Standing outside the door of The People’s Church in Franklin, Tenn., the 6:30 a.m. fitness class can be an intimidating sight. The room is filled with dozens of men and women all working hard with looks of pure determination on their faces. The booming voice echoing throughout the room—one that can easily be heard from the parking lot—belongs to Mike Flynt as he instructs the participants in their exercise routine. It is only after opening the door and moving into the workout room that newcomers will be find that the mood in this class is surprisingly light. Despite its initial appearances, everyone partaking in the workout seems to be enjoying the experience and their fierce leader.
A Ministry of Fitness
Five years ago, Mike Flynt broke NCAA records for being the oldest linebacker to ever play college football, returning at age 59 to his college team, the Sul Ross State Lobos, 37 years after he was kicked out of school his senior year.
Having dedicated his life to achieving physical fitness, he now uses his church to help others maintain or improve their fitness level. The workout is for people of all ages, but it mostly attracts those of Flynt’s generation: the baby boomers. It was this particular age group that inspired him to help those whose health is rapidly declining. Flynt instructs each participant in using the exercise system he created, Powerbase: rubber tubes designed for risk-free exercise while working every major muscle in the body. The exercise program specifically caters to adults by allowing them to increase their heart rate at their own pace without ever having to get on the ground.
The key to Flynt’s success as the class instructor is his ability to balance productivity with pleasure. “We’re a team. We always poke fun at one another," he says.
Each person can perform at a different intensity level than the person next to them. It is common to see the more athletic men adding a quick jog up and down the stairwell in between sets. At the same time, others can choose to pause, walk around the room, and catch their breath. Every newcomer is welcomed to the class with a smile no matter their age or experience.
Despite their focus and determination during the class, Flynt says all participants have fun while exercising and have become close friends. They each look forward to seeing the others at the class, and they hold one another accountable. Flynt calls each one of them by name, and has proudly watched multiple students lose nearly one hundred pounds after starting his Powerbase classes.
Another student credits Flynt with giving him not only physical strength but confidence. After surviving a severe stroke a few years ago, the man seized what he considered to be a second chance at life and a wake-up call to live a healthier lifestyle: spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Flynt shows him extra attention and support during the class, and recalls one day when this man came into class and told him he had fallen off of his bed last night. Because of his hard work with Flynt in the Powerbase classes, he was able to use his arm strength alone to pull himself up off the floor. He told Flynt that once he was back on the bed, he couldn’t believe what he had just done.
Flynt's joy in such success stories is his only payoff for leading these classes, which he considers a part of his service to God and to his church. Each class is free of charge, as Flynt knows that most people will not continue to exercise if there is a large fee involved. He simply asks that anyone interested in improving his or her fitness level come consistently for one week and give their best effort.
He has no doubt that anyone who attends will be amazed at what their body can accomplish. No one is required to do every part of the workout. The only requirement is that each participant pushes themselves and does whatever their body can handle .
Beyond any other goal, Flynt wants these men and women to have “every opportunity for complete wellness.”
“Our bodies are not our own; they belong to God,” he says. “We must use our bodies to glorify God.”
Same Physical Fitness, Different Man
Flynt has not wasted any time exercising his own body to glorify God. Upon meeting him, anyone would be stunned to learn that he is sixty-four years old. At the time of his return to the game, most people were fascinated by the idea of a 59-year-old playing college football. However, after seeing how Flynt has been able to sustain his physical abilities over the years, the idea of him playing college football suddenly becomes believable.
As a dedicated player and team captain, Flynt was devastated when he was kicked off the football team before his senior season. Without Flynt on the field, his team ended up with a losing season despite being predicted to win the division. The regret and guilt he felt for disappointing his teammates that year quickly became overwhelming. After forcing himself to move forward, he focused on dedicating his career to fitness and exercise, becoming the strength coach at three universities: Nebraska, Oregon, and Texas A&M.
It was not until his former teammates repeatedly requested his presence at their upcoming reunion that Flynt was forced to rehash old, painful memories. During that reunion, Flynt confessed that he has always regretted missing his senior season. He even went as far to say that, because of his continued physical health, he feels as though he could still play.
One of his closest teammates asked, “Well, why don’t you?”
After meeting with the head coach at Sul Ross State (a man eight years his junior)—and convincing his wife that she was not “married to Peter Pan”—Flynt learned that he was eligible to play. At that moment, Flynt decided that foregoing the opportunity to play after being given a second chance would be more painful than the day he was forced off the team over thirty years ago.
The second time Flynt stepped on to the field, he was a changed man. Growing up with a father that encouraged him to use his fists to communicate, he was constantly punished for his aggressive behavior. The fight that got him kicked out of school was simply the last straw. It was not until meeting his wife, Eileen, that Flynt says he became the man he is today. It is because of Flynt’s faith that he is able to lead others towards physical health.
Life is about finding the right balance between emotional, spiritual, and physical health, he says. Just like a three-legged milk stool, a person will not be able to stand without possessing all three components of life.
Service Spirit Willing to Lead
Although other churches are not lucky enough to have Flynt leading the congregation in exercise, he strongly believes any church can start their own program. No matter how small the church, there is at least one member with a “service spirit who is willing to lead,” he says.
With the leadership of just one person, any church member can see the lasting impact of physical fitness, putting an end to their sedentary lifestyles. Flynt explains that when it comes to people of his same age, their negative attitudes lead to their own demise. “People of that age aren’t used to hearing that they can succeed in physical exercise.” Flynt has watched almost every participant be astounded by what their personal temples can do.
After talking to Flynt and hearing his story, it is hard for any person to have doubts about what he or she can accomplish. Flynt recalls that many people did not expect him to change his ways after he was kicked off the team his senior year. However, most of those people today would be surprised to hear about his exercise ministry. Flynt’s confidence and his inspirational story make anything seem possible—even putting an end to an unhealthy physical lifestyle or starting a program like Powerbase in a small church.