External Health: Exercise

Of witness and fitness

When planting a church, fitness doesn’t tend to show up on the priority list. You can’t find it with a microscope among most planters’ needs. Not to mention that it’s a topic we really don’t like to discuss in Christendom at all.

The theology of physical health has a spectrum and most of us live at the poles. At one end, we quote the Apostle Paul, “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way.” (1 Tim. 4:8a, ESV) At the other pole, we quote (oddly enough) St. Paul once again, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1 Cor. 6:19, ESV).

When it comes to physical health, we tend to have two groups that I’ll call “obsessers” and “avoiders.”

The obsessers are those people who have to work out on a stringent routine (if you don’t you get crabby), take daily handfuls of vitamins and supplements, spend lots of money on how they look, and inordinate amounts of time analyzing in front of the mirror. Now the avoiders struggle as well – too many energy drinks, nighttime binges, and trips to Krispy Kreme when the hot light is on. And your doctor has warned you…your wife has warned you…your husband drops hints…you have bought numerous pieces of exercise equipment that become great places to hang your dry cleaning or you drink Diet Coke solely because of the word “diet.”

Is there any middle ground?

Is fitness even worth thinking about as you prepare to launch a church that will impact the world? I think it is.  Here’s a perspective to consider: our bodies will never be perfected (just look in the mirror, but not too long!) but our bodies should not be neglected either.

God has given us each a measure of physical health as a gift. Like other gifts that God gives to us, we should be good stewards.

I don’t think that God is going to make us step onto some Heavenly version of the Biggest Loser scales, when we meet Him in eternity. At the same time, God has given each of us a measure of physical health…a measure for which we should be grateful and steward well. We all respond differently to diet and exercise. Like you, I have friends who say the word “diet” and lose 10 pounds overnight. And then, I have friends who struggle to see results, even when they make significant health changes.

Make a plan

As a church planter, I have found that having a food/exercise plan spills over into other life disciplines in a healthy way. Maybe evangelism is the best example for me. I have a group of 8-12 guys that I have worked out with for a little over two years. Only two or three of them attend our church. These guys have become friends. I’ve been involved in some of their mountain top moments, their valley moments, and watching some of them consider God more.

Church planting will push most of us towards sitting in front of a computer screen a lot. It will take effort to break that cycle. It’s another opportunity for us to apply the Gospel to our lives. Our physical bodies are subject to decay because of the fall (Rom. 8:20), so don’t build your identity on your jeans size. However, because of the Cross and the Resurrection we will brought into freedom (Rom. 8:21) as just another example of God’s goodness to us.

Don’t become an obsesser or an avoider. Be a good steward of the measure of physical health you have. Avoid comparing, critiquing, and complaining as much as possible. Find a group, if you can. Ask God to multiply your influence among those people.

Your body will not be perfected this side of Heaven, but it shouldn’t be neglected either. Enjoy the gift that God has given to you.

Published July 21, 2015