The Pastor and Exercise

April 4, 2019 • Adam Wyatt

Ministry can be utterly exhausting and stressful.  Most pastors work well over 55 hours a week and many also are stressed to point of current or potential burnout.  Why the calling to pastor and shepherd a church is a noble one, the cost on our bodies is high.  When we are stressed and burned out how are we to find joy in the midst of it?  Exercise is a must needed spiritual endeavor that will help us develop and maintain a state of joy in the midst of ministry service. 

During the past several years I was a bivocational pastor who also taught high school English and coached football.  Sometimes, especially during the football season, I was working in excess of 80 hours a week.  I was mentally, spiritually, and physically spent.  No matter what was going on, I felt like I was ineffective at most things and ministry in particular.  The majority of that was because I was so tired.  I was gaining weight and my blood pressure was getting out of control, and worst of all, I had an absence of joy in my life.  

Slowly, I got convicted about my health and decided to make a change.  I started working out and trying to watch what I was eating.  It has taken a while to truly get back into the swing of things, but I have found that developing a habit of exercise has helped my ministry and my life more than I ever dreamt possible.  

First, exercise has made me much more productive because it has given me more energy.  Everyone knows that exercise is good for the body, but it is also good for our souls!  When our body feels better, we tend to be in a better place spiritually to have more joy. When we have more energy, our lives are more productive.  When we are more productive in the work of our hands and the ministry in our lives, we tend to be much more joyful because we can see more productivity!   

Secondly, having a steady time of exercise is a great way for us to model discipline in other areas of our lives.  When we lack any sort of dedication or commitment to bodily health, we also tend to show a lack of discipline in other areas. Laziness, slothfulness, and a lack of self-control can easily disqualify us from ministry because when we are not exhibiting self-control, we can easily end up in sin; exercise can help keep us from that!  Exercising as a discipline can lead us toward joy because it can keep us focused on our calling!

Thirdly, exercise is good for us because it helps our commitment to the long-term.  Due to the high stress of our calling, many pastors do not last.  When we see friends burnout and quit the ministry due to physical issues, it is a sad thing.  Working out can help keep our minds sharp, our bodies strong, and our spirits engaged in our mission.  The healthier our bodies are for ministry, the longer we can serve the Lord!  What a great encouragement for us.  Surrendering our lives for the gospel should lead us to joy.

Fourthly, lets be honest: a lot of pastors are overweight.  We are.  We are always out eating with folks.  Our churches are always having potlucks.  We are stressed.  We are tired. So taking care of our bodies is something that is easy to overlook.  Additionally, this can lead to laziness but, more importantly, can lead us to have a loss of self-control (1 Tim. 3:2) which is a biblical qualification for ministry.  Let us make sure that we are setting a great example to our people in the area of self-control and discipline but let us also be sure that we do not disqualify ourselves because we do not take care of our bodies.

Pastors, I cannot stress the importance of taking care of your bodies.  Being a shepherd is extremely tough.  We all carry wounds both visible and invisible, but let us not suffer from self-inflicted wounds that come from a lifetime of neglecting our health.  By committing to taking care of ourselves, we are committing to a life-style that will lead to a joyful ministry that lasts!  

If you need help coming up with an exercise plan, please reach out to me.  I would love to help.

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