This article doesn't represent any religious configuration of Bodybuilding.com. This is a news article that is showing the activities in the bodybuilding community and a behind-the-scenes look at the factors affecting the top athletes in the sport. As for Dr. Ryan, Brigitte and Pastor Mike ... we believe.
Life is very complicated. Imagine all of the many things that you do every day. Now mix in some of the complicating factors associated with being a top level competitive physique athlete. Imagine letting go of so many things that you once held dear, just to achieve that goal of victory.
Reaching for the number one position in competitive bodybuilding can often result in victory for one, yet several other competitor's are left feeling empty handed. The stress can be quite devastating, and over the years, it has resulted in drug addiction, physical abuse, suicide, and other negative consequences.
I do my best during some of the top competitions, to provide the safest and healthiest environment within my abilities. Sometimes, it is difficult for me to see the mental strain that many of the athletes are experiencing. With all of the science that I have in my head, nothing can beat the touch of a friendly hand or a steady look from someone who really cares. Often times through my work backstage, my time is limited to the critical situations, and I am lucky I am not alone.
I first met Pastor Mike, back stage at the Olympia as he was reading a Bible passage to one of the competitors. You could see the peace over this athlete's face and if I told you who it was, your jaw would drop. The point is someone other than the immediate staff was helping an athlete and that benefits everyone and makes all of us happy.
This kind of strengthening volunteer work happens and from time to time is worthy of mentioning. Consider putting yourself in the position where you have trained for 10 years or more, and you have likely sacrificed thousands of hours training, and abandoning family members and social functions to avoid poor eating choices.
Your friends are likely to be counted on one hand and the majority of the world criticizes you and thinks you are freak. You are likely single or living like you are, and you have poured tens of thousands of dollars into yourself to get "that look," etc. If you don't make first call out, it can be devastating.
Folks, it is actually a lonely life and if it weren't for your fans, then you would have less and less reason to live. So given all of this, there is a real need for personal help from someone who can relate to these special athletes and Pastor Mike and others from www.StrongholdMinistries.com are doing a great job! The following is an exclusive interview with Pastor Mike, for BB.com.
Reading this might help you with some of your own difficult questions and hopefully help you find some inner peace and strength to make you a better person. At the end the article there are some additional ways that you can help this type of effort to move forward and offer some direction for your own life.
Pastor Mike Interview
[ Q ] Where are you from?
[ A ] Originally from a small town in Indiana named Berne. Currently, my wife Holly and I reside in Studio City, California.
[ Q ] Where did you go to school?
[ A ] I received my Bachelor's degree from Cedarville College in Ohio and my Masters of Divinity from Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary in Michigan. That's seven long years of school!
[ Q ] When and how did you start in the ministry?
[ A ] I've been preaching since I was 16-years old. I always knew that God had placed me on this earth to share the good news of Jesus with people. I was involved in many missions trips as a young person and that just naturally evolved into having "ministry" be my job.
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[ Q ] What has directed you towards the sport of bodybuilding?
[ A ] I'll tell you one thing; God didn't look at me and say, "I'm going to make this kid be a bodybuilder"! I knew nothing about the sport until I started Stronghold Ministries back in 2002.
I had worked as an assistant chaplain for the national SuperCross and Motocross series from 1998-2001 while I was attending school. At one of the races, I met a woman who happened to be in the fitness industry, and I began to pray for her. All of a sudden, God showed me that my time with SuperCross was done and it was time to begin to help people in the bodybuilding and fitness industry.
I didn't know where to begin other than to tell my best friend Andy Steiner about what God was putting on my heart and to have him pray about the opportunity. The next thing you know, Andy and I are talking to athletes at the Arnold expo about this crazy idea of starting a ministry that would serve them, encourage them, and strengthen them in their relationship with God! The rest is, as they say, history.
[ Q ] You do not come to the bodybuilding competitions to push religion on anyone. How would you describe the main mission or purpose of your work?
[ A ] Andy and I have always come to the bodybuilding competitions with the mindset that we are here to serve people with the kind of love that Jesus showed when He walked this earth. The old saying, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care" is pretty true.
Once people see that we truly love them and desire to help them, they really begin to open up to us about their lives. And within that openness, we are given an opportunity to share about the awesome joy of having a personal and life-changing relationship with God.
Some people are open to further pursue the idea of a relationship with God and others simply aren't. Regardless, they know that we will always be there to love them, serve them, and talk to them about anything in their life.
[ Q ] What shows do you usually make sure to go to?
[ A ] Of course the big ones - the
Olympia - but also the
Iron Man Pro, a lot of Jon Lindsey's shows here in Cali, the USA's, Pro BB Weekly show in Tampa this year, the
Europa, maybe the Nationals this year ... A lot just depends on the financial status of the ministry. We depend totally on donations to do what we do, so the more people support us monetarily, the more shows we can attend. That's just the bottom line.
[ Q ] Do you workout and in what capacity?
[ A ] Well, I'm just coming off a
back injury that you,
Dr. Ryan and
Brigitte, so kindly helped with the
recovery. I workout 4-5 times per week, and usually 4 days using weights, and a day or two of
cardio. I don't really have a desire to be huge; I just want to be fit and healthy.
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[ Q ] How to you deal with individuals of various beliefs and these types of stressful situations?
[ A ] I really don't see these situations as very
stressful. I think everyone responds to love and kindness. My whole goal is to help everyone to take the next step in his/her relationship with God. I know I need someone to challenge me to take the next step with God, so it's something with which we can all identify. I believe everyone was made by God to be in a relationship with Him, and without Him, there will always be that God-shaped void.
[ Q ] How do the various athletes respond when you initially approach them? And how does the relationship grow?
[ A ] Andy and I try to be backstage at most of the events just to be available to anyone who might want prayer. When you are low-carb and ready to head out into battle, it's amazing how comforting it can be to see 2 guys who just want to help you, encourage you, and pray for you. That's honestly where a lot of our relationships have started.
Again, we don't push ourselves on anyone. We simply want to be available. The relationship grows with the athletes as we are invited to their hotel rooms to read the Bible and pray with them. Eating with them is always a great relationship builder since bodybuilders are always eating! We also go to their homes and stay with them, text message, call, email, etc. Modern technology really helps out a lot!
[ Q ] What has been the most rewarding time for you?
[ A ] I don't think there is anything greater than someone deciding they want to live their lives for Jesus Christ. Just to see the
transformation that occurs within them, and the forgiveness, mercy, joy, and love that is now theirs ... it's just pretty cool.
[ Q ] I understand your work is not limited to just bodybuilding but also reaches out to Hollywood. What is this work like?
[ A ] Well, in 2004 I had been the head pastor at a church in Indiana for 2 years, but I felt like God was calling me to Hollywood. At first, I thought this was ridiculous - a hick from Indiana ministering to people in the entertainment industry. But then I realized that Hollywood affects the world. And if I want to help change this world, then what better place than Hollywood?! So I packed my bags and headed West to basically do what I do in bodybuilding, except on TV sets, film sets, band tours, etc.
Kevin Levrone was a huge encouragement that first year and a half, as we shared an apartment out here. He helped bring me on my first few sets. Now I devote a lot of time to the Hollywood side of Stronghold Ministries, developing new ways to affect the people of that industry. And God is opening up some unbelievable opportunities. I'm super pumped about what the future holds.
[ Q ] I know that you have recently worked with Kevin Levrone on his movie sets, how has that gone for you?
[ A ] Kevin and I are good friends. He enjoys having me with him on sets to pray for him and encourage him. There are some fairly shady people in the biz, so he realizes that having good people around him is important.
I am grateful for the chance to go on the sets with him because there is no one currently doing what I'm doing in Hollywood - going on the sets and bringing the love of Jesus to people. I will always thank God for putting Kevin Levrone in my life.
[ Q ] Where can we learn more about your ministry and how could you be contacted?
[ A ] Just log onto the website at
www.strongholdministries.com for more info. Or you can email me at
firstname.lastname@example.org -- whatever is easier for you.
[ Q ] How can anyone offer support to your cause? How can they offer you support?
[ A ] On the website sidebar is a "Giving Info" section. Just double click on it and it gives you all the details. Everyone's support is so important for this ministry to not only keep on doing what we're doing, but also to continue to expand, reaching more and more people in a positive, life-changing way.
[ Q ] What would you and your group like to add to our readers?
[ A ] I would simply say that God loves you so much. I know people use that phrase all the time, but if you simply open your heart to God, His love will blow you away! He's not up in the sky with a big stick waiting to hit you when you get out of line. He just wants to offer you His mercy, forgiveness, and love. If you ask me, that's a pretty good deal!
There you have it, there are so many people out there doing great things for bodybuilding behind the scenes and I will try to cover them all. Steve Stone introduced me to a great guy who was raising money for charities at bodybuilding competitions. That is the type of public relations that this sport needs and if you have a story, just drop me an email and let's talk.
Folks, it is more than just pounding weights and choking down another protein drink, it is a lifestyle. We live in a complicated world with simple people who need learn from one another that giving back is important. That is what I try to do, whenever I write or work a competition. You try your best and I'll keep you healthy, the best I can and may God bless us all.