The Physical and the Spiritual, Part 2

The Ministry Life Choices Initiative (MLCI) will assist those in years 1-5 of ministry with developing habits and practices for sustainable ministry. The relationship will span the first few years of theological education and the introductory years as a congregational minister. The MLCI is a ministry of the Pension Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in partnership with Lexington Theological Seminary.

The MLCI blog series, launched January 15, 2014, is designed to promote conversation surrounding issues related to clergy health and well-being. The blog seeks to include and incorporate writers from a wide variety of ministerial contexts, seminaries and demographics.

This second installment of the blog series, begun February 12th, asks bloggers to reflect on their own understanding of how physical and spiritual health connect, intersect and work together.



Clergy Health and Well-being: The Physical and the Spiritual, Part 2
–by the Rev. Mark Poindexter, Pastor, First Christian Church, Martinsville, IN, M. Div., 1990, Emmanuel School of Religion; D. Min., Christian Theological Seminary, 2000

“ . . .You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”   1st Corinthians 6:19-20

For most of my life, I have been involved in a consistent exercise regimen.

Through college, seminary and for several years into my pastoral career it involved strength training. I spent four to five days a week in the gym lifting weights. For the past thirteen years, it has involved much more cardiovascular training, running, bicycling, and swimming. The strength training is now just once a week. I firmly believe that my commitment to physical exercise has helped kept me healthy, not only physically but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

On a personal level, the commitment to exercise has allowed me to accomplish some things about which I feel good. Several half and two full marathons, four sprint distance triathlons, and a one-day bike ride of 105 miles. I am not truly a competitor in any of these events. I am a “back of the pack” participate who strives simply to finish in the allotted time and I usually do. I always remember that I cross the same finish line that the winner does – just a few hours later.

On another level, my physical activity has become an important part of many my ministry. When a little girl in our congregation was diagnosed with leukemia, I asked the family if I could run a marathon in her honor. My goal was to raise $100 per mile for $2,620. The money was to be given to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. When this was announced to the congregation, two parishioners committed to running with me (both first time marathoners) and three others, including the little girl’s grandmother committed to running or walking the half-marathon distance. All of us together raised more than $10,000, most of it from our congregation.

For the past three years, I have participated in the Habitat for Humanity Cover Indiana Bike Ride. We ride about 400 miles over a week raising awareness of and funds for Habitat’s ministry. Each rider’s funds can go the affiliate of their choice. I designated my funds for our local Habitat affiliate. For my first year, I was the only rider form our affiliate. The next year, there were three of us. Both additions from my congregation. The third year, we had six riders with five being from my church family. Over those three years, we have raised almost $10,000 for simple, decent and affordable housing in our own community.

I have been blessed to be with some of my parishioners as they cross the finish line on their first road race, or their first triathlon. Their sense of accomplishment is beautiful to see. I have also been with several to the bicycle store as they talk about what kind of bike to get. And I have stopped in middle of a ride or run, and put my arms around someone – sweat and all – as our time together became an opportunity for them to share a burden or a struggle. Sometimes we stop to rest and sometimes we stop to pray. Pastoral care can take place in many ways – on the road in my running shoes or on my bike has become one way for me.

I have this one body that God has given me and I want to use it the best I can to help make a difference, and to bring the realm of God a little closer to being a reality in this world.