Back when we were dual income, no kids, we would splurge on a spa day during our annual vacation. Just remembering the soft
music and the smell of eucalyptus and lemon grass makes me insta-happy.
I would lie on the table feeling like Queen Ester, as skilled hands applied oils, massaged, plucked, and soothed my tired body. My favorite part was sitting in their lounge afterwards feeling renewed and refreshed, smelling awesome and sipping white tea or cucumber water.
I’m going to issue a disclaimer here – I love the spa. There’s a place for the spa. However, the church ain’t it.
Although my spa days are on pause during this season – I go to the gym regularly. Thanks to some awful friends who make me get up at 4:30am to meet them there. God will avenge me… (more on that here)
When you start attending regularly, the other “regulars” will inevitably interact with you. It doesn’t matter if you have earbuds in, with a look of sheer hatred on your face, and you look like you spent the night in jail – they will start talking to you.
Maybe at first, they just smile and encourage you. Pretty soon, they are teasing you or giving you a hard time when they don’t see you.
Trainers make the rounds and show us new ways to kill ourselves. I know they take some sick pleasure in this…. Anyway, I digress.
Every morning, I can’t help but feel like – this is what a church is meant to be.
Paul says it this way in 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”
Church is a place where the word is taught for the purpose of building us up. Think getting spiritually stacked. But why? Just so we can look good in our church yoga pants? No, “God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”
The church isn’t the mission. The church is the training ground.
Put it this way – if I went to the gym ever day, and got down to 8% body fat and could bench 350 pounds, but I couldn’t put that strength to practical use – helping a neighbor with their yard, picking my kids up when they’re tired, or moving furniture with my husband – I am completely useless. All those muscles, all that effort, all that discipline is garbage.
When we go to our church gym, and learn the scriptures, but don’t take it out and practice it in daily life – our faith is meaningless.
James 1:27 “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”
True faith has works right behind it. You can’t have one without the other.
Now most of us know that. But what about the culture of the gym?
Here are Gym rules that should be Church rules:
- You are there to encourage one another – There are these two guys at our gym that are part of our 5am family – they are like the Gym Greeters. When we walk in, they are already there shouting out to us like we’re family coming home for the holidays. They notice when we’re slacking on effort and encourage us to “stop being wussies.” The word “encourage” in the New Testament Greek is the word which means to “fan into flame.” We aren’t there to offer excuses or platitudes. We are there to remind each other that if God is for us who can be against us? To help each other lift the weight – to remind others the great things God has done. And can still do.
- If you want consistent growth, you need accountability – I drag my cranky carcass out of bed at 4:30am because I know my gym family is looking for me. Not because I feel like it. When I take an extended leave from the gym, it’s usually because something is wrong. I’m sick. I’ve lost motivation. My family’s sick. So when your church family approaches you about your absence, don’t get all up in your feelings – experience has shown us if you are gone for awhile – something is wrong. We aren’t there to hammer you. We’re there to help. (See rule #1)
- Don’t judge people who are fatter or fitter than you – I gotta say, the fat girls at the gym encourage me more often than the fit girls. I see them come in every day (often more cheerful than I do) and work hard. They don’t give up. They don’t accept current reality as a future inevitability. I love them. That being said, I used to look with malice at the fit girls at the gym. Nothing jiggles, every inch is disciplined and perfect. I want to yell at them, “Okay. We get it! You’re perfect! Now, can you just stop? You’re done now.” But I shouldn’t judge them either. Some Christians look like they have it all together, but the Holy Spirit is still challenging them to achieve another level. To submit to his training. They have their own junk they are working out with Jesus. Don’t judge either one. (See rule #1)
- You should not be comfortable – I am not comfortable at my gym. I am breathing hard, shaking, and I am not pretty. Church is a place where you should not be comfortable spiritually. Because comparing our spiritual fitness level to what it should be – Jesus – is never going to be a comfortable experience.
This is where the church spa mentality comes in. People want to come into a church and feel like they are getting a massage. “I know it’s hard, sister. Don’t worry about loving your enemies. Jesus understands.” or “Jesus doesn’t want you to do anything that doesn’t make you happy.”
2 Timothy 4:3 “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.”
I’ve had several personal trainers and I’ve pretty much disliked every single one. Because they didn’t let me come into the gym and cry on their shoulder about how hard it is. They didn’t accept my excuses that the chocolate cheesecake was life-changing and therefore I needed to eat half of it.
They encouraged me by telling me – I was made to do more. I was created to be more.
We need to stop looking for spas and start looking for churches that will fan us into flame.
So if you’re out there looking for a church – look for one where you aren’t comfortable. A place that is a training ground to send you fully equipped to do every good work for the glory of God. Churches should be filled with sweaty people.
Smelly churches will change the world, and they start with changing themselves.