The Big F word

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You may have noticed as you look around, but the world is getting bigger!
Now I know this blog my not go down very well with some people, but thats because there is one issue we feel the Church must not mention. First of all please be aware that this blog is written by someone who daily faces a challenge and so is filled with empathy and I hope grace. The unmentionable issue isn’t, sexuality, women bishops, war, politics, money, but obesity… Obesity is a ‘growing’ concern in our nation. And, few in the church have bothered with the issue or even seen it as a problem. We have no problem addressing issues, but seldom do we approach this one. Yet, in my opinion, and experience, how I feel physically almost always impacts my spiritual life and I’m aware that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. At one point my temple had become a Mega Church!

Being the leader of a ‘New Church’ I’m aware that we have tended to see ourselves as influences for the good in our communities. Often we have been counterculture; holding an awareness that we are “in the world, not of it”. We anticipate being different and understand that we are called to lead. Churches are very often at the forefront of change impacting and influencing lives and institutions through our contrasting values to money, family, society and justice. Yet on this matter of health we have been silent.

In the book of Joshua, Caleb was 85 years old and “just as strong” as he was decades earlier. He was still ready to press on. Now that sounds like a better concept than retiring and waiting to fade away! Should I, as church leader/pastor take care of the body God has given me. And, as a leader/pastor, should I encourage and lead my church in a vision for soul, mind and body?

I Have to be honest this is a brand new thought, but when, 3 years ago, I read that 75-80% of all church pastors were obese I decided it was a gang I didn’t want to belong to! Some years after stepping away from an engineering job and becoming a church leader I began to realise the chocolate pleasure had become a chocolate impairment. Approaching 50 years old and a mid life crisis probably contributed to the internal dialogue, but the scales were the loudest voice. they had crept to 15-16-17-18 and almost 19 stones in successive years. I wasn’t obese I was a FAT BLOKE! It didn’t take long to realize that my new physical form was impacting me in every way. I have to say I was feeling rather hypocritical standing in front of a congregation and encouraging them to overcome when I couldn’t overcome a bag of Malteasers! I was beginning to have an addiction that is socially acceptable.

Since that time I have disciplined myself to be healthier. I have experienced remarkable difference. At 50 years of age, I feel better and am more productive now than I was in my mid-thirties. I have never taken part in any form of sport, but now I run, at first only to the next lamp post, but now marathons! Best of all when I run my mind clears, I pray, meditate, strategise and plan in complete freedom even though from time to time in my mind is that bag of Malteasers…

Here are some ways not being overweight and running helps my whole life—not just my physical life but my spiritual life most of all.

My mental capacity increases.
I can focus better when I’m in better physical shape. In fact, if I want to work or pray on an issue I run. I don’t know why, but it works and I understand that scientists can prove it.
I have more energy. I am in ministry, but there is no question that my work can be very demanding and I want to be physically fit enough to keep going and be an example to those who are being lead. Kingdom work is too important not to give it every ounce of energy we can muster. Exercise energizes me to be more productive.

I am more disciplined.
Discipline leads to more discipline. When I am disciplined in my physical life life it is emulated in my spiritual life. I am most disciplined with my personal devotion time, my pastoral studies, and my development as a Christian leader when I am disciplined in my physical training.

Sleep.
Some people don’t need this, but I am wired to need lots. I have a brain that doesn’t like stopping. This is a problem because I own every issue and pressure and concern very personally. In truth I’m an introvert who just wants a quiet life, but thats not the one I have.

I would always be stressing unless I made myself rest. Exercise does certain things for me. It makes me more tired in a physical way that we are designed for and many of us don’t get and this is a good kind of tired far better than just slopping up late and suffering TV tired. I also have a more balanced outlook on life. When I am exercising I can’t be checking emails or using social media as easily. I have to unplug and step back. I feel more peaceful.

Other tasks seem lighter – After I’ve pushed my body to an extreme, the other strenuous parts of my day have less impact. I’m more fit for the journey. I tire less, and I excel more. I’m more prepared for the Kingdom opportunities God brings my way when I’m in the best physical shape I can be.

Whenever I talk about the importance of physical fitness as a pastor, I’m always reminded that there are more important emotional and spiritual issues in people lives. Absolutely with No argument. Paul said it like this, “for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way…” (1 Timothy 4:8,). The problem is when we don’t recognize the limited benefit. Fix the small things and the big things often don’t happen. Its a kind of zero tolerance approach.

Let me finish with this thought. Try it out or challenge me. Spend some time addressing the physical needs in your life for a time long enough to make a difference. Try it for say 40 days. Then you decide if its worth making a permanent lifestyle change of your own. I am confident you will find it well worth the time and effort you put into it no matter what you conclude.

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