In previous issues of Elder’s Digest, we reviewed seven tips for living long, productive lives for God. Now the question is: How can you, as an elder and spiritual leader in your congregation, be a positive influence on other leaders and members of your church and encourage them to practice these principles? In this article and in future issues of Elder’s Digest, we will share some practical suggestions and ideas for motivating church leaders and members to improve their health and engage the community around their church.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your church were known in the community as a center for health, healing, and wholeness? What if your church was a place where people could go to find solid health information and lifestyle “coaches” who could assist them with their physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual needs? This was exactly what Jesus did in His ministry: He cared for peoples’ needs and then asked them to follow Him. His method is the only one that will bring success to our gospel outreach today.1
We must start first with ourselves and our congregations. An inspired quote regarding the health message says, “The Lord does not now work to bring many souls into the truth, because of the church members who have never been converted [regarding the message of health] and those who were once converted but who have backslidden. What influence would these unconsecrated members have on new converts? Would they not make of no effect the God-given message which His people are to bear?”2 This message comes as a strong reminder that we need to reconsider the importance of the health message in our own lives so that we can be a positive influence upon those the Lord will “bring to the truth.”
An initiative that can truly change the physical and spiritual lives of our church members is a basic “walking club.” As we discussed in a previous issue, one of the predictors for a long and healthy life is physical activity, so motivating people to begin the journey is one of the first things we can do. Walking programs such as In Step for Life have proved successful in helping people create the habit of exercise, allowing them to experience improved physical health—with a reduction in blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol—as well as mental and emotional well-being, with less depression, insomnia, and stress.
Here are some things you can do:
1. Lead by example and begin walking or engage in another type of daily physical activity.
2. If your church currently has a health ministries leader or team but does not have a physical activity initiative, share your experience and suggest that people get involved in a walking club. If you do not have a health ministries leader or team, talk to your pastor, ask God to send someone to your church who has a passion for health ministry, or volunteer to introduce the initiative yourself!
3. Begin by giving pedometers to people to use when walking with a buddy or on their own. Encourage them to log their physical-activity miles daily (use the log/mile chart found at www.instepforlife.com), and give certificates/ prizes every quarter to people who participate. Encourage the church as a whole to walk at least 1,000 miles every month.
4. Encourage people to share their stories during a “health minute” between Sabbath School and the church service. These stories will motivate others. Why do this during the Sabbath program? People need to be re-educated and reminded about the importance of whole health and its relationship to the spiritual journey, and you will have a captive audience during the church service. Caring for our bodies is also an act of worship to God.
5. Invite the community. Many people know they need to exercise, but they do not know how to start. Your church can help to meet this need. Encourage church members to invite their neighbors to be their walking buddies and to participate in the walking club.
The counsel we have received is, “All who can possibly do so ought to walk in the open air every day, summer and winter. A walk, even in winter, would be more beneficial to the health than all the medicine the doctors may prescribe.”3 Science has confimed that exercise is the best medicine. This is not only a matter of being physically healthy; our bodies—the temples of the Holy Spirit—and our minds will be more in tune to hearing His voice when our brains are oxygenated and our bodies energized. This is another way of “glorifying God in our body” (1 Cor. 6:20).
1 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, 143.
2 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, 6:370.
3 Ellen G. White, Counsels on Health, 52.
Katia Reinert is director of the Health Ministries Department for North American Division.