That Extra Push


Last week I was at the gym with a dear friend who was ministering at our church for a few days.  My friend has been working on his health for more than a year, and gotten quite strong.  Having been on a similar journey myself, I was excited to work out with him and compare routines.

That is, until I saw how much weight he could press.

The first machine he used was a tricep press, and he had it set for 200 pounds.  Get that….  TWO.  HUNDRED.  POUNDS.  This is not a machine that I typically use, so I’m not sure what I would have pressed normally, but I can say with considerable confidence that it would not have been 200 pounds.

Nonetheless, my male ego was determined that I would not be outdone.  So, I sat down at the machine, gazed hesitantly upon the weight settings, and moved the pin to 190 pounds.  I took a deep breath, pressed down on the handles….

And completed three sets of 12 reps!

Here’s what I know:  I would not have attempted that much weight on my own. Why?  Because I was convinced I could not do it.  Had I attempted it, I am sure I would have stopped after five or six reps.  I would have told myself, “See, it’s just too difficult,” and I would have reset the weight to something much more comfortable.

The difference in this particular workout was that I was not alone.  Sure, it may have been my male competitiveness that drove me to push harder, but the fact that someone was there challenging my limitations gave me the necessary motivation to do something I had never done before.

This is exactly why many ministers remain so unhealthy.

Though we are often surrounded by others, ministry tends to be very isolating.  Most ministers have few (if any) friends in whom they can confide when they are hurting or struggling.  Furthermore, many have no one to encourage or coach them as they work to develop new habits to improve their health or productivity.

In my own experience, I have excelled the most when I have brought someone along with me for the ride.

In ministry:  In the first few years after I became a pastor, I had a friend named Glenn that mentored me over the phone.  Once a week, we talked about what was happening in my life, my family, and our church.  He pushed me to take bold steps that I would never have had the courage to take on my own.  He challenged my assumptions and proved to me that I could grow beyond where I was.

In fitness:  When I decided I needed to get serious about my health, I knew if I took the same approach as in my previous failed attempts at losing weight, I would not succeed.  So, I invested in a personal trainer who not only pushed me to work out harder than I ever thought possible, but also taught me a better way to eat and then held me accountable to it.  Forty pounds later, I was a different person!

In my inner life:  During periods of my life where I have struggled emotionally and spiritually, I have visited a Christian counselor and sought advice from close friends that had earned my trust.  Their wisdom and perspective impacted how I perceived my situation, and helped me make wise decisions.

In each of these areas, I reached out to someone who could give me that extra push.

We are not designed to do life alone.  We need one another.

Yes, even ministers need others.

Do you have a goal you are trying to reach?  A hurt you don’t know how to heal?  An obstacle you are struggling to overcome?

Find someone to help.  Find someone that will push you to challenge your limitations, to believe you CAN when you believe you CAN’T.  You will become more and accomplish more than you could ever do alone.

Copyright: jalephoto / 123RF Stock Photo


Be a Healthy Pastor

“The greatest gift you can give your church is to be a healthy pastor.”

Those were the life-changing words a dear friend and professional counselor said to me during a particularly stressful period of my life and ministry.  The rigors of full-time pastoring and its inevitable crises were taking a toll on me emotionally.  Furthermore, I was forty pounds overweight and living largely on fast food and caffeine.  And my spiritual life?  Well… I had allowed the work of the Lord to overshadow the Lord of the work.

Without spouting statistics, let’s just say that ministry can be hazardous to your health.  The To-Do list is never completed.  There is always another sermon to write, call to make, person to counsel, etc.  It becomes all-consuming, unless we intentionally and consistently back away to take care of ourselves and allow the Lord to minister to us.

For many of us, this simply means discipling ourselves to have a quiet time.  Pray more.  Read more.  And that is absolutely vital; we must be spiritually well-nourished to effectively minister to others.

But here is the catch:

We cannot be spiritually healthy without also pursuing emotional and physical health.

God created us as spirit, soul, and body.  We often make the mistake, however, of assuming that these are separate and compartmentalized.  They are not.  Each aspect of our triune nature is interwoven with the other two.  When we are unhealthy physically, it affects our emotional and spiritual health.  Likewise, when we are emotionally unhealthy, our body and spirit also suffer.

So, to fulfill God’s calling and purpose for us long term, we must take care to pursue health holistically.  This means:

We must take care of our bodies.

Like most evangelical and Pentecostal ministers, I have preached that we should stay away from alcohol, nicotine, and any drug or other substance that harms our bodies or creates a dependence.  Of course, after delivering some of these messages, I would go to a fast food restaurant and inhale soft drinks and cheeseburgers like there was no tomorrow!

When I made a decision to lose weight and get healthy in 2009, I knew I would feel better once the weight came off, but I had no idea HOW MUCH better I would feel!  I woke up in the mornings refreshed and full of energy.  I was able to focus clearly on my tasks.  I did not experience the “afternoon slump,” and I did not need caffeine to keep me going all day.  Furthermore, I was able to deal with stress much more effectively.

Sadly, in recent years I have allowed myself to drift back into old habits.  I’ve regained about 15 pounds, and I’ve lost much of the stamina and strength I had developed.  The good news, however, is that I did it once, and I know that I can do it again!  So I’ve hired an amazing physical trainer, started eating healthy once again, and, with God’s grace and a lot of sweat, I will set an example in my physical health.

We must protect our mental and emotional well-being.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of moral failures and even suicides among pastors and other ministers.  Some would cynically assume such ministers were never right with God in the first place and are simply deceivers attempting to build their own kingdom.  In truth, however, most of these are sincere leaders who lose their way because they are completely spent emotionally and mentally.

It can happen to any of us.  First Corinthians 10:12 tells us, “…if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (NIV).  When we are emotionally spent, we make poor decisions.  When we are hurting, we wrestle with temptations that we normally would never consider, simply to escape the pain, even if only temporarily.

That is why it is absolutely vital that ministers take sabbath days.  Someone once told me, “Well, the devil doesn’t take a day off, so why should I?”  I responded, “The devil isn’t your role model!”   Jesus took time to rest, and my friend, we are no better than He.

An emotionally and physically healthy minister can run and finish the race well.

When I was a teenager, I could actually run pretty fast.  I thought I could run cross-country easily.  I quickly discovered that I did not have the ability to endure over distance.  I would burn up my energy by running too fast in the beginning.  Only when I paced myself could I endure.

So it is with ministry.  The race we are called to run is a marathon, not a sprint.  If we push too hard out of the gate, we will not have the ability to maintain over the long road ahead.

I want to finish well.  That is why I have created this blog.  Let’s take a journey toward total health together, so that we will be FIT TO SERVE in the Lord’s kingdom and finish our race well.

Copyright: paktaotik2 / 123RF Stock Photo