In continuing our study on health body, healthy church we will take time today to look at three healthy practices: Exercise, Rest and Nutrition. These practices are not only beneficial to the body, but also the church. Are you that person who sits on the couch and does nothing? Are you that person who sits on the pew and does nothing?
1 Timothy 4.8: “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
NEED 1: EXERCISE
There are five things that exercise does for your body and the church. We know what physical exercise is for the body, but the church (and the church body) needs to practice spiritual exercise daily, not just on Sunday.
1. It Can Make You Feel Happier
Exercise has been shown to improve your mood and decrease feelings of depression, anxiety and stress. It produces changes in the parts of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety. It can also increase brain sensitivity which relieves feelings of depression.
A happy church is a healthy church. Don’t you want to be happy and the people around you to be happy? Think about seeing people in the congregation with smiles and a more content look.
2. It Is Good for Your Muscles and Bones
Exercise plays a vital role in building and maintaining strong muscles and bones. Muscles and bones are the foundation of the body.
A church with a strong foundation of muscle and bone is a healthy church. Parts of the church body are the bones which help to form the structure and other parts of the church body are the muscles who do the work to aide in the movement of the body.
3. It Can Increase Your Energy Levels
Exercise can be a real energy booster for healthy people, as well as those suffering from various medical conditions. Studies have found that six weeks of regular exercise reduced feelings of fatigue.
A church that lacks energy slows down, movement becomes harder, and the church fails to grow. Churches that exercise in bursts aren’t as effective. Spiritual exercise (just like bodily exercise) must be constant so that over time it becomes easier.
4. It Can Help Your Brain Health and Memory
Exercise can improve brain function and protect memory and thinking skills. To begin with, it increases your heart rate, which promotes the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain.
Who is the brain of the church? Studies have shown that reflective and contemplative spiritual practices grow several parts of your brain. A symptom of weak churches seems to be a slow heart rate. We have heard it said that church problems are not a head issue but a heart issue. Going to church is good for the brain and the heart.
5. It can help you relax.
Regular exercise can help you relax.
The church also needs that time to relax, which bring us to REST.
NEED 2: REST
Few people will argue that church attendance in many churches in America is declining. Most of us have our own ideas why attendance is declining. Some feel the heart of the problem is not declining numbers, but commitment.
Church volunteer burnout is a major problem throughout the church body, and it seems to be growing. The burnout is more psychological and emotional than physical. Burnout results from prolonged stress, overextension, and hurriedness. The nervous system gets stretched until it loses its resiliency and renewal capacity.
It’s easier to avoid burnout in the first place than it is to overcome it.
Take time to rest. It’s God’s way of sustaining us for the long haul. It helps to heal a tired rundown body.
In church, we need to sometimes just step back and relax with God. This past week in my chaplain email I spoke on the practice of coffee breaks. Businesses know that employees need time during the day to rest (coffee break). Take time in your church duties to rest.
Pray for your ministry responsibilities. Let God perform the work, using His strength and perfect wisdom. Don’t try to do it all. If God places you in a position, he will provide the means to complete your responsibilities.
Give something up before taking on a new commitment or responsibility. Multi-tasking is something many of us have mastered. Even the best of multi-taskers reach that point where they have taken on too much. Don’t keep “adding floors” onto your already towering skyscraper of activities.
Learn to say, “No,” and to set up reasonable boundaries around your involvement. When people ask you to do something, or they look to you to accomplish their ideas, specify the help you’ll need and the constraints on your time. This is true, not only in your personal life, but also in your church life. You don’t have to do it all.
Set priorities and consult with your family. I have told all of my officers and the law enforcement students at the academy that law enforcement is a way of life that controls your life. It is up to you to make sure this life has a balance.
Church work occupies an essential role in our lives but must never take priority over family.
Look for ways to team up with your spouse in ministry activities. Be willing to occasionally say, “No,” to low priority church activities when they conflict with important family time.
Emphasize grace over works. We don’t earn God’s blessings by the amount of church work we do. God wants us to lead healthy, balanced lives where our ministry service is a joy and source of deep personal fulfillment.
In the absence of such joy, our work life and our ministry turns into burden and burnout.
Jesus knew of the burden of burnout. His words in Matthew 11:28-30 are extremely comforting: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
NEED 3: NUTRITION
Eating a healthy, balanced diet plays an essential role in maintaining overall good health. We all eat, but we must try to eat properly.
Being overweight can lead to health conditions such as, Type-2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Vitamins help your body use energy from the food you eat. Minerals are chemical elements that help regulate your body’s processes. Potassium, for example, helps your nerves and muscles function. Calcium helps your teeth and bones stay strong.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
1 Corinthians 9:27 says: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Some of you may or may not know, but I have lost 50 pounds since September of last year. By changing my eating habits, I have been able to make my body slimmer and healthier.
Just as the physical body needs good nutrition, so does the church body.
Often I have heard people say as they leave church, “Well, I was not fed today. I come to church to be fed and that pastor just does not feed me.”
I hate to break the bad news but your church is not supposed to “feed” you. You are not to come to church to be fed.
This may come as a shock, but people pick a church like they pick a restaurant. One that dishes up what they like and are in the mood for on a steaming plate set before you. One with a pleasant atmosphere, where they can sit, and converse with friends.
Then you sit in judgment. “That was good this week.” Or perhaps, “That sermon was a little mushy, and cold, like overcooked broccoli.”
You tip if the service was good and expect to go home full. You complain and tell all if the service was not up to the standard that you set or expected.
The man in front of you is your pastor not your waiter.
The term “pastor” is from the Greek word for “shepherd.” I tell you the shepherd’s job is to protect sheep. He is to drive them to the pasture and to the clear, clean water.
The sheep eat for themselves. The shepherd does not hold the grass so the sheep can eat it only when served to them by the shepherd. Just in case you did not know sheep eat everyday not just one day a week.
The legitimate role for pastors is found in Ephesians 4. Pastors have been given their gifts “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” God’s purpose in the giving of all of these gifted “apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers” is to EQUIP YOU “for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
When you come to church, rather than being a passive recipient of the meal, leave and share its gifts with one another. Invite others to come and also enjoy the table that Jesus has spread for you.
Friends, stop asking your church to feed you. Ask your church to equip you.
The church isn’t supposed to be a restaurant with waiters that serve us and cater to our every need. It is supposed to be culinary school.
I want you to think about what culinary school does. It does not feed the students, it gives them tools, knowledge, practice, confidence and helps them find a job cooking in the real world.
I hope this shows a different way to see the church, and your pastor.
One way will make you fat and passive. The other way will change you, your church and the world as you serve it, adding flavor and taste to those around you.
Remember that we all need to work hard to build a healthy body, it does not come easy. It takes time and commitment.
What are you willing to do to help make the church healthy?
Do you want to be that couch and pew potato?
Or do you want to be that fitness coach to help build a stronger healthier body?