Pastor channels strength behind, away from pulpit


For The Tribune

Troy Burns is strong enough to win heavy weightlifting competitions, yet gentle enough to pastor a small congregation in his community.

Burns, who recently rejoined the ministry as pastor at Bethany Baptist Church in Crothersville, recently competed in and placed first — in both his weight class and overall — in the Illinois Strongman Association’s 2017 Record Breaker Championship competition in St. Anne, Illinois.

The victory qualified him for a national weightlifting competition featuring more than 400 participants over the summer in Tarrytown, New York, in 2018.

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His total weight for the event was 1,675 pounds, which was summed by a 605-pound 16-inch box squat, 305-pound log cling press with a 12-inch log and a 765-pound 18-inch deadlift.

Burns has been competing for the past couple of years in the high weightlifting sport, and this was his sixth and last competition of 2017.

The 32-year-old, 6-foot, 317-pound Crothersville resident competes in Illinois because Indiana does not offer competitions.

Burns said while many may think his two worlds would clash, being a pastor and a weightlifter has a lot more in common than most people think.

“I think it’s one of the great lessons in life, and that is anything worth doing takes effort and energy that people don’t see,” he said.

“If I want to be a great Christian, then I have to have a good prayer life, a good devotional life, and if I’m going to be a great weightlifter, then there’s got to be hours put into the gym.”

Burns said the training is grueling and that he trains about three to four days a week in weight training and one or two days on specific weight techniques, such as farmer’s carry.

Those techniques have real world use.

“Carrying groceries will never be a problem with that training,” Burns joked. “Everyone does the farmer’s carry when they’re taking groceries in from the car.”

Burns is carrying 275 pounds in each hand.

“It’s hard work, and it’s grueling,” he said of his training regimen.

Those real world benefits are what got Burns originally interested in heavy lifting.

He recalls a time in his youth when he had to help lift a car off of a person.

He wasn’t doing the heavy lifting training then but was weightlifting and said he was thankful he did because it made a difference.

“After that, there was always this desire to be strong,” he said.

He participated in martial arts and got out of the military and then decided to take up the heavy weightlifting.

“After that, I needed something to do but not in a crazy atmosphere and one where I could take my kids, and strongman was a perfect fit for me,” Burns said.

He was reminded of all of the time spent training when he hit such big numbers during the competition.

The same amount of work goes into ministering to his congregation.

“I put in that effort so I can do those things and in the same way as a pastor,” Burns said. “I spend hours every week in the hospital, at the jail, in people’s homes so that when Sunday morning comes, they want to hear what I have to say because they know how much I care about them.”

Burns bested the other five Record Breakers. The five men qualified after winning other Record Breaker series competitions throughout the year.

“It was an invite kind of thing where winners of the other competitions were invited to compete,” he said.

Burns said even though it was the competition, the atmosphere was more of an encouraging environment.

“I don’t compete against the other guys there. I mean, literally I am, but my mindset and my attitude is to cheer those guys on and hope they get personal records,” he said. “I want them to do well because I’m there to compete against myself and hit that new weight. If I can get my best, then I feel like I won even if I didn’t take first place.”

Participating in an environment like that is nice, Burns added, because it is more of a bond rather than a rivalry.

“It’s kind of nice because while I’m lifting with those guys at competitions throughout the year and even we’re competing against one another, they have kind of become like a family,” he said. “It’s a great atmosphere, and it’s a great sport to be a part of because of the mutual support.”

Burns said he does not think anyone else in Jackson County competes in strongman competitions but that he would like to generate local interest and has considered starting something at the Jackson County Fair.

“I’d love to have a weightlifting partner,” he said. “I haven’t been able to get anybody to want to go after the weight that I’m lifting.”

Burns and his wife, Trisha, have a 7-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl that spend time with him at events and while he weight trains.

“I’m a pastor, but my other job is a stay-at-home dad,” Burns said. “My son goes to school now, but my little girl is with me when I weight train during the day.”

While weightlifting is a hobby, ministering is his passion and calling in life, he said.

“I love what I do,” he said. “I have a great passion for Jesus and his Word. I’m at a little country church on the corner.”

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