Finding God at the Gym: How ORU’s Brayden Burks Is Using Fitness to Build a Movement of Faith
Hometown: Southlake, Texas
Area of Study: Entrepreneurship
The gym, for most people, is nothing more than a place to lift weights or run on a treadmill. But ORU’s Brayden Burks isn’t like most people. For Brayden, the gym isn’t just about fitness; it’s also about sharing his faith.
“Faith and fitness are both parts of my life,” Brayden said. “I can be in the gym, and at the same time, I can be preaching a video message. I’ll set up my camera, and while everybody else in the gym is focusing on themselves, I’m sharing a word from the Lord.”
Brayden, an entrepreneurship major, has established himself as a fitness influencer, where he’s sharing his faith with a growing social media audience. In the fitness industry, he sees a world focused outward, one that’s often anxious and depressed. His goal is to turn people inward and provide a light for those who are hurting.
“When I’m training,” Brayden said, “I'll ask God ‘What are you trying to teach me through hard work?’ And then I'll press into Him, and I’ll hear God in the gym. When I’m recording, it doesn't matter who's watching me. The reality is there are people on the other end of the camera who are in need.”
“There’s been an attack on masculinity, creating a poor representation of what manhood actually looks like. Instead of the macho, alpha male, a man of God protects. A man of God leads. A man of God loves. A man of God serves. This generation wants to know what a man of God looks like, and I’m paving the way so that men of God can take center stage in the fitness world.”
A Campus where God is Centric
Brayden transferred to ORU after playing collegiate basketball at another university. At this other university, faith was important, but it wasn’t at the center of everything on campus. For Brayden, it’s the significance of faith that sets ORU apart.
“At ORU,” Brayden said, “we have a Prayer Tower that sits at the center of our campus, and just like that, everything here is centered around spiritual growth. I love being part of this Spirit-filled community. When you walk in a Spirit-filled community, there's really nothing like it. On this campus, you’re gonna feel the Holy Spirit moving.”
Spiritual growth is critical to ORU’s “whole-person education,” which focuses on preparing students mentally, physically, and spiritually. The University’s goal is to educate graduates who are spiritually alive, intellectually alert, and physically disciplined. ORU’s whole-person focus is important to Brayden, who says that when it comes to ministry, there’s often a focus on the mind and the spirit but not on the body.
“What I’m doing,” Brayden said, “is partly fitness, partly evangelism. The heart of evangelism is to point people to Jesus, but we need to take care of our physical temples too. The fitness industry can be a dark place, and there's really nobody else filling this role. I feel like God's sending me into dark places where the light is dim.”
A Man of God: Redefining Masculinity
With his growing audience, Brayden describes himself as an alternative to other influencers in the fitness industry. These other influencers, Brayden says, are exposing his generation to drinking, smoking, and partying. He worries that by looking up to these people, young men will choose a lifestyle that’s both dangerous and destructive.
“There’s been an attack on masculinity,” Brayden said, “creating a poor representation of what manhood actually looks like. Instead of the macho, alpha male, a man of God protects. A man of God leads. A man of God loves. A man of God serves. This generation wants to know what a man of God looks like, and I’m paving the way so that men of God can take center stage in the fitness world.”
ABOUT ORAL ROBERTS UNIVERSITY
ORU is a Christian, Spirit-empowered, interdenominational university in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with over a decade of consecutive enrollment growth. Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, ORU offers over 150 majors, minors, concentrations, and pre-professional programs at the bachelor’s level, ranging from business and engineering to nursing, ministry, and more. Under the leadership of President Dr. William Wilson, ORU is preparing students from all 50 states and 145 nations (from 2019 to 2023) to be whole leaders for the whole world.
The Wall Street Journal ranked ORU as the #4 university in the nation for student engagement. This ranking is based upon faculty interactions, collaborative learning, critical thinking, real-world applications of student learning, the extent to which classes challenge students, and whether students would recommend a university to others. Niche recognizes ORU as one of the most diverse colleges in America.
ORU has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as:
- #1 in Undergraduate Teaching
- #2 in Most International Students
- #3 in Best Value
- #6 in Best College for Veterans
- #7 in Best Regional Colleges in the West
For more information, visit www.oru.edu.