“[God] likes matter. He invented it.”
–C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.
Do you want to be a better leader? Then you need to get healthy. I’m not talking about getting spiritually healthy. I’m talking about getting physically healthy. The benefits of physical activity are enormous. You feel better. You have more energy. You can lead better.
God is concerned about our physical bodies. Paul sees some value in physical exercise and training (1 Timothy 4:8). How we use our body matters to God, especially sexually (1 Corinthians 6:18). Most importantly, God calls Christians to glorify Him with our physical bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God gave us our body as a good gift. We are supposed to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us.
There are many reasons why pastors could fall into being unhealthy. Some conditions are also outside of their control. Many pastors, however, do not steward their physical body like they should. Consequently, they do not have the physical stamina and energy to lead as well as they could.
How do we get (physically) healthy?
I’m no health expert, but getting healthy is largely common sense. What did your mom always tell you? Eat your vegetables. Play outside. Be active. Most simply, it means eating healthy food and exercising regularly. Simple, yet difficult.
You might think you don’t have time: “How could I ever go to the gym, finish my sermon, AND take care of my family?” None of us have enough time. Life is too complex and busy. To have the time, you must make time for your priorities, including physical health. If your schedule is too crazy, check this out for help.
Maybe you feel like you don’t know where to start. Again, I’m no fitness or health expert (!) but I’ve found the following guidelines helpful as I’ve gone from being a largely sedentary seminary student to a fairly active pastor with two young kids. Here are my suggestions:
Eat Real Food
If it looks like God made it, then eat it. Don’t worry so much about cutting back the amount you’re eating (although that may have to happen too), but focus on changing what you’re eating. Load up on fruits and vegetables. Drink a ton of water. Skip the soda and the McDonald’s.
Make Working Out Hurt…Financially
Many people think that they can commit to working out at home for free. I am a firm believer in total depravity, however. The human heart is deceitful… especially when it comes to working out! Unless you have some financial skin in the game, you probably won’t be committed. Don’t want to waste your money? Go to the gym and get your money’s worth.
Sweat When You Workout
My wife has a theory: If you’re not sweating, you’re not working hard enough at the gym. After trying to get in shape the last two years, I’m totally convinced of her theory. You need to STRESS your body to get fit.
Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.
Remember the Goal: Gospel Ministry
The goal is not to “look good” or gain attention. The goal is to have more energy so you can concentrate longer and thus write better sermons. The goal is to have more energy so you can go home to your kids after a long day at the church and not be totally exhausted. The goal is to keep yourself working as much as possible and not be sidelined with needless sickness. The goal is to be a good steward of your body so you can do the most and best gospel ministry possible.
How Are You Getting and Staying Healthy?
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