Jake Merrick has a packed, full life, as he’s started a fitness gym, nutritional supplement line, is a bivocational pastor and author. You could say Jake is an entrepreneur at heart. He starts what he believes in and sees no separation of church and career. It’s all one. One life surrendered to God’s glory and use.
I sat down with Jake to discuss his work, his thoughts on being bivocational and honoring God in his endeavors, and how he handles some tough situations within his career. Here’s our Q&A session:
Q: What all are you currently doing and involved in?
A: Well we own a fitness studio here in Oklahoma City (Balance Fitness Studio), and we bought it a little bit over a year ago. It’s been going really good and I’ve been in personal training for over seven years and then God just really opened this door to start this place and it’s centrally located, so we’re still learning about how to grow it and market it, but it’s headed in the right direction. I have this and help pastor at a church up the road. And I have a book coming out this summer (“Bodies of Christ”) that deals with fitness, especially within the church.
Then we have nutrional supplement company that we’re putting together and we have a partner down in Florida who has a manufacturing plant, so we’ve been working with him for a couple of years. Hopefully we can launch that about the same time as the book comes out.
Q: I guess you’re an entrepreneur at heart?
A: Yeah, exactly. Always have our hands in several things, which I love it. It definitely keeps us busy and moving, but we don’t just want to be busy, we want to do the things God has opened for us and I feel like all of the things we’re doing now are. It’s just about balancing them and it’s really neat because they all work together and it’s not like they are all separate entities.
Q: Do you have a business background or just interested in these things and learned how to do them?
A: My background is a major in Biblical studies and psychology, and then I went to seminary with the pursuit of full-time ministry. Over the years God has just morphed what full-time ministry is and it doesn’t have to be in the pulpit all of the time. I went into personal training because I was going into church planting and wanted to be bivocational to help supplement while we’re planting a church. Then God just really started opening doors with the training and He just taught me that that is ministry—helping people, working one-on-one with them.
Seven years later we have this business and we’re still learning about the business end of it, but one of the things God has shown me is that it’s about serving people, and when we do that, He is going to bless it. It’s been an interesting journey.
Q: How would you encourage bivocational living and letting your career be your ministry?
A: That’s one of the biggest problems we have, I believe, in the church, is an artificial divide between our church life and our real life. It’s all just one life live to God’s glory. If we glorify Him in everything we do, then our whole life becomes ministry and He’s going to gift you with certain talents, whatever that is. For me, I have a passion and calling to teach and to preach, and that’s something I’ve had training in, but it’s something that comes naturally for me—it’s a passion of mine.
I would encourage people to find their gifts and those are going to be used within the four walls of the church and outside of the church. I have a friend who just loves to serve people and he looks for ways to come alongside people with a vision and help them out. So he doesn’t really carry a vision or try to be the lead man, he just wants to be there to support. And that’s a huge thing!
I would just see your life as one life, surrendered to God, and He has gifted you with certain things to bless the body and bless the world. That’s inside and outside the four walls (of the church).
Q: Have you had opportunities to share your faith through your work?
A: Oh yeah, it’s all the time. Seeing life as a unit and not divided up into spiritual and non-spiritual is important. I carry that into my training and when I’m training someone physically, it’s not just about their physical health. When someone is really overweight and out of shape, there’s a reason they got there and it usually has a spiritual route to it. They may be in prime condition but have depression or some other type of issue and there are spiritual routes there as well.
With everyone that I train, it’s all about, first and foremost, that God created this body and we need a living breathing relationship with Him.
There’s a guy right now that I’m training and he’s almost 400 pounds and just struggling to lose weight. So I’ve been training with him for almost a year and he hasn’t seen much success and he came in the other day and said, “I have problem. I can’t stop eating.” And I kind of laughed it off, but he said, “I’m serious. I have real problem. I can’t stop eating.”
So I asked him, “how bad do you want to change?” And he said that he wanted to really change. So I said, “what are you willing to do to change?” Then he said he would do anything.
Then I told him he needed to sign up for training five days a week because he wasn’t getting in the gym five days a week and needed to. Then I asked him again, “how bad do you really want this?” And he said he really wanted it. So I told him we were going to his house and made him take me to his house across town and I went through his fridge and cabinets and cleaned it out. I said, “if you want to make a change, you have to get rid of this junk and start making real choices.”
Then it went deeper than that and it was about how he wasn’t connected to a church body and he’s Christian but he’s out there on his own. I said, “man you need to get connected to a body and that needs to be priority number one.”
We get people who come to us and are real desperate, but I say to them, “okay, I’ll help you, but we’re going to do this on my terms.” And our terms are to lead them to the one who can really heal them, who is God.
Q: How would you address the issue of gluttony, one of the biggest issues that the church tends to sweep under the rug?
A: It’s actually the focus of the book I wrote. I’m passionate about it and believe it’s a real serious issue. What I believe the root cause of it is—well, I look at God’s number one priority. What is His most valuable creation? His greatest creation is His church and His people. And He’s called a people out to be separate and holy. We’ve got this individualized mentality about it being all about my life and I’m going to live it for me, and so it becomes a selfish way to live. And it becomes about your cravings and what you’re going to do to satisfy your cravings.
When you sacrifice those cravings, you sacrifice your individual life and you commit it to other people and you become accountable. It becomes about something bigger than you.
I believe that when we truly understand the nature of the church and what God wants to do through His body, then we’re going to see success with our own physical bodies. Then I believe that people aren’t living on a daily basis surrendered to the Holy Spirit and just letting Him lead you in everything you do. Paul says, “whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.”
We’ll go to church and tie it to the glory of God, but we won’t choose to not go to McDonald’s for the glory of God. You know? We need to know that He wants to lead us in all the small things in life.
Q: What’s your advice for people who have a desire to start something and how to manage the risk?
A: Speaking to Christians, the way we live is one big risk. We are betting everything on a God we can’t see. Our whole life is about faith, so that should flow over into every aspect of our life and so we are constantly taking risks, and I think God is wanting us to take bigger risks because that means we are trusting Him more and more.
God, who is the source of creativity, is going to give his people great ideas and inventions. It’s just about Him leading and you following him. Don’t try too hard to figure all the details out, just walk in it, take the next step as He leads you and don’t run ahead of him.