Physical Health In Ministry
Imagine with me for a moment.
You are part of a leadership team of a church that is planning on constructing a brand new worship sanctuary. You have carefully interviewed and hired an architecture firm and worked thousands of hours by sitting in planning meetings, looking at revisions in plans, working out financial details and hiring out contractors to build your new building.
Then you spend the next 8 months to a year watching it all come together and doing walk throughs to make sure that the workmanship is well done and safe. After years of talking and dreaming about how to make this vision a reality it is finally finished.
The grand opening Sunday comes and as people enter the new sanctuary a wave of shock overcomes everybody.
It has been vandalized the night before!
The new chairs have been ripped to shreds with knives. The walls have been spray painted with things you’d never want your grandma to hear. The sound system has been cranked and the speakers are all blown and the soundboard is fried. There’s scraps of food scattered everywhere and a horrible smell is coming from somewhere.
Wouldn’t you be horrified? Wouldn’t you be absolutely livid and want to see somebody come to justice and pay for doing such a awful thing? Wouldn’t you be embarrassed for the congregation to see such a thing?
This is my own elaboration on an illustration given by Marva Dawn in her book The Sense of The Call. She talks about how our bodies are temples and should be cared for as precious to God and useful for his purposes.
This particular illustration hit me pretty hard! I’m a follower of Jesus, a husband and a father. I’m in my mid thirties and had noticed my temple was in pretty sad shape. God had given me an amazing gift in a healthy body when I was born and I had not cared for it well.
Genetics makes me stalky and prone to obesity. There is a wicked sweet tooth that runs through at least a couple of generations. I had let my ministry and family schedule leave absolutely no time for physical exercise. By the way, anytime I met someone it was usually over a million calorie mocha at Starbucks or at some restaurant eating something with a lot of bacon.
The condition of our bodies affect our attitudes, health, energy, souls and a ton of other things.
Something had to change. So I joined a local Crossfit club. I know the reputation that it has for being cultish and that people who do Crossfit tend to talk about it ad nauseam.
So I’m only going to talk about how developing a habit of physical discipline and health can lead to more effective ministry.
- It’s a key to long term ministry. I have personally watched some incredible people of God that have become almost completely immobilized by excessive weight. It was heartbreaking because in their later years they desperately wanted to be able to travel, work and meet with others but were physically unable to. Prolonged lack of exercise and poor eating habits accumulate and make effective ministry later in life significantly less possible. This does not mean we won’t have physical problems as we age. Marva Dawn herself suffers from numerous disabilities but speaks of doing everything in her power to care for her body so that she can continue effectively ministering for as long as possible. However, as much as possible, if we are able to keep from causing those problems we should do everything we can to prevent them. Lack of exercise and poor eating habits accumulate and make effective ministry less possible. Click To Tweet
- It’s counter-cultural. Our culture is either narcissistic and overly concerned with image or it’s apathetic and prone to treating things as disposable. When we view our bodies as temples that are created, shaped and redeemed by God we are less likely to use it up and trash it. Instead we become stewards of the only body that we have and treat it as a valuable resource. When we see our bodies as gifts to be used for ministry we become less interested in mere image and more passionate about using our our entire body for service. When we view our bodies as temples we are less likely to use it up and trash it. Click To Tweet
- It’s cheaper than the alternative. With the cost of health care continuing to become a burden for people and employers they will either charge you a higher insurance premium if you are overweight or not hire you at all. (Although no one will ever say that because it’s illegal. Discrimination based on weight is horrible but it is real.) Often smaller churches are not able to offer health insurance and those that do will find themselves in a difficult spot when weight related health conditions cause the entire organizations’ premiums going up. It is not only good stewardship of your own temple but also of the churches finances to not cost them excessive amounts of money for insurance due to poor decisions regarding our health. Stewardship of our bodies is also a good way to honor the finances of the church you serve. Click To Tweet
- It’s more believable. First let me give a disclaimer. We must never jump to conclusions about a person and obesity in regards to sin. There are a lot of people with medical conditions that lead to problems with weight that are in no way related to sinful behavior. On the other hand, we must ask whether the health of our bodies presents a message that is consistent with the gospel. If we say that Jesus satisfies every need but are binge eating we need to pause. If we tell those struggling with alcohol that they have an idol in their life but think nothing of the years worth of unhealthy fast food we put in our bodies we need to take a moment. If we stand on stage and say that being in a relationship with Christ changes everything then we need to see if our bodies tell the same story. When we care for our bodies then we can speak with a clear conscience about submitting “all” of our lives to christ including our eating and drinking, our resting, working and working out. we must ask whether the health of our bodies presents a message that is consistent with the gospel. Click To Tweet If we say that Christ changes everything then we need to see if our bodies tell the same story. Click To Tweet
Ultimately we will stand before God and give an account for the way we used everything given to us, including our bodies. Until that day I hope to care for my temple in a way that let’s me maximize the days of life on this earth for effective ministry and as a picture of how Christ changes all of our priorities, even what we eat, drink and do to practice physical discipline through exercise.