I’m the guy who signed up for a gym membership in early January of 2014. It was part of an ill-fated New Year’s Resolution, and doing that is apparently very common.
Between January 1st and February 15ish, gym memberships skyrocket. The folks who consistently work out, day in and day out, are inconvenienced by folks showing up who don’t have the slightest clue as to how to work the machines, appropriately lift or shelve weights, and who take too long on the treadmills and ellipticals. By mid-February, the great fires of working out have all but extinguished in most of the recently resolved, and the life of the gym can get back to normal. No lines, no waits for the weights…
This happens, one assumes, because of three things. First, working out is hard. If you’re not a runner, running can be torturous. If you’re not used to picking up heavy things and putting them down, the action itself (let alone the soreness that comes from muscles recovering and growing) can be a tremendous pain. Adding an hour and a half to your day to drive to the gym, change, work out, shower, and go is an inconvenience to say the least! Eventually, the temptations of not going to the gym rise up and that bed stays warmer if you’re in it… Second, the results of personal fitness aren’t immediate. Well, yes, actually, there are immediate benefits—increased balance, for example—but you can’t go from the kid getting sand kicked in his face to Charles Atlas overnight. Even within a few weeks. And the losses or gains might be measured in half-pounds or quarter-inches, and that makes a lot of folks discouraged. Third, lots of folks don’t plan towards a goal. A person who wants to run a mile, period, should have a different plan than someone who’s hoping to run a seven-minute mile. A person who is lifting weights to tone up as opposed to win an Olympic medal are going to have different agendas. Without a goal, without endurance, without a willingness to be uncomfortable, getting a gym membership won’t change much.
Maybe the same thing can be said about doing Christianity. Jesus, as he talks about the Reign of God, often likens it and the work of it to the botanical world—the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed that blooms, like a fig tree where the gardener asks for one year more; the Word is scattered like seed on different types of soil; for new seeds to blossom, the old plants must die. Discipleship is a process with long-term benefits, requiring some intentional wrestling with God, self and neighbor, and it’s going to make you be, feel, and live uncomfortably. That’s what Christmas did, that’s what Easter does, and that’s what we’re called into as those who follow Christ.
In a couple weeks, two things are happening. First, the Church Leadership Summit is on Saturday, January 10 from 9:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. (Breakfast and lunch provided!) Ministry team leaders, elders and the board will meet to discern, discuss, dream, define and see what we need to do in the life of Midway Hills in the coming calendar year. Then, beginning on January 11, we’ll be looking at the fruits Living Congregations bear—things like radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service, and extravagant generosity—and how it lines up to who and how we are called to be. It’ll be great!
But for now, countdown to the New Year. I look forward to seeing you Sunday, maybe sooner at the gym!