If you’ve been to the gym, you’ve probably been solicited for private sessions by a personal trainer, and usually they sportin’ Nike visors, Dri-FIT apparel exposing their bulging biceps, tighter fitting gym shorts, and cross training sneakers. They frolic around the gym soliciting their services to people interested in losing weight, toning muscle, or simply seeking to live a more active lifestyle. They are usually fit, knowledgeable, and motivating. But lately I’ve noticed an influx of overweight trainers at my local gym. Pudgy around the midsection, they are not very disciplined in their diets, they are sporting love handles, and they don’t flaunt the bulging biceps of the trainers that I‘ve become accustomed to. Although they encourage their clients to live healthy lifestyles, sadly, they fail to apply the same principles in their own lives. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul is encouraging Timothy not to be an overweight trainer, but rather to practice and apply the same principles of gospel-proclamation and living that he encourages others to do.
The Apostle Paul doesn’t want Timothy to be an out of shape trainer. He wants him to be spiritually lean and exemplify the picture of Christian health, as he encourages others to live their lives on mission. 2 Timothy 4:5 says, “As for you, always be sober –minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Paul is charging the young minister Timothy to lead by example in missional living. The Apostle has warned that there will be those in the church who “will not endure sound teaching” (2 Tim 4:3), they will have insatiable appetites for myths (2 Tim 4:4) and ultimately they will become obese from feasting on falsehood. As their shepherd-trainer there is no room for him to simply speak the words of truth and mission without reflecting the lifestyle of truth and mission.This is the dilemma for many pastors. We have become experts in the science of spiritual nutrition and missional engagement, but, if our lives were closely examined, it would show that we’re lacking in personal missional engagement and the regular practice of evangelism.
If our lives were closely examined, it would show that we’re lacking in personal missional engagement and the regular practice of evangelism.
Paul tells Timothy and, through the scriptures, every christian minister that we are to be a picture of spiritual health and missional vigor. We are to be sober-minded and think clearly as we engage the world, and are to endure suffering by taking the ridicule and pain of cultural attacks from the world. These attacks are poignantly against the Word of God and people of God. We are to put in the work of an evangelist, whether we are gifted to or not, and should be sharing our faith with people who don’t know Jesus. This is what it means to be a healthy leader fully engaged in mission.
J Oswald Sanders states in his book entitled Spiritual Leadership, “If a leader shows strong discipline, others will see it and cooperate with the expectation placed on them. At this point, leadership by example is crucial.” How timely and apropos’ is this challenge for leaders in church planting today.
Therefore, let us not live our lives as “out of shape trainers,” who are extremely knowledgeable, yet lack discipline, but healthy leaders who are fully engaged on mission. I look forward to being challenged even more as we unpack this idea and many others at the Dallas conference this week.
Doug Logan (@ ) serves as Lead Pastor of Epiphany Camden. He is also one of the main speakers at our Dallas 2015 conference on Nov 12-14. For further details on how to book, and to take advantage of our exclusive hotel offer for the conference, click below.