I was privileged to grow up under the ministry of probably the greatest visionary I have ever personally known. His name was Dr. Bradley Price, and he came to Northside Baptist in Charlotte in 1990. The Charlotte Observer reported on our big days at Northside, where 8,000 people would gather for the Spirit of Christmas service and receive a hot-cooked free meal. Through my experiences with Dr. Price as a child, a youth, one called to ministry, and then a ministry intern, glory to God, I caught from him the passion for and ability to dream, to crystallize a vision, and to inspire others to see the dream also.
I just sort of thought everyone had that same passion and ability. One day, I was sitting in a circle of pastors, and we were picking each other's brains for ideas and supporting one another in prayer. One of my pastoral brothers asked, "Can anyone help me develop a vision for my church? I've never been taught how to do that." If a pink elephant had jumped up on the desk, I may not have been more surprised. I just thought everyone knew this.
Over the years, I have come to learn that the ability to "see" a vision for an organization, for a church, for a people, for a community and region, is something that is caught. Sure, you can go out and buy Andy Stanley's book and others, but translating principles into practice is easier said than done. Therefore, when it comes to recruiting and identifying leaders, and also hiring staff, look for those who demonstrate the ability to dream, to cast vision, and to build consensus around the dream. I'm blessed that my Assistant Pastor has this ability, and, Lord willing, the successful candidate for the next pastoral position we fill will have it also.
Not long ago, I was speaking with a minister whose organization is thinking about buying our church property which is for sale. As we talked together, it struck me. This man has the ability to develop a vision. It had been a long while since I had talked with someone in ministry with that ability, and it was so refreshing. Such people are cut out of a little bit different cloth, it seems. And if you have this ability, mentor others, so that they can catch it also.
I used to enjoy sparring online with people in different debate forums. A response I received once jolted me a bit: "Experience has to count for something." Over time, my perspective has changed some. I still think there are pastorates out there for guys who have never done it before. At the same time, I definitely see the value of experience. So - wait a minute - the headline of this post is "How Leaders Grow," but the opening paragraph is all about experience. Yep. You guessed it. As a plant needs exposure to sunlight, water, and rich soil - it also needs time. And it is not true that experience is the best teacher. Evaluated experience is the best teacher.
One of the main categories of blog posts I intend to create here is a “week in the life of a pastor.” Ministry rides that strange line between the necessity of planning ahead and days that can be full of surprises. For those who sense a call into ministry, a helpful way to give you a taste of things is for you to experience it as I experience it. It’s as close to shadowing as we can get via Internet. I had hoped to do this through video, but I came down with some head congestion, which would make it difficult for you to understand me. And I had to save my voice for the weekend. So, here is my Week in Review for last week. Stay tuned for video content
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.