So, I had a food and fitness moment that included me throwing the leadership of a couple of local churches under the bus. Then, I got my heart broken, for the good.
My church, like most churches in the south, is populated by those whom are fat. Fat people have fought hard to become accepted as normal, and they have their advocates like any other group of people. Their presence anywhere in our society, including church, is not a big deal. Churches are filled with folks of all sorts, all at different places in their walks with God.
However, for those of us who call Christianity our faith, we have a different set of standards than those who live in the world. Christ tells us in Romans 12:1 that our bodies are “temples.” He also says that we are to offer them as sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.
Historically, the temple in ancient Jewish culture was the pinnacle of village activity. People diligently cared for it, making sure that nothing unclean was ever brought into the temple, and the priests who served in the temple were often the most revered members of society. The temple had an outward appearance that was pleasing, and the community was proud of their church. Inside the church, there were rules regarding what could be brought inside and who could and could not bring things into the temple. That mechanism of filters was what defined how the church was to be maintained as “holy.”
“Sacrifice” implies going without for a higher good. People sacrifice going on a great vacation in order to save for education for their children. That word “sacrifice” used in this context has the same meaning and connotation as one who goes without in the world today. God says it is Holy and Pleasing to Him for us to treat our bodies as a living sacrifice (as opposed to a beheading as some ancient religions perceive sacrifice to mean).
Lastly, he says that the act of treating our bodies as “Holy” is our “true and proper” worship. This is not to say that teaching, preaching and prayer and song are inadequate worship, but they aren’t “true and proper” worship. True worship comes from treating our body as a temple.
These are not my words, folks. Yet, they are lost by the leadership at the place that I call my local church. Our church is led by folks who either disagree with Romans 12:1 or feel it doesn’t apply to them and the people they lead. For me, it was life-transformational to learn the depth of Romans 12:1, and the impact that it has had on me led to hundreds and in some instances thousands of you reading this blog.
I recently lost the ability to look at leadership with any real level of respect as they shared their passion for the messages and mysteries that they see in the Bible, while simultaneously leading a life that didn’t include any passion for true and proper worship. Heck, even the worship leader and his wife are obese! All the while, there has been a focus on building a children’s area that was full of quality places that would be the “temple” used to attract in new folks.
Trashing the temple is sin. It isn’t right to ignore God’s teachings about the temple, sacrifice and what God finds Holy and pleasing because you aren’t very good at it.
This doggedness of the truth began affecting me. The temptation was to quit and move on. Yet, no one can maturely leave a situation that is troubling without first trying to fix it. My wife and I responded by creating a course that we call “Faith, Food and Fitness,” the objective of which is to:
-lay out what the Bible has to say about food and fitness topics.
-provide guidance and support for implementing these mandates in the 21st century, in the USA.
-add valuable science to help achieve their goals.
We have opened the doors to our church, employees and friends to take the class. The class was published in the list of life group classes that church members can participate in. Despite the hundreds of people who call our church their home church, we have only had a handful of folks take the class. We have run the class twice. Both my wife and I are all but done asking this crowd if they want help on the topic. After all, help isn’t for people who need it. It is for people who want it.
Over the last few months, we have been attending church infrequently, but truth be told, we haven’t missed it. Then, the weekend before leaving to travel to the World Championships, I went to church. My son and wife had an event up the road in Davidson, NC, that prevented them from coming, so I went alone. At church, there was talk of an upcoming men’s retreat/event weekend. The lead pastor marketed this unique men’s event by repeatedly sharing with the audience that all the men who attended were going to eat barbecue. References to what we were going to study? Nothing that I heard. What they were going to put into the temple made the hot list of topics and was the only topic that got brought up more than once.
I concluded that I was done with this place. I was done with the hypocritical leadership who says “follow Christ” but leads others astray by trashing their temples. These guys are making chubby buddies and didn’t see anything wrong with their actions. The epidemic of obesity in church has grown so much that both Fox News and Christianity Today have published articles on how bad obesity trends in churches are, even when compared the general population. In addition, a friend of mine just took on a high level leadership position at a large church in our area, and I called him out on his failover to perform true and proper worship. He heard that he needed to go on a diet. Last I saw him, that strategy wasn’t working. To complicate things, he used to be a worship pastor.
All these events added up, and I finally concluded that we weren’t changing anyone or anything from our efforts, and I was being “dumb” for sticking around and beating my head against a rock with our church.
So I thought.
On Sunday am, before the start of church, Emily, the Equipping Pastor got my attention and pulled me towards where she sat by showing her big, bright smile.
“Guess what!” she said.
“Tell me,” I responded, not knowing what to expect. However, I have known her for 10+ years and knew she was going to tell me, regardless of my answer.
“You helped to inspire me. I am running my first half marathon soon. I have been training for it, and…”
I didn’t hear anything she said after that. All I could hear was, “Jeff, you are wrong…dead wrong about not making an impact.” Just because I couldn’t see results or feel results didn’t mean there weren’t any. Emily and her sister have both followed some of my goings on, and her sister took half of our class. But, they have gone radar silent and we haven’t heard from either of them in a year. I thought they had gone back to their old ways.
Philosophically, I asked, “Is it enough that one person got it?”
Yes. Through one, many can be saved. How many times did one person, changing one person, start a revolution that impacts a culture.
Had Emily not approached me, I would have concluded that my efforts were wasted at our current church and I would have begun seeking a new place to call church where they were valued. At our church, we most certainly prioritize fixing cars and having cool stuff for our kids, but not so much regarding “true and proper worship” and “sacrifice” make it into behavior patterns where leadership is leading by example.
I don’t know what is next, but giving up isn’t on the next step list.