The Preacher and His HealthJuly 3, 2013
“Why are we discussing this?” I thought, “This subject is supposed to be about preaching, not dieting.” My pastoral theology class in Bible College was full of practical information, but in my early twenties I thought the section on physical health was irrelevant. I was eager to learn ministry, preaching skills, church growth, leadership qualities…but exercising? Not so much.
One of the text books, Shepherding God’s Flock, by Jay Adams accentuated the need for good physical health in the pastorate. Adams contended, “To sustain such a vigorous and exhaustive pace as the ministry requires, one must develop both the concern and ability to care for his physical welfare, and a body that has been disciplined and trained to meet demands.”
With no ministerial experience, except for occasional preaching appointments, I had no idea what Adams meant when he said “vigorous and exhaustive pace” of ministry. Furthermore, I was in the best physical shape of my life and could not image a time in which this would be pertinent. But life has a way of bringing truth full circle. Seasons pass, muscles weaken, and time marches on…before you know it, you are digging through your library of pastoral theology books trying to find some advice on physical health (while breathing heavily I may add).
The older I get, and the more involved in ministry I become, the more I realize the meaning of “vigorous and exhaustive pace.” More importantly, I better understand the responsibility I have as a steward to care for the “temple of God.” Adams is again helpful by pointing out, “At the very least, one must agree that the minister, who is to be an example in all things, must lead his flock in demonstrating how to care for the temple of the Holy Spirit.”
I certainly advocate godliness above all things. Even as Paul declared, “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” But we must not take that verse out of context. This is not a free pass to plop down on the couch without ever giving thought to your health. Paul was not trying to disqualify the benefits of exercise as much as he was trying to accentuate the need for holiness. I would contend there is a strong correlation between holiness and wholeness of mind, soul, AND body.
When we make poor life and health choices it DOES affect our ministry. I find it difficult to start the day with zeal and passion when I only get a few hours sleep. I find myself sluggish and tired when I overeat at the Hibachi grill. I find myself fatigued and ornery when I go non-stop without pacing myself. God has called us to do the work of the ministry by the power of the Holy Spirit, but the flesh does come along for the ride.
I am discovering more and more the benefits of good health as it relates to ministry:
1. It affords me time with God in prayer, meditation, and worship as I exercise
2. It helps my attitude and my overall disposition
3. It gives me more strength and endurance while I preach
4. It gives me more stamina while I care for the flock of God and fulfill my obligations
5. It gives more structure and discipline to my life
6. It reminds me that my body is indeed the Temple of the Holy Ghost
7. It allows me to be a more complete example to the flock of God
8. It increases my chance for a longer life, which in turn, increases my opportunities for ministry
9. It helps me focus better while in the study
10. It glorifies and honors God
Preacher, it is one thing to have a vision, it is another thing to have the vitality needed to sustain that vision. I want to see big things unfold in my ministry, life, and family; therefore, I must ensure I will be there when it happens. Eat an occassional salad, do a few more sit-ups, go to bed a little earlier, drop a few pounds, and honor the body Christ has entrusted to you. As Mickey Mantle said, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d taken better care of myself.”
Now that was exhausting…