I joined a gym about two months ago and have committed to working out 4-5 times a week. So far, so good. One of the things I noticed with this particular gym was certain benefits I received as I attended. I receive points for checking in, working out so many times a month, and even signing up new members. These points add up and I can use them to purchase something from their cooler, a t-shirt, or a free month of membership. But here is something I realized…these aren’t everyday benefits. At my current rate of usage, it will take me about two months to earn one energy drink, four months to earn a t-shirt, and a year to earn a free month’s membership. The real benefits of belonging to a gym are the health benefits received by continual exercise and a healthier lifestyle.
As I exercised this morning pondering my 3 new earned points towards that 350 point t-shirt, I began to compare the gym’s benefit program to that of being a member of a church. Now, I’m not sure the point system is appropriate but the concept is the same (although a free t-shirt here and there is awesome). What if we viewed church as a spiritual fitness center? The more you engage, the more your life benefits. But just like the gym, belonging to a church doesn’t mean you are growing or exercising your faith. I know plenty of people who just hang out at the gym and do very little exercise. You have to be active at the gym and church for there to be benefits and results added to your life. What I like most about my gym is it is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This reminds me how we are the church 24/7 and it’s not just a place we attend once or even a few times a week. Some people think they can erase what they did all week by going to the gym once a week. That mindset has crept into the church as well. Like all illustrations, the comparison of church to a gym falls apart on a deeper level. Church is who we are, not where we go. We can’t compartmentalize our faith to a 30 minute program a couple times a week. We should have church community, not just gym acquaintances. This means building relationships with other believers not just “hey friends” (hey because that’s mostly the extent and depth of our conversations). We don’t just pick a church (like we do a gym) because of its amenities because that’s also why people “shop” for another church when something “better” comes along. It’s selfishness just to ask, “What can church do for me”.
Now, there are some similarities to discuss. There are some days I don’t feel like going to the gym. Maybe that’s true about church for some? But momentum is built when I continue to grow. When I exercise, I feel better, have more energy, and even rest better. When I exercise spiritually, the same is true but with more eternal benefits. My feelings take a back seat to my faith, my energized spirit man translates to faith in action, and I rest more in the providence and person of God. To be clear, I’m not speaking about working for your salvation. Salvation only comes by grace through faith in what Jesus did on the cross (Ephesians 2:8-9). But the Bible does say, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6). While we are not saved by working, there is work to do for Him (Ephesians 2:10). The gym offers classes, workout suggestions, various workstations for various body parts, encouragement from others, and much more. The church also offers a variety of tools necessary for growth and encouragement from fellow believers to keep walking out this Christian life. But if I don’t go, I don’t grow…gym or church. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “Bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” Go to the gym…but be the church.
Stephen and his wife Haley have called Arkansas home all of their lives. Stephen has served in several ministry roles over the last 25 years and as a lead pastor for the last 8 years. Stephen attended Williams Baptist College and earned a BA in Biblical Studies from Ouachita Baptist University, an MA, MDiv, and DMin in Christian Leadership and Pastoral Ministries from Liberty University. When not pastoring, Stephen enjoys running, cycling, reading, writing, camping, fishing, and spending time with his family.