Posted tagged ‘getting in shape’

Out of Shape Churches (Part 3)

April 23, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               April 23, 2017

                             

Jesus’ words to his followers at The Last Supper have new meaning for me this morning. This morning my body feels broken. Don’t worry! I understand that the kind of brokenness I’m feeling is different than the heartache-filled brokenness of Jesus, but I am “feeling it” today!

I got on a treadmill yesterday and ran a couple of miles, and then did some weight-training. My hips and shoulders are having temper tantrums this morning! They are like the stiff wind that was blowing through our middle school track practice on Friday. Besides the 41 degree temperature, the wind blowing in the faces of our runners as they did 200 and 300 meter intervals around the track was biting! What do you tell a 70 pound seventh grader trying to sprint into the wind…and he forgot to bring his school-issued sweats with him? He’s thinking of a dozen reasons why what he is doing is stupid. I’m urging him on each set of sprints. A couple of our more manly coaches ran alongside the sprinters. There’s something about having a coach run with a student that causes the runner to grit it out!

I realize that today is “a quitting point” for me! Even as I write this I’m constructing my list of reasons as to why I should be “unmoved” this morning. Everything from “hip replacement”, to Sunday being a day of rest, to needing to catch up on my bible reading…as well as a few other excuses…are coming to my mind! My hips are warning me “Don’t go past this line or else!”

Years ago I ran the Chicago Marathon. At the 22 mile mark I “hit the wall!” Not literally! that’s just what they call that moment of decision. It’s when a runner is physically fatigued and mentally tired. I had cramps in both legs. I had to convince myself that I could go on, when my body told me to lay down and die! I took my inspiration from the people who lined the streets cheering the runners on..plus the embarrassment of the sixty year old woman who passed me by!

I take these recent and distant memory examples into my understanding of out-of-shape churches. Out-of-shape churches will without question face “quitting moments” in their journeys to wellness. Avoiding pain in the present will lead to debilitation in the future!

Here’s the thing! The uncomfortableness of the needed moves and decisions toward getting in shape have the enormous potential of keeping a church from seeing the long-term. It is the most tempting quitting point. It’s “the wall” moment, and it is “the wall” moment that causes churches to give up and stay unhealthy.

Rough comparison! When I was growing up and had to go see the doctor to get a shot our doctor would give me, the one who just suffered the agony, a sucker at the end of the appointment. It was a reward…and perhaps a way for the physician to ask my forgiveness for making me cry! In out-of-shape churches it would be like giving the kid a sucker and never administering the shot!

Churches are very good at avoiding life-and-death decisions. And even after deciding to move on, the lists of excuses continues to be constructed. Remember! If put to a vote the Hebrew people would have most assuredly voted to return to Egypt! Egypt was what they knew and were familiar with. The journey out of Egypt was the unknown. If put up for a vote they would have voted to return to bondage rather than walk towards the unfamiliarity of freedom!

That Biblical story is still getting played out in hundreds of churches today!

In a personal way, this morning my hips are voting to return to Egypt!

Out of Shape Churches (Part 1)

April 21, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    April 21, 2017

                                

My eyes were wide awake this morning at 5:45, so I pulled my AARP body out of bed and went to the YMCA to get some exercise on the basketball court. It was the second eye-opening moment I had experienced within the past twenty-four hours. The first one was when I stepped onto a scale and weighed myself. I thought I heard a cow mooing behind me!

So I laced up my Adidas’ and played some roundball…ooo, that term “roundball” has a different definition for me today!

It’s been a while since I’ve played with the early morning geezers. My substitute teaching gig has affected my physical well-being. Two times up and back and I was gasping…and that was playing cross-court! Understand that I used to run marathons! I captained my college cross-country team. Now I shoot baskets in my driveway. It slopes downhill so the ball usually even rolls back down to me!

I’m out of shape! It happened…one candy bar and Dr. Pepper at a time. So today was my first day of trying to recover some of what I lost…or should I say “lose some of what I gained!”

It hit me as I was searching for oxygen this morning that my physical condition mirrors where a lot of churches are. They are wheezing and thinking more about what once was than about what might still be. Now…I can’t take the comparison between my physical condition and a church’s state too far. I’m not suggesting that a daily regiment of activity is the cure for out of shape churches. Filling up the church calendar with church activities may lead to death faster than anything else.

Let me suggest a couple of parallels, however! I slowly came to this point where I am. It didn’t happen overnight, or even in a month. When I ran cross-country in college I weighed 120 pounds my senior year. I wouldn’t say I was chiseled, but I also didn’t have to wear any clothes that had an “X” in front of their size. My energy level was high. I remember one Saturday morning in the Spring three other teammates joined me on a 25 mile run for charity. I think we went out for dinner afterwards. In like manner, most out of shape churches don’t get to that point overnight. It occurs over a period of time. I fondly remember my 120 pound physique, but I also realize that it was who I was FORTY YEARS AGO! It is not the reality of who I am now. I’ve been in a number of congregations that talk about how it was “back in the day!” But some of them don’t realize those days are long gone. It isn’t who they are anymore, but perhaps they can begin a new journey that will lead to a new kind of health and wellness.

This morning the first step for me was to get out of bed. I’ve played a lot of basketball recently…in my dreams! For me to recover some of my physical conditioning required my willingness to take that first step, that first roll out from under the warmth of my blanket. Out of shape churches need to take that first step before they take a second step. What that first step is differs, but it must emerge out of a willingness to change. We advance a gospel that transforms, but we so often think of transformation in regards to those people who aren’t walking with Jesus yet. Transformation, however, relates to congregations just as much…and maybe even more…than individuals! Transformation comes out of a congregation that has a willingness to recognize what kind of shape they are in, admit to it, and roll out of bed!

Two hours after my early morning exercising my body is saying to me, “What did you do to me? Never do that again!” Getting back in shape, especially for a guy who turns 63 in two weeks, will not be without discomfort. The Advil bottle got opened this morning! My willingness to change will be tested tomorrow when I do some kind of exercising…or not! Getting in shape will involved some pain and suffering.

Out of shape churches face the same dilemma. Are they willing to endure some discomfort to recover their ministry and realize their purpose? Most are not that willing! Many would rather die in peace than lose the fat that has accumulated around their calling.

Some hard words for today that might tweak our warped understanding of reality, just like my knees will remind me all day long that I don’t run like I used to!

Stay with me, and I’ll try to get to some more encouraging words tomorrow…if I’m able to roll out of bed!