I have served in active ministry for the sake of my Lord for 40 years, and in my role as Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief director for the last decade. In that time, I've learned that ministry is not for the faint of heart.
Our calling often requires us to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of Christ and others with long hours and stressful days. This can wear on us spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
I was reminded of this in May of 2017, when I began having some neck pain and numbness in my left arm. When this continued, I decided to call my cardiologist.
I was quickly scheduled for a heart catheterization, and the result was three stents placed in my coronary arteries. I am thankful for God’s sufficient grace, and that I could catch this health problem before it caused more serious issues like a major heart attack or stroke. God has reminded me afresh that I cannot serve him well if I do not take care of my own health.
I would encourage you as a minister to:
- Develop a regular discipline of exercise. I have found a morning 30-minute exercise regimen to be best for me as I often lose control of my afternoons and evenings as ministry needs arise during the day. Find a type of exercise that you enjoy and can maintain. For me, it is walking or riding a stationary bike.
- Maintain a healthy diet. It is easy in ministry to eat on the “go” and to make less than healthy choices. I am disciplining myself to watch my portion size, to eat more vegetables and fruits, and to watch my cholesterol and fats. I thank God that eating healthier has increased my energy for His sake.
- Get Proper Rest. We all need a good night sleep. God recharges the body when we allow it to rest and trust the events of the day to Him.
- Take time to get away from ministry for brief periods and to allow God to restore you. Unlike the Energizer Bunny, we will run down without some down times to relax. Ministry can be demanding and stressful, even when things are going well. Burnout and compassion fatigue are damaging to us and our families and can be deadly to ministry.
- Rely on the strength of God’s Holy Spirit to help you begin and maintain good health practices. If overeating is a weakness for you, then ask the Spirit to help you fight the urge to make unhealthy food choices. If lack of exercise is your problem, then ask God to help you set your alarm and get up a few minutes earlier.
God has reminded me that I cannot minister effectively if I neglect my own physical, emotional, or spiritual health. God cares about our bodies. He gave them to us. He wants us to do all we can to keep our bodies healthy and active for His sake for the days that He has appointed us. Take care of yourself for your sake, but, even deeper, for His sake.
“For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
Coy Webb is director of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief.