Those who know me personally know that I have "struggled" with a weight problem for all of my adult life. Twice in my life I have lost >100 lbs - the first time doing the American Heart Association diet (no exercise really) and the second the South Beach Diet (again, no exercise). From 2008 to now, I have lost the same 30 lbs over and over again, but have not been able to break through. Now, I am two years away from 40; things are changing. It isn't as easy to lose weight as it once was, and my metabolism was slowing to a crawl, I'm sure. I had one medical professional tell me that at this point in my life, the weight wasn't going anywhere. So I took that as a personal challenge. I'll show him (which may have been his goal in saying that).
I've posted a little bit about the journey, but I began strength training last August, just keeping an eye on the diet, but no cardio. I could tell there were changes, but between the holidays and a back injury this past February, I fell off the wagon so many times. It was time to do something.
Any time I have been "successful" to any degree with this, I have done something "different." The different thing I did this time is invest in a personal trainer. Meet Marcelo!
Marcelo is a NASM certified personal trainer and certified in advanced sports nutrition. I knew that whomever I worked with would need to strike that ideal balance between challenging me to do more than I thought I could while at the same time being patient with my limitations. I have found Marcelo's approach to be very helpful. We are tracking macros (fats, carbs, and protein), and keeping them in proper proportion. We are doing cardio (novel concept). We are doing strength training - balance and stability, stretching. I've lost 19.6 lbs already, taken five minutes off my walking mile, and I've seen improved numbers in several other areas as well.
I write this post for two main reasons. First, I need the accountability of knowing that this is out there. It will encourage me to stick with it. Then, I want to encourage every brother in ministry - get in shape! Protect your physical body, your health. Protect your earthly vessel. How many men I know let themselves go, and as a result, find their time to bear fruit on the earth cut short. Trust me, I know that God is sovereign over all of that, and at the same time, God wants us to be good stewards of our bodies, no doubt. So, take the plunge. Maybe you need a trainer like Marcelo to monitor your progress and help you customize a program to your goals. Always ask your doctor, of course, before anything like this. But for the glory of God, do what you can do to get yourself in shape. There are all kinds of reasons to do it, and our kingdom work is a very important one. I'll keep you posted on how it goes for me. Why don't you do the same? I'd love to hear from you!
As I was working through Mark 14 for my sermon series, I came across the place where Jesus tells His disciples they will all be offended because of Him that night (14:27). He says this reality is in fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy (13:7), "I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered." It occurred to me that there is a principle in this prophecy that we have probably all seen play out in various situations. Protecting ourselves and our ministries through prayer can help us guard against this principle playing out in our lives. Jesus was fulfilling Scripture of course, but no such prophecy exists for you and me. So, it serves us well to guard against this principle. How can we do that?
Those who know me personally will find it ironic that I have a blog post on this topic. I have every size of clothing in storage containers in my garage in hopes that they will one day fit again. The lightest weight I have been in my adult life was in my freshman year of college in the low 180s. And that's all I'm going to say about that!
This is not a post to guilt anyone into a commitment to become more physically fit. The goal of this post is to offer some biblical insights on the topic to encourage us to make time to take care of both our church bodies and our physical bodies.
Personal Fitness as Stewardship
We would all agree that our bodies are given to us by God. We can destroy them; we can let them go. We can maintain them properly. Our genetics may be outside of our control, but much of our wellness is up to us to manage. We are indeed stewards of our bodies. The bottom line is that the better we take care of these bodies, the longer lives and healthier lives we will likely live - meaning, that we will have longer to minister to others, to win people for Christ, to disciple future leaders, and bear Kingdom fruit, if we get and stay in shape.
Pastoral Ministry as Enemy to Personal Fitness
Without going so far as to use this as an excuse, it is a fact that pastoral ministry is one of the most stressful professions a person can have. Most pastors do not work a 40-hour workweek. Some pastors work double that. Most work north of 60 hours per week. Not good! We eat on the run. We eat out a fair amount. We eat at weird hours. We don't have the time or money or go buy healthy foods. We don't get enough exercise; many of us don't get any exercise. Add to all of this the stress that ministry inevitably brings, and you have a recipe for morbid obesity and possibly a lifespan cut tragically short. Heart attack incidence is greater among pastors than in the general population. We've got our work cut out for us!
Take the Challenge!
I first started typing the draft of this post in August 2019. I've heard that getting in shape is tougher with every decade of life - the 20s, the 30s, the 40s. I'm at 37 right now, and I do have to work harder to get results than I did the past several times I've been down this road. As I prepare to post this blog, it is December 1, 2019. I've begun working out daily, eating smart, and doing all the things I know to do. I've lost 35 lbs, and my body fat % is dropping. I'm heading in the right direction, and you can too. Consult your doctor about nutritional advice and before beginning an exercise regimen. But as ministry brothers, let's covenant together to optimize the bodies the Lord has given us for maximum kingdom potential!
Get in touch if you are interested in taking the pastoral fitness challenge!
Pastor Billy Shaw is a full-time pastor, husband, and father with a passion for helping other pastors.