Here are four reasons for church leaders to get and stay in shape physically:
1. Getting in Shape Builds Endurance.
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:5)
Ministry is hard. It’s mentally, emotionally, and spiritually taxing. So when you’re physically strong, it enables you to face these challenges with a sharp mind and strong body. There’s something about enduring the hardship of those extra sit-ups that prepares you for the pain you’re going to endure in that extended elders meeting. (And if a rogue elder punches you in the stomach, he’ll hurt his fist when it connects with your rock-hard abs.)
2. Getting in Shape Fuels Spiritual Disciplines.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:23-27)
Guys like Paul and Peter and the other disciples didn’t need to work out. They walked hundreds of miles and ate fish, bread, veggies, and fruit.
But, although he probably didn’t work out personally, Paul seemed to understand the connection between spiritual disciplines and physical ones. This thread of connection reminds us that our bodies do matter. Healthy bodies make for sharper minds. Sharper minds make for better study habits in the Word. Better study habits make for stronger sermons.
There’s a connection. We don’t want to overspiritualize the connection. But we don’t want to underestimate it either.
1 Peter 4:7 reminds us:
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.
It’s easier to be alert as you pray if your heart is strong and your body is healthy. Take it from me—that sweet hour of prayer can turn into a fat nap pretty darn quick if you’re out of shape physically.
3. Getting in Shape Preps You To Fight Temptation.
Satan tempted Jesus when he was at his weakest physically (Matthew 4:1-3). Jesus had just completed a 40-day fast, and Satan attacked when he knew Jesus’s body was worn down. I’m sure he figured that if there was an ideal time to see if he could get Jesus to sin, it was when His body was at its weakest physically.