The statistics on physical health are staggering. Here are just a few:
- More than 35% of American adults are obese, another third are overweight and the numbers are climbing (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
- 31% of Canadian children are overweight or obese (Statistics Canada)
- A Duke Divinity School study found that clergy are the most overweight profession with a 40% obesity rate
- Only 15% of Americans regularly engage in vigorous physical activity for twenty minutes a day at least three times a week, despite the fact that the Journal of the American Medical Association notes that “regular exercise acts like a vaccine on the immune system.”
- In the USA, obesity counts for more than 200,000 deaths per year, $147 billion annually in medical costs and obesity/physical inactivity is close to overtaking smoking as the most preventable cause of death. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Harvard School of Public Health)
So what do statistics on physical health have to do with Christian leadership?
We Are Stewards – We are called to steward the resources entrusted to us – and our bodies and physical health are key resources. Physical health and energy provide the fuel that is a significant determinant of our capacity and output. Add in the health consequences plus the financial and productivity costs related to poor physical stewardship and the impact is enormous.
We Have A Responsibility – Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1Corinthians 6:19) and discipleship needs to be about honoring God with the whole person. So, as a starting point, Christian leaders need to take the lead and personally model good physical stewardship.
Secondly, physical stewardship should be addressed as a discipleship issue. We need to care as best we can for the great gift that’s been given while guarding against the culture’s pressure to idolize the body. We can no longer be virtually silent about an epidemic that is rampant in our churches, organizations and communities.
We Have An Opportunity – Millions of people are struggling with stewardship of their physical health. Billions of dollars are spent in related medical bills or trying to change and become healthier. Some people can’t afford healthy foods. Some simply need to learn healthier eating and activity practices. Many others have simply given up.
Christian leaders, churches and organizations can take simple steps to meet this opportunity. Sponsoring community gardens, providing healthy snack alternatives at gatherings, launching healthy cooking classes, starting a learn-to-run club, developing wellness programs for employees and helping people tackle some of the root issues behind their neglect of physical health are all simple ideas to practically engage and help people in our communities.
Let’s raise the bar on stewardship of physical health. As leaders, by God’s grace, let’s model wholistic discipleship for the people within our circles of influence.
To The Point!