Let’s get real for a second: youth ministry can be an unhealthy environment. I am not talking about bad communication skills or leaders who take advantage of their authority; I am talking physically unhealthy. We’ve just completed the first week of the year, which means we are knee deep in New Year’s resolutions that typically revolve around exercising more and/or eating less junk food. The sad news is, almost ALL of these resolutions will never be met. Most ambitions of meeting these goals will come to a halt by January 21, only to be reinstated for the first few weeks of 2019.
Sure, you may be thinking…I AM a youth pastor and we all know youth pastors survive off three things: Jesus, Coffee, and Little Cesar’s Pizza. But what if I told you your spiritual health has a lot more to do with your physical health than you might think? What if I told you that your desire for self-discipline in your nutrition would not only help you, but also help your students grow deeper in love with Jesus? Let’s view this with a different perspective for a moment.
Food has always been my drug of choice. Bad day? Pizza and a movie can fix that! Just won your football championship? One California burrito and a trip for ice-cream to celebrate. This never became more real to me than when I started pastoring my church’s youth group. It was not an easy task to keep 6-12th graders engaged. However, there was one thing I found caught EVERYONE’S interest. Food. It amazed me how each week 12-15 students could devour enough donuts for a small village in about 5 minutes. While this awesome way for me to connect with the youth group did increase involvement, I began to question if this was the best way to capture these young hearts and minds.
I also began to recognize how the pressure of growing our youth group while working on a master’s degree with a baby on the way was weighing heavy on me. No, literally, I gained about 15 pounds in 4 short (but also long) months. I was physically tired, emotionally drained, and spiritually worn out. Was this really how God wanted the under-shepherd of His sheep to behave? Not a chance.
Today, God has completely turned my life upside-down in the most challenging and gracious way possible. I no longer oversee our youth group, though I am still heavily involved. God grabbed ahold of my heart by first grabbing ahold of my health. He wants to do the same with you. God will transform your spirit by transforming what you put on your spoon. Since we are all youth pastors here, I’ll give three simple points to keep the ADD under wraps. ;P
1. YOUR HEALTH AFFECTS MORE THAN YOU
This comes as no surprise to us when we talk about maturity and our need to set the example of spiritual health for impressionable, young minds. Oddly, this gets lost in translation when it comes to our physical health. You heard me right, maturity and health go hand-in-hand. If we are spiritually fat, we model lazy Christians. If we are physically fat, we model unhealthy lifestyles. Believe it or not, our physical bodies matter as much to God as our spirits. Paul attests to our physical resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ physical resurrection and transformation was a model; we too will be transformed physically at the coming of Jesus.
Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. . . For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. . . (1 Cor. 15:42, 53 NLT)
Why does this matter? Just as Jesus modeled life for us, we are also modeling life to those we pastor. These young students are looking for answers and if they are not presented with a Biblical model of physical health, they will remain in bondage to the image of “perfection” that is presented to them on Instagram and Snapchat. We have the responsibility to shed truth and life on what Biblical health looks like. It is not simply reading our Bible and memorizing scripture, it’s being good stewards of the life and body we have been given.
2. THE BODY AS A TEMPLE
This concept has been lost to many youth pastors. The body is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, whose breath gives us life. If that doesn’t convict you to clean house a bit, then I don’t know what will. Paul puts it in simple terms:
Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So honor God with your body (1 Cor. 6:19-20 NLT).
Have we forgotten the high price our lives were bought with? I pray we never take our physical health for granted considering the sacrifice Jesus made for us to physically live with Him.
3. YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH AS STEWARDSHIP
Scripture makes it clear that God gave man creation to steward and that includes our own bodies (Gen. 1:28). Oftentimes, it is very easy to be disciplined in the areas of ministry we oversee: small groups, Sunday worship, and prayer and quiet time with God. Our physical health requires the same energy and discipline. Paul states that physical health is profitable, but spiritual health will last in this life and the life to come (1 Tim. 4:8). Did you catch that? Paul didn’t say “go ahead and have another five cookies, at least you have your morning devo down.” No, Paul states that believers are to focus on Jesus. Simply stated. No physical gain matters without Jesus at the center. Usually, our food problem is not tied to our stomach; it’s tied to our heart. God is not concerned with the works of your head or hands, He wants your heart.
Maybe you can see how your physical health could use a tune up or a complete transformation. There are some simple steps you can take to find freedom. Before you take a step, surrender your request and heart to the Lordship of Jesus. None of this is possible without His healing power. Next, reach out. Find someone who has walked the path toward health before you. We cannot sustain our goals alone. Lastly, find a community of like-minded people and hold each other accountable.
I pray that 2018 is the year God powerfully moves IN you so that He can do great things THROUGH you. Your ministry will be made better by taking your own physical health seriously.
Evan is the husband to Whitney Hughes and the proud father to his 9 month old son, Beckham. He and His wife are leaders at Center Church San Diego, in Downtown Barrio Logan and teach lifelong transformation as Health Coaches. Together, they have a heart for helping people reach their goals in their health. Whether that be physically, mentally, financially or spiritually. If you would like to contact Evan or inquire about his coaching services email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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