“physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” – 1 timothy 4.8
“they don’t hide out in a fancy building and just play church once a week. they pursue relationships with other real people, and they are relentless in their efforts to influence their environments by living lives of high integrity, morals and values – every day, everywhere. and if you ask them why they behave this way, they’ll tell you: they follow Jesus. – from the Threshold vision statement
a month ago, reggie became my trainer.
for years, i had been in and out of the gym, never making much of a commitment to it, and never really seeing much in the way of results. i knew the basics, but lacked the determination. i decided this time would be different.
it’s different alright.
reggie is 28. he was a multi-sport athlete in college and has played professional baseball and football. he is athletic, knowledgeable, and definitely in shape. twice a week we meet in the gym for an hour. he works every muscle i have at an intense level until i am exhausted. once a week, we meet on an athletic field where he runs my butt off for about 90 minutes. three other days a week, he insists i do push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2-3 mile run. this dude is intense. but even more importantly, he’s a friend.
over the past few weeks, i have drawn some specific parallels between the gym and the church, physical training and spiritual. paul wrote to timothy in the first century to tell him that while being in shape physically was important (and it is), being in shape spiritually trumps that. and in our Threshold vision statement, it makes the point that if our only spiritual activity is on sunday mornings, then we are just playing church. what good is that?
physical conditioning is for the sake of the body. your body.
spiritual conditioning is also for the sake of the body. the body of Christ. the church. in other words, the health of Threshold depends on you being in good condition spiritually.
i want to share a few parallels between physical and spiritual training that i have discovered, and ask that you give serious thought to getting in better spiritual condition.
1. accountability. reggie expects me to show up. we have a standing appointment three days a week, and he expects me to be there. if i didn’t show up, i would be stealing from him, since his time is valuable. knowing this means i make sure i show up. and for me, showing up is most of the battle. if you are gonna get in shape spiritually, you need someone else. you need accountability. this isn’t just about learning new things from the bible. you can do that alone. spiritual conditioning is about bringing your entire life under the lordship of Christ. being accountable to other strong believers is the absolute best way to do this. who are you accountable to? your cellmates are a good place to begin. get in a cell, but that cell needs to be committed to working hard and to holding every member to the highest Christlike standards.
2. expertise. this one flows from the first one. i can go to the gym with some other jacklegs, but i won’t get any more fit. if none of us knows what we’re doing, we’re just hanging out, playing gym, but not growing. i meet with reggie because i know he knows what he’s doing. and here’s the key: he’s doing it himself! he’s an athlete. he knows the human body and he knows his way around the gym. the first day we talked, he asked me about my goals. he said, “what do you want to look like?” my response? “i want to look like you!” who is leading you? who do you want to look like? Christ Jesus, of course, but who do you know who looks enough like Christ that you trust them and want to model their life? find that person. ask them to train you.
3. encouragement. reggie pushes me to my limits. but he is also more aware of what my body can do than i am. when i tell him i can’t do something he asks me to do, he flashes his big smile and tells me i can. “it’s in there,” he always says, “we just need to wake it up.” who can you count on for encouragement. who will stay with you when you fall, when you think you’re incapable, when you are full of excuses. to whom will you give permission to push you with encouragement?
as lead shepherd of our church, this physical training has taught me that perhaps i have been way too lax with you guys. we talk often at Threshold about God’s acceptance of you as you are. and that’s still true, he does. but that same God calls us to Christlike living. and that takes training. so let’s get busy. no more excuses. no more not showing up. the body of Christ – the church, Threshold – is too valuable to our community to be soft or weak. we need to get serious about our training.
worship. cells. service. that’s the training regimen. do it. do it well.
no more playing church.