Fit for Ministry


Confession time: I’m 61, a pastor, and I hate intentional exercise! I love exercise that I do not know about. The kind when you just wake up sore the next day and scratch your head thinking—gee, I wonder why I’m so sore? The idea of planning time to go drive somewhere, get into a smelly locker room, get into shorts and sneakers, walk, lift, run, sweat, drink water, back into a smelly locker room, hot, sweating, take a shower and get dressed (a second time now, because I was showered and dressed before I got to my place of exercise) just does not ring my chime. But that’s not all. At the same time, eating habits have to change.

And, everything I used to like to eat had too much fat in it. No matter what I named, Marcy told me it had way too much fat in it. Or too many calories. Of course, those things that I could eat plenty of, rabbits and woodchucks ate.

But about two years ago now, the Lord pointed it out in vivid, unmistakable terms that I was not “fit” for ministry. If revival broke out I would not withstand the rigors of long hours, intense discipleship sessions, leadership coaching, or protracted meetings.

As a pastor, I spent many hours daily sitting–at my desk, in my cars, in waiting rooms, and in homes and businesses. I became convinced that I needed to get hold of my lifestyle and habits or I would continue to be unfit for ministry. Have you ever thought that the revival you’re praying for might not be poured out because you’re unfit and would not survive it? (Just kidding! Don’t go on a guilt-trip here.)

Granted the Apostle Paul said that godliness is the ultimate fitness, nonetheless, he DID say that physical fitness had some benefits. So . . . how did I get started exercising.

First, I confessed my failure to maintain the temple. We all know that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit? My lethargy and physical laxity was sin. Of course, my wife reminded me regularly. I remember thinking: exercise, health-food, that’s just Marcy’s thing. I therefore simply acknowledged it and turned, right? NO! I tried every way I could to get out from under the need to turn, to change. One day, I was praying and the Lord presented this topic to my mind again. I thought Well Lord, when You tell me to, I’ll exercise.

What I did not expect was the answer I heard in my mind: I already did tell you.

When?

There was a long pause. Then I heard Marcy’s voice again in my mind. “You know honey, you need to get some exercise today. You’ve really been sitting a while. I want you around for a few years.”

David, I speak through your wife more than you care to acknowledge.

Ouch!

Second, I asked God to give me the will and motivation to change BOTH my eating and exercise patterns. This didn’t really happen right away. No, instead we got a diagnosis on Marcy. She had breast-cancer. We began to research and pray. The Lord led us to drastically change our eating choices. We needed to strengthen her immune system (the only system God created to heal the body). I wish I could say that I simply CHOSE to eat better. But what really happened was the God had to give me the grace to eat the things that would make us more healthy. I truly could not have given up my ice cream or steak or meats without his grace. And now, we meet people all the time who given the choice between bad health controlled by medications or health supported by healthy choices in food, they choose medicine, doctors, and hospitals (in the form of high-fat, low nutrient foods). I almost couldn’t believe my ears when a mother wanted prayer for her son who suffered from many conditions that could have disappeared completely by going off dairy and meats, but she said she could never do that. WOW!!! Amazing!

Marcy and I have adopted what we see as a biblical menu. We eat vegetables, fruits, and grains. We both include wild fish and I include some lamb (on occasion). By the way, this doesn’t mean that if you aren’t eating as we are that you are on an un-biblical menu. What it means for us is that we have adopted a biblical precedent and example to follow for us (Gen.1:29; Dan. 1:8-16). As far as God is concerned, He gives freedom in the area of eating, however I believe that he had an ORIGINAL intent (Gen.1:29–though I concede that he permits exception following banishment from Eden). So Marcy and I thought, what if eating the way God originally intended could improve our health and well-being. We decided that we at least needed to try if we were going to strengthen her immune system and restore health to us both.

Third, I joined a fitness club. [If you can’t afford it, ask the church to invest in your health in that way (if you’re too timid to ask, email me and I’ll ask for you)]. Make sure the club offers FREE coaching. My trainer taught me a couple of GREAT things: 1. Get started on a walker and on simple routines that build the bigger leg muscles first. 2. DO NOT DO EXCERCISES THAT YOU HATE!! I hate sit-ups? I don’t do them. I enjoy walking and hiking. So that is what I do, either on a treadmill or outside where you can focus on the beauty instead of the pain. Do those exercises and use those machines that you enjoy–did I say “enjoy?” Sorry.  3. Be consistent. I’m still working on this. Honestly, I still work on getting started at all. But I do more now than before. I’m asking for God’s grace. The same grace he gave me to eliminate dairy, meats, and unhealthy foods from my menu. We need people praying for and with us about this. 4. Exercise with someone. It’s always easier to keep up a regime if you know someone else is doing it with you. You can’t find anyone in your circle of pastors or friends? Then join with me in your imagination. Let’s work together to get “fit for ministry.”

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2 responses

  1. I am glad I found you! I believe 100% in what you are saying here. How can we get the word out? Here’s my story: I became a “Lay Supply Pastor” in the United Methodist Church July 1, 2010, but before that I was working on becoming a pastor and asking for an appointment. About April of 2010, God told me that I needed to “get fit for ministry” (His exact words, if you believe that God speaks to us) – and so I joined Weight Watchers. The pounds started shedding as I changed my diet. Then WW had a “Walk-It” challenge, and I prepared to walk a 5K. Walking (with Christian music) became not only my time with God in the a.m. but it gave me energy, balance, and a clearer head (thought processes, not sinuses), and I just loved how I felt. When winter came, I knew that I couldn’t stop exercising outside, and there is no place in my home for a treadmill (and the nearest gym is an hour away) so I ordered the Zumba DVDs in November. I am hooked on Zumba because it not only provides exercise, but it also strengthens and tones the muscles. Now, after losing 65 lbs, and 10 dress sizes, I walked the stage at our VA Annual Conference to become licensed as a Local Pastor in the United Methodist Church last Friday (in a robe cut for women which showed that I do have a waist). I am returning to the same church that I served last year as a part time local pastor, but now after being licensed, with the authority to serve communion, baptize and perform weddings. At Conference I saw SOOOOO MANY pastors that are anywhere from 10-200lb over weight. They huffed and puffed to climb the stairs of the Roanoke Civic Center, and some couldn’t fit in the seats. It bothered me so much that I searched for “fit for ministry” today so that I could see if anyone else shared the passion for pastors to be fit and see if anyone had any ideas on how to get other pastors up off of their well padded pews and realize that not only does God want us to be fit, but that it is hurting our witness when we are unhealthy. Any ideas about how to get the word out???
    Blessings,
    Deb Washer

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    1. I think we just did! Feel free to share the link to this post on your FB, Twitter, or blog. if you don’t have one check out this helpful post: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/6-reasons-pastors-should-blog

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