The Theology of Fitness

November 29th, 2016

Ministry has a serious problem: fitness, or actually the lack-there-of.

Ministry has become one of the least healthy professions in the country based on obesity rates, depression statistics, and overall poor health. Too many ministry leaders are dying early from issues that find their root cause as a lack of physical fitness.

The Bible describes a “theology of fitness” of sorts. First, it is a sinful abuse of our bodies to destroy them physically or allow them to waste away. Also, treating our bodies well is seen as an honor to God.

The Greco-Roman culture of Paul’s day was obsessed with the human body and physical conditioning. Just look at the amazing art created during that time period and it will be glaringly obvious. So, when Paul writes letters to churches that have been planted in this culture, he speaks into that fascination by using illustrations based upon athletics and the use (or abuse) of one’s body.

Specifically, in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul alludes to seeing your body as a place or instrument of worship. He says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.” Despite the context of the verse as one of warning against sexual sin, a broader truth is revealed that there is an expectation that you will use your body in worship, rather than in the desecration of the name of Jesus.

The simple truth is this: What we do with our bodies, what we put into our bodies and how we treat our bodies matters. It matters to God, it matters to our ministries and it should matter to us.

Allow me to make this practical with a few applications.

Discipline breeds Discipline

I have found that in my own life when I am disciplined in physical training, I become much more disciplined in every other area as well. Most of us are tempted to go through each day, taking each hour as it comes, without much thought. Discipline means living each hour intentionally. If you wake up with intentionality, you are much more likely to continue that trend all day, thus being much more productive and becoming healthier physically and spiritually. Discipline breeds discipline. You end up developing a mindset that causes you to manage time more effectively, and get the most out of each day.

Hard Work Pays Off

Ministry is a grind. Frankly, some of the things that ministry leaders are asked to do are not fun at all and bare little resemblance to anything that might be called “ministry.” Physical training and exercise help us to understand the Biblical concept of delayed gratification. Not everything we do in ministry is going to produce quick fruit, nor does exercising for one day show immediate results. Both of these things require a season of hard work in order to see any results, but hard work does pay off. If nothing else, fitness shows us how to have a more positive attitude towards the difficulties of life in ministry.

Look Good, Feel Good, Play Good

This was a motto from one of my high school football coaches. He was addressing issues of how we were supposed to dress and carry ourselves, but the concept applies to every aspect of life. When you become more physically fit, you automatically begin to feel better and more body positive. When you feel better you can “play better,” meaning that you will have the energy to do ministry. This is especially important for student leaders because it means much more to them that you are able to participate WITH them in games or activities rather than simply watch from afar.

Physical fitness does not mean long hours in the gym, expensive health club memberships or the extreme world of CrossFit. It can begin with a walk with the family in the park, a bike ride or a basketball game. Whatever you can do to make fitness fun for you is the key. Your body is a temple, it’s time to worship.

Joseph Fowler has a passion for leading the next generation of the Church, and reaching those who are far from God. He’s a sports fanatic, outdoorsman, pop culture connoisseur, and gamer. Find Joseph on Twitter @THEJOSEPHFOWLER, FACEBOOK, and INSTAGRAM.


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