It has been one year since I began a new chapter in my life. One year ago, I began a new lifestyle. Nothing radical. Don’t worry. I have not become a monk. One year ago, I embarked on a healthy lifestyle. I began to eat healthy foods. And, I returned to an exercise routine. The result has been a 73-pound weight loss.
Let me tell you about a conversation that was the impetus for my metamorphosis.
I won’t divulge the name of the other person in the conversation. He is a friend. A true friend. He called me one week after the July 2009 meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board. For two days during that meeting I was on the platform interacting with the Executive Board, speaking, reporting and answering questions. I was highly visible, in front of everyone. I wore a new suit. My other suits were getting a little “snug.” But this new one, I thought, covered things up a little better.
I was wrong about that.
My friend called me.
In the first few minutes of the telephone conversation, we exchanged the normal niceties. How are you? How’s the family? How are you doing spiritually? My friend always asks those questions. But this time he had another, additional question. Following the typical exchange, he asked, “How much do you weigh?” There was a long pause and you can imagine some of the things I was thinking. My first response was, “Well, I’m not sure that’s any of your business.” Yes, I am recalling this conversation verbatim. And the conversation ended with this: “I am asking because I care about you and now is the time for you to get healthy.”
He was right. And, I have done it. Thanks Friend!
I haven’t told you all this just to brag. Well, there may be a little boasting going on here and certainly it is fair to say that I would not have broached the subject had I not been successful in my quest for better health. It has been a long journey, even somewhat of a struggle. And, I am pleased and a little proud of the weight loss. Did I tell you already? I lost 73 pounds. But my goal in this article is to share with you some basic principles I have learned along the way, principles that transcend physical health to spiritual health—even church health.
Here are the principles:
Good health does not come casually—planning is needed. My plan was simple. Eat lots of fruit and salad. Never let yourself get hungry, by eating fruit snacks. But also, never fill up. Stop eating when the hunger pains are gone. If you need to, eat a piece of fruit in a couple of hours—do it. But, stick to the plan. Planning is also needed for churches to return to proper church health. Your MBC Church Health Team stands ready to assist you in the creation of a specific plan for your church. Contact us. We will help you create a plan. You will then need to stick to the plan.
Good health does not come easily—endurance is necesssary. Especially when we have allowed our health to deteriorate, good health does not come easy. Because I had allowed my weight, and therefore my health, to get out of control, it took a full year to reach my goal and be restored to proper physical health. Likewise, many of our Missouri Baptist churches have been unhealthy for a long time. Hard work, endurance and patience will be required to bring us back to proper spiritual health.
Good health does not come effortlessly—dedication is required. I remain committed to a new lifestyle, specifically concerning food. Over the last several months, many of you have heard me say that I don’t do pot-luck anymore. I know that is a Baptist tradition. But that tradition put me in terrible physical condition. So please, don’t be offended when I come to your church and turn down the invitation to dinner. I have worked too hard to stop now. I remain dedicated to wellness. Similarly, Missouri Baptist churches will need to remain diligent to keep the matter of spiritual health at the top of our list of priorities. Healthy Christians and healthy Missouri Baptist churches are individuals and churches that remain dedicated to spiritual disciplines that produce proper spiritual health.
Good health does not come naturally—supernatural power is essential. I praise God for the miracle of the human body that is able to throw off years of abuse and return to proper health. The same is true of the church. We have feasted at the trough of the latest trends, while ignoring the spiritual health food of discipleship. We have become gluttons on the fast food of church growth fads, while abstaining from the meat found in the deep mysteries of Scripture. We have abused the church. But our Lord has promised that even the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. The church can be restored to health.
The question inevitably comes, how will you maintain your new healthy lifestyle? How will you keep the weight off? In response to that question, I have developed a short mantra: What got you here, will keep you here. The same lifestyle changes that enabled me to get healthy will keep me healthy. I have to keep telling myself: What got you here, will keep you here.
In the same way, when your personal spiritual health and the health of your church are restored, you will need to maintain the spiritual disciplines that enabled the restoration. And, when individual Missouri Baptists are living healthy spiritual lifestyles, Missouri Baptist churches will be healthy churches, and we will be: Great Commission Christians, in Great Commission churches transforming communities with the Gospel.