The Biggest Loser Who Gained the Most

Season 13 of The Biggest Loser included two guys I know: Mark and Chism Cornelison. Mark and his family recently shared with me the most incredible, behind-the-scenes story of what happened off the set of this famed reality tv show. Here to inspire you is Mark’s story.


Perhaps you watched the Season Finale on May 1, 2012, as the winning contestant was finally revealed. Maybe you were even there when the announcer gave the 10-second warning that the cameras were about to go live.

Mark Cornelison and son Chism

Mark Cornelison and son, Chism

The lights gleamed from above, and the stage was all set. The crowd was wild with cheers of anticipation of who would be this year’s Biggest Loser. Then the contestants, all wearing their Biggest Loser T-shirts, were asked to stand.

Moments later, the winner was decided.

Sprinkles of confetti descended upon the crowd.

Family members and friends rushed the stage. And then the winning Loser did something remarkable.

A Year and a Half Earlier…

…Mark and his family sat in their living room eagerly watching Season 11 of The Biggest Loser–one of the most popular reality tv shows. That’s when Mark saw the commercial to apply to be a contestant.

He had always wanted to lose weight. And Chism, his 18-year-old son who was reluctant to participate at first, realized he needed to lose as well. So Mark, thinking it would never work, filled out the application and sent it in.

Five months later, he received an email to attend a casting call in Austin, TX. Attend they did. Mark and Chism arrived in Austin and stood behind 600 other hopefuls awaiting their interviews.

By the end of September, they had received the big call to appear in Los Angeles. Mark is the youth pastor at Faith Bible Church in The Woodlands, TX. And as the Great Orchestrator He is, God had arranged Mark’s due sabbatical for such a time as this.

They were in! This was it! Mark and Chism were going to be contestants on The Biggest Loser, Season 13!

Back Home

Mark and Cathy Cornelison

Mark and Cathy Cornelison

Due to the show’s strict nature, Mark and Chism had to be completely separated from home and friends. No contact. No calls. In fact, I had tried to call Mark on a few occasions, myself. I didn’t know he had applied for the show. And I began to think, “I wonder if Mark doesn’t like me anymore!” (Insert childish face here.)

The next 5 months were tough for Mark’s wife, Cathy. There were many tears on many days because Mark was gone, but this also deepened her dependence on God. Cathy, the faithful pastor’s wife, prayed for Mark and Chism as they were away from home.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

Mark found himself surrounded by unchurched people. And unchurchy people, at that. People from difficult home lives and rough backgrounds. He soaked it in. “This was the most refreshing experience ever,” he told me. Almost immediately, Mark felt a passion to become deeply connected with the cast.

And the Great Orchestrator sent a friend. Buddy Shuh was also cast to be on this season. A strong believer in Jesus and pastor of a church plant in Michigan, Buddy became close friends with Mark. And the two of them realized they were positioned in a unique place to do something extraordinary.

So their first task?


Two weeks into the season, Mark and Buddy moved on the passion they received from the Lord and planted The Biggest Loser Church. Affectionately known as BLURCH. But this church was different. Instead of being based on a program, Mark and Buddy based this gathering solely on the needs of the people involved and their relationship with God.

In other words, each service was open to questions and answers, comments, and opinions. And each service was filled with God’s Word shared–shared in connection with where the people were.

And who came? It started with 6. Then 12. Then more.

The cast.


Production team.

Mark and Buddy Shuh

Mark Cornelison and Buddy Shuh

Many became part of this unique event where their emotions were gently dealt with and life stuff was handled with care. Mark and Buddy took turns sharing and comforting and supporting and praying. Everything they shared was firmly grounded in and drawn from God’s Word. Most of all, the gospel of Jesus Christ was clearly shared.

So How Did the Cast Respond?

You may remember Conda. Apparently, the producers painted Conda as the villain of the show. However, she was clearly one who took up for those she loves. As she began to attend BLURCH, she wanted to hear more from Mark, Buddy and Chism.

In fact, as time went on, Conda and Megan, both, were baptized in BLURCH!

And Jeremy? You remember him, don’t you? He told Mark, “I’m not a Christian. That stuff is fake. But I want to come to BLURCH.” Jeremy started attending and fell asleep during the first several services. He wasn’t the kind of person that talked to people a lot, but God opened the door for him and Chism to establish a friendship. Jeremy saw something in Chism that was different. Sure Chism needed to lose weight, but he was still happy. There was a light in his eyes.

BL 5 contestantsOthers began to see this eclectic gathering as a home away from home. One contestant said, “I could not have made it through this without Mark and Buddy.”

People saw love, grace, and mercy–these other-worldly actions–from Mark, Buddy, and Chism. But the nature of this show was for negative drama to overwhelm the cast. In fact, the producers did what they could to promote it. And when drama would occur during other seasons, the cast was supposed to approach the trainers to vent and gain some sort of support. All in front of the mighty camera.

But not Season 13. Not after the creation of BLURCH. Not after the Great Orchestrator brought together men who loved Him and were willing to give of themselves to others. The Lord delivered to Season 13 two messengers of hope. And because of the work these messengers gave, the producers’ plan for awarding-winning drama was thwarted.

Season 13 contestantsNope. Instead of going to the trainers, the cast went to Mark and Buddy for support. From Mark and Buddy, they received grace, love, and encouragement. They saw mercy and kindness and gentleness. You know…the Fruit of the Spirit. And they wanted more. Amazing, eh?

There was a respect for Mark and Buddy, and it was because of their love. Not for a title of “pastor.”

Heading to the Finish Line

Just as Chism and Jeremy were becoming close friends, Chism was sent home. By this time in the season, Jeremy was left with Mark and Buddy.

Can you imagine? This atheist was now hanging around two pastors. And he seemed to hang onto every word they spoke, too. They lived life together during these months of filming.

Then the Great Orchestrator arranged for a marriage. The groom was Joe who had quit during week 2, so many from the cast and crew attended the ceremony on a Saturday in Michigan. This was also where Buddy pastored his new church plant of 70 people.

The next day was church, and Mark had the privilege of preaching. Except the attendance was 280! Everyone was there as Mark spoke of the life-changing truth that people matter to God. That God was not some kind of kill-joy. That His love for people is unfathomable.

This sermon was orchestrated by…well, you know Who.Mark and Chism with shirts

When Mark was finished, Buddy went up and gave the clear gospel: Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead. Believe in Jesus, and He will give you His everlasting life.

Then Buddy did something familiar to the contestants and to anyone who watches the show.

In giving the invitation, he asked for people who have just trusted in Jesus to stand where they were–just as the contestants would stand on the show.

And one stood. And then another. Then another.

And then, on the second row–in front of all to see–stood one particular young man.

All of Season 13 actually led up to this point. This was the real finale. There might not have been confetti and cameras and cheers. Well, at least not on earth. But this was the climax of the symphony that the Great Orchestrator created. This was why He sent Mark and Buddy and Chism to Season 13. This was worth the tears Cathy Cornelison cried when her husband and son were away.

On the second row of the small auditorium stood someone who had lost 199 pounds yet had gained something else. Something eternal and good.

On the second row stood Jeremy.

No longer an atheist. Now a believer in Jesus Christ.

May 1, 2012

Perhaps you watched the Season Finale where Jeremy became The Biggest Loser. Perhaps you saw what he did just before the cameras ended their filming.

The lights gleamed from above, and the stage was all set. The crowd was wild with cheers of anticipation of who would be this year’s Biggest Loser. Then the contestants, all wearing their Biggest Loser T-shirts, were asked to stand.

Moments later, the winner was decided.

Sprinkles of confetti descended upon the crowd.

Family members and friends rushed the stage. And the winning Loser did something remarkable.

Just before the cameras were cut away from the show, Jeremy pointed to heaven with both hands and smiled in gratitude for what he had gained.

Buddy, Jeremy, and Mark at the Season Finale.

Buddy, Jeremy, and Mark at the Season Finale.

You can connect with Mark on his Facebook page here.

And check out Mark’s new ministry that has come out of his experience. Click here or the pic below to go to SWEATCOR!



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  • If you liked this inspiring story, check out this one about a South American MMA fighter! Pretty cool.Ben Reiter Champ

(4) Comments

  • Sheri M Walling
    02 Feb 2013

    I’ve always liked the Biggest Loser. This story is amazing

    • J. Chad Barrett
      04 Feb 2013

      It is an amazing story, Sheri! Praise God for His mighty works!

  • Angela Barrett
    04 Feb 2013

    CHAD!!! I loved this story. I had no idea…I have not watched the show yet. Thank God for leading men to share the gospel with this young man! Such an inspiring testimony …

    • J. Chad Barrett
      05 Feb 2013

      It is an inspiring story! I love how BLURCH was based off of where the people were in their relationship to God, and not off of a program.

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