Q&A: Transformed lives will transform the world

Steve-Furr
Dr. Steven Furr, M.D.

Professionally, Steve Furr is a family physician in a small town of about 5,000 in southwest Alabama, who does “everything from delivering babies to taking care of patients in nursing homes.”

At the General Conference in Tampa, Fla., he’ll be one of three speakers delivering the Laity Address on April 25, along with Amory Peck and Betty Spiwe Katiyo. He spoke recently with Mary Jacobs; here are excerpts.

Can you give us a preview of your address?

This year is unique, in that we’re going to have three people do the Laity Address. I’m excited about that, because that way it’s not focused on one individual but it’s focused on the address itself. One of the first Laity Addresses at General Conference was given by five different laypeople. I’m glad we’re going back to this, so there’s not a personal focus. The focus is just on the message itself.

We were given the theme of the General Conference, “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Each one of us submitted an individual address; mine was a story of a personal transformation. We’ve combined those three, and our combined topic is, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” Amory came up with that title because that was the title of her original talk.

What led you to choose that topic, and why is it important?

As we’re going into this General Conference, we’re talking about these huge changes in structure in the church. As an individual and a layperson in the church, you have to think, “What can I do in all this massive restructuring?” And it’s the same thing that you did in the time of Jesus. He focused on 12 individuals and transformed their lives. So, that’s what I want us to focus on, when we try to transform the world. If we transform ourselves individually then the world will tend to take care of itself.

What was your personal transformation and what did it involve?

What I’m focusing on, as a physician, is that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and taking care of our bodies as we would take care of the temple. I had a personal transformation in that area, which I’m trying to keep a little bit of a secret until General Conference.

How does the calling of laity differ from the calling of clergy?

Our message is for both. Even though this is the Laity Address, we’re addressing the laity and the clergy. We each individually have to do our part to make the gospel really reach out into the world. It’s just like Paul, talking about each part of the body has a purpose. If each of us will do our part then the body takes care of itself. If the eye is busy telling the ear what its needs to be doing, rather than just doing its own job, then none of the jobs get done.

What change would you like people to make?

You look today in the news. We just had the news of Whitney Houston’s death and addictions. Unfortunately, many people in our church are addicted to many things, whether it’s alcohol, drugs, pornography or food. There are a lot of addictions that we are enslaved with, even though we are Christians. I think we need to recapture that idea that our bodies truly are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and we wouldn’t any more defame our bodies than we would go in and trash our local church.

As good people, we tend to say yes to everything that comes along. Sometimes you need to say no to some things in order to say yes to the very best things in life. That means sometimes you’ve got to give up certain things. Whether it means you might need to skip a meal, because you know you’ll be sitting a lot and if you eat that big meal you’ll gain two pounds by tomorrow. So it’s deciding what’s really important in your life.

When you talk about seeing bodies as temples, what does that mean practically speaking?

All of the disciplines, taking care of your body, both spiritually and physically. Both your Bible reading, prayer and study, watching what you eat, what you take into your body, whether it be drugs, alcohol, food—also what you put into your mind. What TV shows do you watch? What websites do you go to? Do you avoid pornography websites and things that might lead your mind astray?

If there’s a theme to come out of my section of the Laity Address, it’s to not just preach a sermon but to be one. It’s real easy to preach a sermon but it’s a whole lot more difficult to live one. When you preach a sermon, it often goes in one ear and out the other, but when people see a sermon lived, that really gets their attention.

You have served on a number of church committees and boards and you’re a physician in your spare time. How do you keep balance and stay focused on what’s important?

It’s very difficult. I don’t sleep very much. I live in a small town of 5,000. One of the best things that happened to me was, we had a fitness gym open up called Anytime Fitness. It’s open 24 hours a day. I’m sometimes working out at 4 in the morning or 11 at night. You have to make a commitment and do just what you have to do. At the same time, in all the responsibilities that have come my way, those are doors that the Lord has opened up and amazingly He has made my schedule work. I’m just amazed at how meetings will fall at times when I can be there. I try to go through doors that He opens and not try and force any doors that are not there.

What are your hopes for the 2012 General Conference?

Something that is important for me is, we complain in the church that we don’t have more younger people involved or we don’t have more professional people involved. Part of that is because we tend to meet when they can’t meet. General Conference is a good example. We meet right during the school year, so people who are in school have a very difficult time coming. As a church, as we move forward, I think we really have to change how we do business in order to get young people and professional people involved.

The hope is that we will come out with a unified message and that we’ll all focus on truly being disciples of Jesus Christ ourselves. There’s so much talk about structure that we sometimes forget to be what we’re supposed to be. Again, if we focus on what Christ meant us to be each as an individual—the body and the church will take care of itself. When we become what Christ meant us to be, and people see that within us, they’ll want to be where we’re at—whether it’s in our church, our Bible study, our small group—to see what led us to become transformed disciples.

 

Mary Jacobs, Staff Writer – mjacobs@umr.org

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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