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10 Lessons about Church I've learned from the Gym…

Updated: Mar 1

I go to the gym 5 days a week (most weeks anyhow). I do it for several reasons, but mostly for my own personal well-being. Caring for the body is a major part of our spiritual health before the Lord. 

  • And as I walk into the gym day after day, I’ve noticed that there are lots of similarities between the Gym and the Church. 

1 - Community. 

The people at my gym know me, and I know them. They know me because I’m there and I’m a regular part of that group. If there’s a day when I have to miss, I let them know because I know they’ll be looking for me. They celebrate life with me, grieve the hard things, and have become a part of my life. 

  • In the same way, the Church is meant to be a community of saints where we are known, valued, and belong. The Church celebrates life together, we grieve the hard things together, we pray together, sing together, study together, grow together, and guard each other against spiritual danger. By God’s grace, a Church congregation becomes a spiritual family. 

2 - Consistency is Key. 

If I only showed up to the gym 1 or 2 days per week, I would see very little progress and growth. If I showed up to the gym only once every few weeks, I would see almost no progress and growth. Why? Because it's not so much that one certain workout is important, but the regular and ongoing consistency of workouts is what’s important. 

Its the same in the Church. Those who come to church sporadically, or only a handful of times per year should not expect those few visits to benefit them a great deal. No doubt, God can work miracles during any Church gathering...and we pray He does! But the way that God has designed His Church to work most effectively in our lives is as we show up, week after week, year after year. 

  • We should not expect every single service, Bible study, and meeting to blow our socks off, or to have great and powerful spiritual encounters every single time. But just as our daily meals keep us alive, so our regular and consistent participation in the Church is key to spiritual health. 

3 - Work hard. 

My workout partner often wears a shirt that says “Work hard.” That’s become our motto in the gym. Work hard and do the work. That’s the way. It benefits no one to show up to the gym and just look at the weights. You have to stretch, get your heartrate up, and actually lift those weights to receive the benefits. 

  • And at Church, it doesn’t do anyone much good to just show up to church and not engage. God is creating a beautiful people and He invites us (commands us really, Heb. 10:25) to be actively involved!

  • So, show up, listen, share, pray, sing, fellowship, know and be known! Do the work!

4 - There is Often No Great Experience. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into the gym not feeling like exercising. So many times I’ve had to just grin and bear it. Somedays I just don’t feel it, the workout doesn’t inspire or motivate me. It's just tough and hard. And sometimes, I have really great workouts; I feel good, the workout is fun, I feel like I’m making progress. But, for the most part, there is nothing out of the ordinary, nothing spectacular about another day at the gym 

  • And the same is true for Church. For the most part, Church will feel somewhat ordinary and routine. There will be times when God shows up in a big way and you will remember those days. But, for the most part, God gives us the common and ongoing graces of gathering weely with our brothers and sisters to sing, pray, receive the Word, and fellowship together. The regular gathering of the Church is, itself, the great experience. 

5 - You almost always leave feeling better. 

Many times I walk into the gym, not wanting to be there, not wanting to put on my workout clothes, and not wanting to workout. 

  • But, despite the initial feelings, I always feel better after the workout is done. 

  • My body begins to move, heart rate goes up, blood is pumping, muscles are firing…it does something to your heart and mind. You feel better. You leave being thankful you came. 

And Church is often the same. We struggle to get up, get dressed, and drive to Church. We can think of other things we can be doing…maybe even that we want to be doing. But, we get there, start singing, hear others pray, the Pastor opens the Word…and you realize, I’m feeling better. The music is helping, the prayers are stirring, and the Word of God is ministering to me. 

  • We almost always leave Church feeling better than when we arrived. 

6 - The Change is Gradual. 

When I show up to the gym on a Tuesday and have a really good and hard workout, I often leave looking exactly the same as when I went in. Almost nothing changes during any given workout. But, going back day after day, month after month, year after year has had a profound effect on my body. I’m stronger, healthier, and (given the time of year and the nearest holiday) sometimes leaner. 

  • And Church is often the same. Occasionally, we have a really profound experience on a Sunday. The Sermon was just right for what we needed that day, or the music all came together perfectly. But, for the most part, we leave as we enter. That is, until we look back over the years and see just how much, little by little, God has been changing us. 

7 - Evangelism. 

I’m proud to say that I have been absorbed as a gym regular now, and have received my gym nickname: “Pastor B.” My primary reason for going to the gym is caring for my body and soul, but it's also to be around unbelievers. The Lord has given me numerous opportunities to share the good news of Jesus in the gym. Sometimes it's a quick word between a workout set, and sometimes, the workout has to wait because a serious evangelistic conversation is taking place. Either way, the gym is a sacred place because God is there…just as He is everywhere. 

  • As I gather with my fellow brothers and sisters in the faith on Sundays at Church, I am reminded again and again that I am sent into the world to share the love and hope of Jesus. 

8 - Opportunity for Growth. 

Everyday…every single day I am reminded of how not strong I am, how too tight my muscles still are, how much weight I cannot lift, and how far I cannot run without needing a break. The gym is a constant reminder of those big orange signs on the highway: Construction Zone. I’m a work in progress. 

  • Church is the same. There are no perfect people in the Church…thank God. It would be really annoying if there were! Christians are a people who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and by the power of His Spirit, we are being more and more like Him. 

  • There should be a big orange sign outside of every Church that reads, “Construction zone.” 

9 - Others ahead of you, and others behind you. 

I wrote a post a while back about my struggle with pullups and how frustrating it was to watch my workout buddy Mark, and how easy they came to him. But, with time and dedication, I overcame the weakness and can do them now. They aren’t pretty, and he’s still better at that movement than I am…but I’m getting stronger and better. And as I look around the gym everyday, I see people who are struggling to build muscles that I already have, and I see those who are stronger than me.  

  • And so it is with Church. Chuck Lawless reminds us that when it comes to discipleship and following Jesus, every Christian is always one step ahead of someone else, and following behind those who have gone before. We’re always leading and always following. 

10  - A Place for Humility. 

I know of no other place where humility comes quicker than at the gym. There’s always someone who is stronger, more athletic, looks better, you name it. It brings humility, and that’s a good thing. Overconfidence is dangerous, and self-loathing is bad…but, as Goldilocks said about that last bowl of porridge, humility is just right

  • And Church is a place where we develop our humility muscles. James reminds us that God resists the prideful, but He gives more and more grace to the humble. 

I’m thankful for the ways the gym reminds me of the beauty of King Jesus’ Church!


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