Pastor Allen Langford of Christland Baptist Church Detroit

Pastor Langford leads a congregation and a community. Here, he talks the importance of healthy spirit and body in a new Detroit Medical Center partnership.

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or 13 years, Pastor Allen Langford drove 80 miles to lead Sunday service-"rain, sleet or snow."

"I think in 13 years, I may have missed church five times because of the weather," he remembers of the commute from his home in Detroit to Union Baptist Church in Dresden, Ontario. It was his first position as a pastor. And surely there were congregations closer than Dresden. But it was seeing a neighborhood in need that fueled Langford's drive and commitment to the church.

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"The church I grew up in, Second Corinthian Baptist Church, was a community-focused church," says Langford, 55, a Detroit native and Cass Technical High School alum. "That church was really formative in my pastoring, and working with the community turned out to be something I was really passionate about."

In working with the community, Langford learned the fundamentals of pastoring-people.

"Sometimes in pastoring we get caught up in the other stuff, so we end up not really knowing how to care for God's people," Langford says. He believes that when churches extend services to meet the physical needs of a community, such as giving food, clothing and shelter, they reach more people spiritually.

"If I'm trying to tell someone about Jesus, he can't receive the message if he is hungry," says Langford. "When I got to Christland, they were already feeding people every week."

Since becoming pastor at Christland in 2005, that effort has grown. Langford estimates the ministry now feeds about 11,000 people a year through various holiday dinners and weekly meals.

"We see our church as a place of resources. A place where people can come and not only receive a word from God, but also have some of their needs met. And we are really striving still to provide more," says Lanford, explaining that the Path to Health partnership between Christland and DMC (Detroit Medical Center) is an extension of that.

"I think this program with DMC is one of the things that has been a missing piece," says Langford. "Health care is important because the 'spirit man' lives inside of the 'physical man.' And as a result of that, if the 'physical man' is not well, it will hinder my ability from a pastor standpoint to reach the 'spirit man.'"

He adds, "Jesus was concerned about the whole man. At the end of the day, if all I have to offer you is when you get to heaven, what are you going to do between now and heaven?"

Langford sees the partnership with DMC as an opportunity for better health.

"To help and get more people not only signed up for health care, but then go the next step and get them to the doctor's office … I think that's clearly what Path to Health is all about-helping people become well," says Langford. "I'm excited. Not only for DMC but also for the people in our congregation. Because now this says, 'I need you to be well.' If you are well, you will come to church. And if you're well, you will tell other people how to get well."

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