I was recently reading about a church somewhere in Texas that has a workout facility on its campus, and, to be honest, my initial reaction was cynical. I guess my generation has had some mixed feelings with church spending. We have heard railings against ornate décor in churches that could have been passed over in order to spend the money on the needs of the community and world around us.
On the other hand, we’ve heard justifications for the multi-media equipment that makes service exciting and edgy. I guess we forget that for some of an older generation, ornate décor makes for a pleasurable experience, just as lights and sound make the same for the younger people in the congregation. But, that is for another discussion.
Let’s get back to the church gym and to my less than generous reaction. Now that I think about it, I find my reaction somewhat out of character, or, at least I hope it is out of character. I have for the past few years been on a mission, with many others of my generation, to reclaim a holistic faith, which includes proper treatment for both body and soul.
Yet, I caught myself forming an opinion on this congregation and its leadership without knowing anything else about them or ever really giving any consideration as to why they might support and provide fitness opportunities for their members. Perhaps I am not as progressive in my commitment to holistic faith as I once thought, and I am more in love with the thought than I am with the actualizing of such belief in my life. Thank God for moments like this that bring us back to reality and show us the depths of our depravity that we have not allowed God’s sanctifying Spirit to take hold.
Without conviction there would be little progress. I would have just sat the article aside and never reformed my prejudice that I had not realized resided in my being. Fortunately, I was convicted, and I felt God urging me to give the idea a second thought. Why would a church have a gym? What would I have to say if my own church wanted to do the same and asked for my opinion?
The answer seems obvious enough. The church probably promotes fitness, as a healthy part of the Christian life, just as we here at this blog do. But, that really does not get to the heart of the matter does it. I do not imagine that the pastor one day walked into a committee meeting and said, “Hey, we like fitness don’t we?” and seeing some heads bob up and down, he says, “Well, its decided. We will build a gym.” As I said, I do not know anything of the church other than it has a gym, but I do know something of the person writing about the church, and, if he speaks favorably about the church, which he did, they must be a church that thinks through their decisions.
Once again, I was not in the committee meeting when they decided to spend tens of thousands of dollars of donated monies on the gym. What a discussion that must have been! While I was not there, let me tell you what I think is a good reason for a church having a gym. A large purpose for the church is culture creating. We are to provide alternatives to the world’s culture, and we are to be an example for others.
Now, if the church leaders say to the congregants: “Be the sort of people that take care of the body God has given you, the temple of His Spirit,” and, yet, no opportunity or advice is given to help the people actualize this advice, then the pastor has simply offered criticism. As we discussed in the blog posts concerning CrossFit: Until opportunity is provided with the advice, people are often left frustrated, wondering, “How?”
This church, more than likely, put their money where their mouth is. They said, “Hey, we are called to steward our temples. We all need to take care of our bodies, and here is a facility for us to do just that.” This is about creating a Kingdom culture that the outside world sees. We should be a people that cause others to ask big questions, and one of those questions should be: “Why do these Christians all live such healthy lives?” Can you imagine the ministry opportunities that arose for that congregation? When asked, “Why would your church spend money on such a project,” the congregants are then allowed to share with others what holistic faith is all about.
Can you imagine the hope that might strike the heart of the seeker when they begin to understand by such simple yet profound examples that Christianity is meant to truly impact every aspect of life?
Faith is not simply a part of life; it is life. Not every church is called to have a gym, but it is refreshing to see a church speak into aspects of life that we would often not see as ministry opportunity.
Let’s all think of ways in which we might transform our church culture to reflect Kingdom purposes. What if the church spoke into more areas of our lives, our health, our education, our family lives…
If churches should spend their money on what they preach about in order to be more missional, then a gym might not be the worst idea.
What do you think?