Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gospel Wellness - An Interview with Joshua M.

Joshua, creator of Gospel Wellness, has been a friend of mine for many years now as we met serving at a church plant in Wilmington, NC. Since then we have gone on to become good friends and both moved to different places. In fact we left Wilmington, NC together in 2009 but with different destinations in mind.

Joshua is a guy full of ideas with a lot of experience helping new church starts around the country. Most recently he has started a new journey as he became convicted with his body of over 340 lbs. This has led him to launch his new website called Gospel Wellness where he challenges and equips the church to grow in body stewardship, while sharing his own gospel wellness journey. Today I will share part one of a two part interview I did with Joshua since the launch of his website. He will be by to interact with any comments, so if you have any questions or comments, please share them below.

1. You say on your website in the first post that in the hundreds of accountability conversations you have had over the years that nobody really approached you about your weight or over-eating, why do you think that is?

There actually was one pastor that tried to talk to me about it a few years ago. However he was also fat and used to frequently joke about our size. Understandably, it was tough for me to take seriously anything he was trying to say -- not because he was fat, but because I didn't see any real earnestness about body stewardship in the way he lived and spoke. So that was one person in a decade. I've found that the failure to address this issue, whether in our own lives, those who we love, or the church in general usually falls into one of three areas.

First, we don't recognize body stewardship as a spiritual issue, requiring our attention and obedience.  Second, so many of us are poor stewards of our bodies, there's often shame around the topic, so we don't address it. Third, Christians are increasingly unwilling to let others speak into their lives or to speak into others.  Honestly, and this is a hard truth to accept, it all boils down to disbelief and disobedience.  We're not believing that all things are from God, for God and we are to be obedient stewards. We're not believing there's no condemnation in Christ and that culture isn't our standard. We're also not believing God's word about the nature of Christian community and that we are to obediently love, serve and sharpen one another; which sometimes means loving admonishment and addressing sensitive, personal issues. Clearly our silence and inactivity aren't working, thankfully God shows us a much better way.

2. Why is it that more people in the church aren't talking about the elephant in the sanctuary as you refer to it?

In the post I share four ways (so check that out) because I want to focus in on just two of them.  A few years ago I started thinking about discipleship more in the context of stewardship -- they are two sides to the same coin. As disciples we are not only to be stewards of the Word, but also stewards over creation, including our bodies.  The church doesn't use the word "stewardship" much except in a financial context. That's a pretty big failure I think, because stewardship language is biblical and for many it would help bridge the gap between hearing and doing the word.  Our bodies belong to God, that makes their care a spiritual issue. If we aren't taking care of our bodies rightly, to God's glory, we're rejecting His authority over them and essentially saying "This is mine, I'll do with it as I please."

Secondly, poor body stewardship negatively impacts our evangelical mission.  When we eat, move and train well, we are more energetic, less fatigued, less stressed, often more patient, better able to fight off temptation, and able to endure greater hardship. That improves not only our ability to witness, but often the quality of our witness as well. In my own life I'm amazed at the difference just a few months have made in opportunities to connect and talk about the things of God.  It's also obvious that since I've started my gospel wellness journey, my mood and patience have improved dramatically, which my friends are no doubt thankful for.

3. You point out in your first post that some may object to this issue by claiming nowhere in Scripture does it say, "Thou shalt not be overweight." So, in what ways would you point out to them that this is actually a spiritual issue?

Practically -- working out. I hate it and put it off for over three months until I finally hit a plateau in my fat loss and had no choice. I'm starting to realize that the way we approach fitness (in a gym, linear movements that isolate muscle groups or endless hours of cardio) is really disconnected from the way God designed our bodies to move -- it's no wonder we so often view fitness as a burden. Currently on the blog I'm sharing some other approaches that are more natural, more effective and honestly, a lot more fun.

Spiritually -- not turning gospel wellness into idolatry.  The more I progress the more excited I get.  It's easy to see or feel physical improvement and get carried away about how awesome I'll eventually feel and look or about all the enjoyable stuff I'll be able to do.  Feeling good and enjoying a fit, active body are wonderful blessings worth seeking. But if I start striving after them for my own enjoyment, disconnected from the context of biblical stewardship or physical readiness for God's mission, then I've slipped into idolatry. Fortunately I have solid Christian brothers in my life to help keep me humble and focused.

--Part 2 coming tomorrow--

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