transferrable to Christian ministry.
MERIDA: I will go brief on the testimony. I was born in Detroit. My parents moved to Kentucky, and my dad was a baseball coach growing up. We are big Detroit Tigers baseball fans. I wore number 6 for Al Kaline all through high school and college. That was the number my dad wore and the number my cousin wore, so we are big Tigers fans. I would spend all of my summers in Detroit, and we would go watch the Tigers play every year. So, baseball was huge, as was basketball, living in Kentucky. I went to Cumberland on a baseball scholarship. I started for four years at shortstop. When I went, I just wanted to party and play baseball. I was the typical college kid. I was not there for academics and certainly was not there for Jesus.
We had a second baseman on our team that was just a wonderful witness, he and another guy who was a pitcher. The second baseman was named Steven, and we were together all the time doing workouts, etc. He just "gospeled" me all the time. Eventually, in my sophomore year, he talked me into coming to an FCA service. And I had been to FCA one time before and I got in a fight because I thought they were hugging my girlfriend excessively long and hard. Steven said, "Now Tony, you can't get in a fight. It is not Fighting Christian Athletes; it is Fellowship of Christian Athletes." I said, "Okay." So I went and I heard the gospel. I do not even remember much of what was said. I just remember the Lord met me, and I was really dealing with a lot of deep issues that I had told Steven about so he had been really working on me for a year and a half.
I surrendered my life to Jesus and became the campus outreach leader of the school and my whole life changed. I met Jim Shaddix, who was a seminary professor in New Orleans and watched him do expository preaching three nights in a row and I said, "I want to do that the rest of my life." I graduated, got a degree in teaching, sold my car, packed a trunk, got on an airplane and went to New Orleans to go to school. I had to sell my car because it was an old beat-up Chevy. I didn't know anybody, and I was barely Baptist. I became a Baptist and when I got to New Orleans, I did not know what the Cooperative Program was or who Lottie Moon was. All of that was new to me. It was through baseball and through the faithful witness of a couple of players that brought me to Jesus.
ALLEN: That is so encouraging to hear. Mine is similar. I was reared in a Christian home, but I had been in church 1,000 times and never submitted my life to Christ. I was a freshman in college who had been under conviction. I was thinking I was going to college to get away from the conviction, and boy it sure followed me there. Funny how that happens. It intensified there. Early in my freshman year of college I submitted my life to Christ. A radical change entailed -- a new set of passions, priorities, ambitions, all of that was restructured. I began to hear biblical preaching, too, a couple of years later. I remember a similar thought -- "I want to learn to do that" -- and God stirred in my heart a desire for ministry.
I felt throughout college a decreased passion for basketball because I was being called to the ministry. Many people are Christians and have a call to ministry that do not experience that deceased passion. The Lord has them in that sport for that season of life. But for me, it was just a decreased passion. I kept feeling like, "Why am I bouncing a ball when I should be preaching the gospel?" It led to me leaving our team my junior year to pursue ministry service and ministry preparation.
Now, here we are a number of years later. I look back on that time as a college athlete, and I loved so much about it. Even though my desire for this round ball that bounces diminished, my enjoyment of the camaraderie is still very clear to me. My enjoyment of the self-discipline is still appreciated, and so many other aspects of it. I discovered as a student that my grades were actually better during basketball season. It forced me to be intentional with my time because we were practicing several hours a night and traveling cross country for games and all that goes with that. It is a very toilsome undertaking, and it made me be more disciplined. But when the season ended in March, and I had a couple of months in April and May before the semester ends, I found myself slacking up in my studies. Though, theoretically I should have more time and make better grades, I found myself lacking that discipline. I learned so much about the ministry and about being disciplined, about structuring my time, about a sense of
goals and working to achieve those goals. I trace that back to hot gyms and humid August days. What about you? Take us to the baseball field, and what did you find transferable to the pulpit and to the local church?
MERIDA: It was baseball and basketball. I was going to walk on to the basketball team at Cumberland. I was invited to play at Cumberland and ended up not. I did not know life apart from practices. When I was a freshman in high school, I was on the varsity basketball team, and I was also on the freshman and JV team. After school, I would not get home for dinner until about 8:30. That was my whole freshman year. When I was in eighth grade, I was the starting shortstop for the varsity baseball team. So, even as an eighth grader, I was already in deep. There is a danger of idolatry, as you know, about all of that, but it did teach me discipline. I often tell people now, I am not that gifted. I am not that talented. I just work hard. I get up early. Sports, I think, have a lot to do with that. I have a high bar; I do not tolerate excuses and attitude. So, I think sports have been huge. Obviously, there are a lot of pastors who never played sports, but I know a lot of my friends are really driven, hardworking
pastors and they also come out of this background. It has been really shaping for them. As you said, it could be the military or other ways to learn this type of work ethic, but we do have a generation who I think does not know how to work very well.
D. Allen: I want to pick up on that, first as a personal anecdote. I still remember where I was in a gymnasium, and I was a sophomore and there was an upperclassman that was two years ahead of me who was more mature physically—two years means a lot when you are at that stage of life—and he was frankly more gifted. I was sensing from the coach his favor of me over that player. I just made the comment, I said something like, "Do you really think I could start?" He said, "Yeah." I said, "Well, what about this person?" The coach said, "Jason, you playing at 100% beats him playing at 50% any day." I remember thinking then that if I work hard I can produce here.
Then, you come to the local church setting, and not just the local church, but culture in the 21st century, and you have a generation of men, especially, who are often passive, sluggish. Their life ambition is to sit in front of a television or to be accomplished at Xbox. That lack of discipline and lack of virtue and life-focus or life-stewardship is besetting in any area of life, but it is all the more besetting in the local church and injurious to the cause of Christ.
It is a pet peeve of mine because a generation ago, perhaps, the propensity of the minister was to do so many hospital visits, so many outreach visits that it undermined his family. So, in seminary I was taught, as you were, not to forsake the family. Kudos to that. I say that myself. What often happens is, for the sake of one's family, guys justify not knocking on doors, not rising early to prepare sermons, not working hard. Whether it is the military or college athletics, the Boy Scouts, or some other arena of life, you look at the people who are used mightily by God in ministry, and most all of them in an early stage of life develop a sense of self-discipline, self-purpose, and a sense of focus. Sports is one of those incubators for these disciplines.
MERIDA: I agree totally. I love in II Timothy 2, Paul gives some analogies for ministry, and he uses an athlete, soldier, and farmer. I love them -- all of those. With the farming one, I often tell church planters, "When you think of church planters, do not think rock star, think farmer." What does a farmer do? He gets up early, he works hard, and he begs God for rain. That is more the picture of ministry. It is not glorious; it is planting seeds and tilling your crops. A farmer is not bragging that he grew a big pumpkin; it is just part of what it means to be a farmer. That kind of work ethic is the image that Paul is using for ministry -- athlete, soldier, farmer, and the teacher ahead of that. It is very important for guys to instill this vision in their mind because I do not know what kind of vision they have of ministry in their mind.
ALLEN: That is excellent. Another aspect of this that I have found to be very fruitful is that I played with coaches that were hard and overbearing. I played with a college coach who was incredibly overbearing with what he said, what he did, and how he challenged. Looking back, it cultivated within me a certain thickness of skin, a certain ability to check my motives, a certain ability to filter and process what someone says to me or does not say by way of praise or criticism.
So, I got into a deacons meeting or a local church setting, as so many guys do, and there is a church member who is ungodly and cantankerous, who has a sharp tongue, or perhaps a forked tongue, and if you have never been in a context of life that you have had to deal with that, it can rock your world. For me, I am thinking, good grief, I played for Bobby Knight -- not literally Bobby Knight -- so this is like cupcakes here. For other guys, they have never been in an arena of life where they have been challenged in an aggressive way, so it can be a major life trauma and a major trauma to their ministry having to work through that.
MERIDA: Yeah. I do not want to minimize what a guy might be going through who is listening to this, and some criticism obviously hurts, but I just sort of laughed at some guys when they would talk about so-and-so saying something because in sports I was just used to that. I remember letting a ball go between my legs on a pick-off play at second, going into center field, and our coach was from California; and he enunciated everything perfectly. He got on the ground and starts throwing dirt all over himself. He said, "Tony!" I forgot the language he used, and he was just railing on me. I did not know it then, but that is great training to be a pastor.
ALLEN: I have so many of those stories. It is funny, a guy I played basketball with who I have literally not talked to in 15 or 20 years since we left college emailed me just a few weeks ago. He had come across my website and reconnected, and he knew I left the team to pursue ministry. He does not get who we are and what we do fully, but he gets, "Well, the guy followed his dream and is successful now, so congratulations." He was being very kind, and we actually had a phone conversation. It was a very sweet thing to do, to talk about my life and my calling more -- why I am doing what I am doing for the Lord Jesus Christ. It was an encouraging conversation, but our minds immediately went back to those stories and how, in his own context as a businessman, it helped to shape him.
So many things now, looking back, you don't know whether to smile or cry or cringe over what was said and done. I can remember us winning games and still having to go out and run in the gym because coach was displeased with how we played. The other team would say, "Y'all won, but y'all are being punished?" They did not get that it is not about what the scoreboard says. It is, sort of, but it is also about whether you played to the best of your ability. Not to over-torque college athletics, but whatever the area is -- if it is intellectual challenge, physical challenge, different arenas that help men, especially, to mature and grow up and face life -- that can be preparatory for great things for the gospel.
MERIDA: I get so frustrated with my own kids. I would literally play all day outside by myself. I would shovel snow and play basketball, come in and eat, and go back out and play. I would play Wiffle Ball by myself. I would announce my own games and just hit all day long. You cannot get kids to even go outside today.
ALLEN: We have a secret way to get them to go outside. You put them out, and you lock the door behind them. This is one of my pet peeves. I was the same as a kid, and it became an idol. I do not want to glorify all of this, but say that in God's kind providence it helped me in certain ways to mature me to be a person who is ready to seriously serve Christ. I still remember being in my driveway every day, even when it was raining. I was shooting baskets and running. I would wear ankle weights to school every day underneath my uniform pants. It is just what it is. I slept with a basketball. My dad bought one of the camcorders for the shoulder that was like an old bazooka camcorder to video. We would set it outside to film our shooting and all of that. I would watch the Pistol Pete instructional videos and all of those things.
It is just interesting to see how all of us have our own stories, our own sense of calling, and our own testimony of conversion. Whether you are talking to John MacArthur, Al Mohler, Paige Patterson, Adrian Rogers, or whoever it is, who has done much for the cause of Christ, when you begin to dig into their story, you often find a person who excelled in sports, who excelled in the classroom, who excelled in some civic responsibility, who worked hard and developed their chops for life and ministry in a serious way. I want to say as loudly as I can from the platform God has given me as a seminary president to our students and beyond, in a holy way and a sweet way: the world is a rough place, the church can be a rough place, and the gospel does not need mild-mannered men who are going to seek to engage in a mild-mannered ministry. It needs people who are strong, people who are committed, people who are ready to take the best this world can throw at them, process it, and throw it back.
MERIDA: One other thing I would just add quickly is that I think sports give you a sense of responsibility. Let me frame it like this: I think men, in general, going back to the fall, are either abusive or passive. Those are the tendencies that we have. I think the gospel solves those problems in that it makes abusive men tender and loving, and it makes passive men courageous and zealous. I think we need more men not just working hard, but defending the weak. I used to love the show The Rifleman.
ALLEN: I grew up with that. My kids love it to this day. On Saturday mornings, we let them watch it.
MERIDA: I used to sit in my dad's recliner and watch The Rifleman.
ALLEN: Chuck Connors -- he played for the Boston Celtics.
MERIDA: That is right. That show was about the strong defending the weak. Almost every episode was about how he did not really want to fight. He did not want to get in this gun fight, but he was protecting. That type of manhood is almost lost. When I speak at orphan care events, or I go to human trafficking events, there are a lot of women that run a lot of that effort. I praise God for the women, but we really need men in defending the weak and speaking up for the voiceless. If whoever is listening is not a preacher or pastor, we need Christian manhood in so many different circles. Sports in some ways did help me learn how to defend the weak, how to take up for those who are in need and that sort of thing, and that was very important as well.
ALLEN: One other footnote here: one of the things that my coach did, which was brilliant, and I am trying to figure out a way to incorporate it on campus -- I kind of can now -- but it was when we would run. If we did not make our time, everyone would have to run again. We were running sprints or laps and whatever the time expectation was, if one person missed it, the whole team had to run again. It put within me a deep sense of commitment to them. I was never the slowest guy on the team. I was not the fastest, but I was not the slowest. I was not the guy who was likely going to cause us to run again, but we would do everything -- cajole, drag, whip, whatever we had to do -- to make that guy better. We did not have to run again, right? At the same time, if you were prone to be the last, you would raise to new heights because you did not want to cause your team to run again. If a guy missed curfew, guess what? We were all up at 5 a.m. running, not just him. That sense of community was so strong. I would love t
o see stronger community in the church whether it relates to sin, accountability, accomplishment, or growth. In the seminary community we work hard to rejoice together, to weep together, suffer together, grow together, and celebrate together. We are not communistic about it, but we are intentional about seeking to cultivate that sense of community because it is a gospel thing. It is a book of Acts thing—caring for one another and living together.
This has been a great conversation, Tony. Thank you for joining me here. Perhaps we will have to play some ball together some time or throw a baseball or something and let our kids do the same.
MERIDA: Awesome. Thank you.
See more here.
Michael and Debi Pearl's method of discipline has
many advocates, but critics say it lacks the gospel
By Kiley Crossland
Parental advisory: This article contains brief descriptions of brutal treatment
ASHVILLE, N.C. (World News Service) -- Between 2006 and 2011, three children in devoted homeschooling families died while being disciplined by their parents, professed Christians who reportedly read or followed Michael and Debi Pearl's controversial parenting book, To Train Up a Child.
The parents are now behind bars, and their living children are with family members or in foster homes. No court has ever found the Pearls liable for child abuse, but lingering questions remain about whether there is a torturous underbelly to the parenting tactics of To Train Up a Child.
Twenty years ago Michael Pearl printed 30 copies of a patched-together book on parenting, taken from a variety of letters he wrote about how he and his wife, Debi, were using "traditional child training" with their five children. When the 30 copies were gone, he borrowed enough money to print another 3,000 copies, thinking they would last the rest of his life, "stuck away in the back of a closet full of old hunting gear," says Pearl. He sold them for $1.50 each.
Today, the Pearls have sold more than 685,000 copies of the slim book with its 22 short chapters of no-nonsense recommendations on household rules and discipline. The book instructs parents to set strict boundaries, using the rod to "chastise" children, but admonishes parents not to discipline in anger and to build relationships with their kids. It also advocates creating a submissive and obedient will in children by "switching" them quickly and often, but not too hard and only when parents are calm.
Pearl says the method will work on any child as long as the parents are consistent and start while the child is an infant. He says his traditional advice, used rightly, will eliminate the whining and manipulation Pearl says many parents encourage from their children. He also says training is a more merciful reaction to disobedience than angry verbal berating by a frustrated parent. He says his method will greatly reduce the need for discipline as the child gets older.
But many outspoken parents and media voices call the book abusive and say it is the immediate cause in at least those three cases of fatal child abuse and torture. A petition with over 100,000 signatures is prodding Amazon to remove the book from its website.
Joy Havlik heard about To Train Up a Child when she was homeschooling six of her children, including a first-grader struggling with phonics, while also trying to keep an eye on her two mobile toddlers. She and her husband, Steve, were involved in a Great Commission Church and then a Bill Gothard homeschooling group, both of which emphasized the importance of spanking and strict discipline. Their eight children are now grown, and they are no longer involved in either group. She now says, "Some of the stuff we were taught was definitely over the top."
A friend from Havlik's homeschooling group told her about the Pearls' book and she tried some of its teachings with her two youngest, but now worries that she was too harsh. She says parents should look at their motives, and remembers feeling that her family was supposed to look perfect: "It's not just about having your family like ducks in a row. Each child is different, you don't want them to be so overly controlled, overly disciplined that you haven't really built a relationship with your kids." She fears too many rules and too much control can also give kids a skewed idea about God: "They see God as a harsh taskmaster. They don't want anything to do with God or church. That's the tragedy."
On their website the Pearls encourage parents to use a one-fourth inch plumbing supply line (a thin, flexible piece of plastic) as an instrument to discipline their children: They say it will sting skin but not cause bruising. I spoke with Michael Pearl, who said, "I have never advocated—either in private, public speaking, or in writing—withholding food from a child, forcing children to sleep on the floor or outside, constraining them in blankets (or by any other means), spanking children on their feet, faces, or backs, locking them in small rooms or tight containers, or forcing them to stay outside in cold weather."
But three children died after parents who had read To Train Up a Child went beyond what the Pearls recommend. The parents all had in their homes the one-fourth inch plumbing supply line, and one girl died after being beaten with it. The stories are brutal:
-- Sean Paddock, 4, died in 2006 of suffocation when his mother wrapped him so tightly in a blanket that he could not breathe. His mother was convicted of first-degree murder and felony child abuse. The Paddocks had adopted six children, including Sean.
-- Lydia Schatz, 7, died in 2010 from beatings by her parents over a seven-hour period. Her parents entered a plea bargain and appeared remorseful. Her father was convicted of second-degree murder and torture. Her mother was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and infliction of unlawful corporal punishment. The Schatzes, who had six biological children, adopted Lydia and two other children from Liberia.
-- Hana Williams, 13, died in 2011 of malnutrition and hypothermia. She was not breathing when her siblings found her face-down and naked in her family's backyard. Her parents were convicted of first-degree assault and manslaughter. Her mother was additionally convicted of homicide by abuse. The Williamses, who had seven biological children, adopted Hana and one other child from Ethiopia.
Critics say older adopted children, especially from violent places, have special needs, but Pearl says his methods are adaptable to any child, no matter their "unique disability or psychological condition." To Train Up a Child does include this warning: "There are always some who act in the extreme. These individuals are capable of using what has been said about the legitimate use of the rod to justify ongoing brutality to their children…. They would call themselves 'strong disciplinarians.' 'But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.' (Matthew 18.6)"
Michael and Debi Pearl live on 100 acres in Pleasantville, Tenn. The town is a dot on the map 80 miles southwest of Nashville. The rural community, a mess of skinny paved roads and lush green trees, is home to farmers, homesteaders, and an Amish settlement.
When their oldest child was an early teen, the Pearls left their home and Michael's job north of Memphis to start a new life. They paid cash for the land, logged their own trees with a self-made sawmill, and built a four-bedroom home, a barn, and a shop. To make ends meet they and their five children took odd jobs: laying stone, building barns, canning vegetables, milking cows, growing and selling organic vegetables. Michael says they moved to their "hardworking paradise" because he came to the conclusion that his kids "were too pampered. Furthermore, I was bored."
Lindsay Gallegos spent some time with the Pearls in Pleasantville. She is one of eight children raised by parents who used To Train Up a Child. "We were really entrenched in the homeschool, conservative, Bill Gothard world," she says. Gallegos is very familiar with the Pearls' book—her mom would make her read highlighted sections when she disobeyed—but she is also familiar with the Pearl family.
Family tragedy sent her looking for an exit from the "works-based conservative" world she grew up in, so she left home when she was 21. She drove to Tennessee on two separate occasions to spend a total of three weeks with some friends who lived two miles from the Pearls' homestead. She went to Cane Creek Church, the Pearls' nondenominational church. She ate a few meals at Michael and Debi's home and remembers Debi dancing around the kitchen and getting on Michael for not taking out the trash. She hung out with the Pearls' grown kids, turkey hunting and driving to Nashville to see a movie and get dinner.
Gallegos says the Pearl family was welcoming, close, and jovial, and that their kids had a lot of independence: "Whatever they did for their own kids worked." She is now a mother to three—ages 5, 3, and 1—in San Antonio, Texas, but she and her husband have decided not to use the Pearls' methods because "a lot of what they have in their book is too extreme for me."
That's not true for others, and I tried to interview on the record parents who love To Train Up a Child, but they all declined, given concerns about potential state intervention. They all praised the results they have seen in their children, saying their application of the principles of To Train Up a Child provides clear boundaries and quick justice. They say their homes are more peaceful, their kids are more respectful, and they are not growing up fearful or timid.
The Pearls run a ministry, No Greater Joy Ministries, out of offices and warehouses owned by the ministry, and write extensively on parenting, homeschooling, and marriage. Michael Pearl doesn't fit easy stereotypes—he has criticized Bill Gothard and the Patriarchy movement—and does not seem bothered by the negative press: "Few people take what the media says as true, especially when they are attacking Christians, conservatives, or traditional principles.?…?Our Amazon sales do shoot up every time we are in the news, though."
Kirstie and Ryan Benke married young and were pregnant within a year. When their son Creed was born, Kirstie looked everywhere for advice on parenting. Her pastor's wife, a homeschooling mom, gave her a copy of To Train Up a Child. They tried it consistently for a year. She saw spanking as a loving response to sin, a "one time and done" reaction instead of a long, drawn-out, guilt-ridden process.
But Kirstie says she felt like something was missing: "I didn't see the gospel, I saw morality. Creed behaved better, but he was angry. I don't think we were connecting the dots for him as to why he needed to behave this way." Shepherding a Child's Heart by Ted Tripp helped fill in some gaps: "Shepherding a Child's Heart added the 'Why are you spanking him?' You don't just want well-behaved kids.?…?You want to make the gospel attractive to them."
With two sons, 5 and 2, and another on the way, Kirstie says, "I have a lot of compassion for other parents. We tend to judge each other on 'My kid is better behaved so I must be a better parent.'?…?There is definitely the gospel. You expect them to sin. But other than that, every family is different."
Kirsten Black's is different from some in that she has five boys and doesn't seem to mind the football whizzing by her head as she calmly tosses a softball to her bat-swinging 6-year-old. She has short hair and funky red tennis shoes, and her husband Vince, his tattooed arm draped across their 2-year-old Uzziah, says he wants to be a Deuteronomy 6 parent, always speaking of God whether they are grocery shopping or playing in the backyard.
The Blacks moved to Fort Collins, Colo., to plant the church that he now pastors. She says she "grew up a really strong Pharisee" and not until her late 20s, when she started having kids, did she began to understand the way the gospel transforms all of life. Now the Blacks try to talk about sin openly as they model repentance and grace: "We tell them, 'You are going to mess up. When you do mess up, when you do sin, be quick to own it, confess it, repent, and it's done.'" Vince Black says, "We try to show them what it means to need a Savior, and that Mom and Dad need a Savior too."
They try not to buy into any parenting book as the one answer. Kirsten says, "When we approach those books with the hope that there will be answers on 'how to save my kids,' we are looking for a formula and not for Jesus to do His saving work.?…?I need to keep the mindset that only Jesus saves." They discipline but say it is always done in relationship—and that their goal in disciplining is instructing their sons' hearts. "There is always restoration at the end," says Vince.
Kiley Crossland is a writer in Colorado
Exercise video at Mississippi
College wins national award
CLINTON, Miss. (Mississippi College) -- Millions of college students, senior citizens and young kids across America should dramatically step up their fitness levels.
That's the message in a new award-winning video starring Mississippi College kinesiology graduate student Jon Phillips. Communication major Varina Hart filmed and edited the two-minute production.
Encouraging people to "get moving," the hilarious video filmed on the Clinton campus was good enough to earn second place honors in a national contest sponsored by the American College of Sports Medicine.
Professionals with the 45,000-member organization will watch the video at their annual meeting in Orlando, Florida May 27-June 1. It's the world's largest sports medicine and exercise science group.
Phillips plays the role of "'The' Gary," the aggressive guy with dark sunglasses in charge of the fictitious Department of Sedentary Behavior Prevention on campus. Jon runs around urging infuriated college students to stop texting, get off their comfy chairs and burn calories. The no-nonsense character in the video is loosely modeled after MC public safety officer Gary Keyes.
A 23-year-old Greenwood native, Phillips developed the funny video content and script. MC Department of Kinesiology students joined the fun as part of the cast.
"Jon worked really hard on this project," said professor Suzanne McDonough, the Christian university's applied physiology laboratory director and a longtime runner.
There were 92 contest videos submitted, so 2nd place represents an outstanding showing by the MC students. Arizona State University turned in the winning video.
A Clinton resident, Phillips hopes delegates to the American College of Sports Medicine conference will see the video and get inspired to walk between their blitz of sessions in Orlando. "Everybody will be sitting all day listening to lectures at a conference talking about exercise." It will mark the organization's 61st annual meeting.
His video touches on a timely topic when studies show that one of every four USA children fails to get enough exercise. In recent years, Mississippi's rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes are among the worst in the nation.
A graduate of Pillow Academy in Greenwood, Phillips is a 2013 exercise science graduate at Mississippi College. A graduate assistant at MC's master's program in exercise science, he plans to attend the conference in the Sunshine State.
To view the new Mississippi College video go to http://acsmannualmeeting.org/students/video-contest/.
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