Free & Fit’s New 12 Part Curriculum - Faith & Fitness as One - An Introduction
Free & Fit’s New 12 Part Curriculum - Faith & Fitness as One - Ancient Spiritual Practices Made Relevant Today - by Tim Cheux
The theory of Faith and Fitness is not an alien one. We all remember Eric Liddle’s stand not to exercise his fitness one faithful Sunday at the 1924 Olympics to mark the sabbath day or we fondly rejoice when a christian sports celebrity like Patrick Mahomes publicly declares their faith at the Super Bowl and Praises God for the victory or for Bear Grill’s when he reaches his destination and has accomplished what he set out to achieve on one of his many hiking adventures.
When I attended a Sport Ministry event in England at Lambeth Palace Archbishop Justin Welby quoted from the book of Hebrews and encouraged us to keep run our own faith in the context of our fitness. To keep going, to keep sharing the Gospel and to keep encouraging one another. We all left feeling encouraged and edified from the hospitality, the welcome and the attention we received as sports ministers as often is the case we are not always welcome to practice our Ministry, our Gifts and our Skills at the Pulpit on a Sunday or on the Field on a Saturday. We are often sidelined to serve Jesus. Yet here both Paul and the Archbishop argue otherwise, instead they want to lift up our Fitness or Sports Ministries and encourage us in our Faith. The Apostle Paul said it like this in Hebrews 12:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Paul states that we should run with “perseverance” for the “joy” that awaits us. An eternal joy which far surpasses any temporary joy we may experience whilst on this earth. Paul believes himself that we will receive a greater prize in Romans 8. “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”
So I hear you ask how can I do this in my local community? How can I share my faith and my fitness? Well lets break it down into four simple health related focused goals. Firstly, the World Health organization has historically defined Health as being Social, Physical and Mental well-being, being Christian we would like to add to that our Spiritual goals as well and specifically our own faith. Not just an adopted spiritual discipline of another faith or religion. So for the purposes of this presentation I will be focusing on these four core principles of a holistic well being of our faith and fitness across four key disciplines of social, mental, physical and spiritual well being.
Social Health Goals
Firstly we need to build our Social health around the communities we serve in. In the UK Christians in Sport motto is to place one member of their teams on a secular sports team so that a Christian would be present in every community. This is also true of Chris High at Hoboken Grace Church. As part of his outreach he wanted to place one member of the Church on a Zog sports team in the local community.
This theory is great in practice, but fails to follow up to the way in which Christ sent out his disciples. Two by two they entered the ark, two by two they went from town to town to preach the Gospel and where two or three gather their is God in the midst of them. When you see Preachers on street corners on their own shouting over microphones do you feel they are maximizing their impact? Accessible to answer questions? Available to pray for people? If we gather in twos and three we can represent both our faith as christians and our fitness as teams.
When we socially interact with others we need to be together. Not sent out alone or left alone. It is not good for man to be alone. So in every situation lets not be in the habit of some of neglecting our fellowship together and our shared ministry of preaching the Gospel of the world together. This is where our faith and fitness combine. Playing sports together and sharing the Gospel together. If it was good for the disciples it is definitely good for us!
Social Health Goal:
Send out Trained Teams of people to invite, to collaborate and to organize events together. Never go it alone! Two or Three people together.
If you can’t recruit large number of people to events or sports ministry gathering organize a sports or fitness ministry prayer event. People can always pray together!
“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Physical Health Goals
Returning to our original scripture in Hebrews Paul described Jesus as the “pioneer” and “perfector” of our faith. Here we can obviously make every effort to imitate Christ and certainly our prayers should be that we are aiming to be more like Christ every day as the hands and feet of Jesus in our each individual local communities. Yet, we may not be able perfect the image of Christ we can certainly be pioneers in our faith and fitness expressions. Chris Beickhart in the US and the Church or England and Methodist Church are huge influencers of creating fresh expressions of Church across different contexts in rural, suburban and urban communities. More recently, HTB in England has been planting exponentially through the pioneer ordination track releasing, equipping and training pastoral leaders to serve in fresh expressions of Church communities. However, perhaps we have not picked up on this in sports ministry.
Walking onto our local Basketball court, organizing the annual sports day event and local fitness outreach remain all good ideas, but dont quite embody the practice of faith and fitness together. Through borrowing some of the practices of fresh expressions and specifically “Dinner Church” Faith and Fitness magazine pioneer Brad Bloom and I took part in an Easter campaign to co-ordinate and organize in our local communities for Eucharist and Exercise to take part as one in the gym and outdoors in the Park this past April. Through sharing communion in the gym whilst meeting together Brad was able to bring the idea of breaking bread together into a new context and combine crunches with communion.
As part of my own Free & Fit communion we received communion during our warm up for a 3 mile run (5k) and broke bread together in Central Park in New York City. Likewise you can also do this in your own faith and fitness context.
Physical Health Goal:
Combine your own expression of Faith & Fitness by sharing communion in the context and community you serve.
Check to see if anybody is gluten free or doesn’t drink alcohol. It could be awkward if people cant accept the elements you share! We don’t want to disqualify people from receiving communion.
Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Spiritual Health Goals
Whilst studying towards my Masters of Divinity in an Anglo-Catholic context I have picked up on some of the Churches ancient traditions including saying the Lords Prayer everyday, reciting the Jesus Prayer and even learning part of the Rosary and buying my own beads!
However, what was most fascinating for me was being able to apply some of these ancient traditions to my own daily practice of sports and spirituality practices. Rather than borrowing some of Zumba, Pilates or Yoga formational exercises I have formed my own Christian warm up, exercise routine and movement and meditation. Perhaps its not rooted specifically in Christian traditions, but as I live and move and have my being I am reciting scripture, saying said Christian prayers and meditating on Gods word. In its own right I believe I combining my own faith and fitness for my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The following points are raised from previous Blog on the Lords Prayer as an expression of Sport & Spirituality.
These positions are not essentially specific movements which relate to the specific movement or exercise, but they can actually be changed and adapted to your own scriptures and stretches to suit what you need. However, for the purposes of being indoors I will make sure to reference when I next enter into an outdoor space that it is prepared with Holy and Almighty God able to adapt and change to the specific experiences of people on a case by case scenarios. The Lords prayer with stretching and praying.
Our Father in heaven hallowed be thy name starts with a stretch between your legs, which are fifteen centre meters further than shoulder width apart, and with your hands stretched out behind your heels. The verse read from the book of Luke states that Jesus said the following beginning to the prayer.
“He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘ Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come.”
Luke 11:2 AMP
All mentions of the Lord's prayer are adapted from the said scripture to form a prayer and not specifically from passages in the Gospels of Matthew or Luke. We then look at the forgiveness part of the Lords Prayer.
“And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us [who has offended or wronged us]. And lead us not into temptation [ but rescue us from evil ].’ ””
Again, all these practices can be adapted and adopted to your own expression of faith and fitness and I encourage you to try independently doing this practice as one in your own space and time.
Spiritual Health Goal: Spend time alone moving and meditating on Gods word whether you swim laps, run mile, hike, walk or ride a bike you can focus your fitness on your faith at the same time by fixing your mind on Jesus.
Helpful Hint: Write down memory verses for your workout alongside your session plan to help you remember to focus on God in your workout.
Relevant Scripture: But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.
Mental Health Goal
As part of my studies these past three years I have also become more and more aware of the mental health impact of my Ministry on my own faith. Its become more and more apparent that I need help and support to process others prayer requests and praise reports. Many healthy testimonies of healing and sad passing of loved ones can take its toll on the best Pastors and Priests in the Church. To not seek support of prayer, help to discern decision making and to be held accountable would be a foolish decision by anyones standards. Teachers and Doctors receive mental health help it would be naive to assume as Sports Ministry leaders we would not experience at some point in our careers burn out.
As a result of this I have been working with a Spiritual Director in both group and individual settings to help support me. Not all at the same time, or for all the same things, but to help me process the decisions I need to make, to pray about specific prayer concerns and to share my struggles of faith in confidence with a fellow believer. These meetings have been crucial, supported me through the pandemic and helped my mental and spiritual fitness.
It would be my recommendation to seek a Spiritual Director, but also to potentially consider joining a group or community in spiritual direction and even possibly becoming s spiritual director for others. The 360 degree model of mentoring doesn’t quite transfer in spiritual direction, but you can certainly receive and give direction.
Mental Health Goal: Get a Spiritual Director or join a Spiritual Direction Group. You can find spiritual directors online for your denomination or geographical area by searching on Google
Helpful Hint: You only need to meet monthly and you can change directors after three months.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm.
In conclusion, this has brought me back to the basic foundational concepts of running and praying, stretching and praying and reading the Word of God whilst moving with the Body given to us by God. In the Bible it says “For in Him we live and move and exist [that is, in Him we actually have our being], as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’” Acts 17:28 AMP Thus meaning that as God's children we can play, we can move, we can sing, we can dance and we can pray with God's word.
Love & Blessings F&F Team
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