Are You Fit for the Ministry?

THIS morning there is a funeral at ten o'clock. Hospital calls will have to be deferred until 1:00 P.M. Mustn't forget the joint meeting of the academy staff at four o'clock after I pick up my daughter at three-thirty. And there is a lay activities fact-finding-commission meeting at 7:00 P.M. Somewhere I must squeeze out a sermon for next Sabbath. . .

-Pastor of the Richmond, California, Seventh-day Adventist church at the time this article was written

THIS morning there is a funeral at ten o'clock. Hospital calls will have to be deferred until 1:00 P.M. Mustn't forget the joint meeting of the academy staff at four o'clock after I pick up my daughter at three-thirty. And there is a lay activities fact-finding-commission meeting at 7:00 P.M. Somewhere I must squeeze out a sermon for next Sabbath.

The pressure is on. And tomorrow is the same. How does a man become "fit" for the ministry? Are you fit to go to those meetings?

If you are called upon to attend a council meeting, ask yourself whether your perceptive faculties are in a proper condition to weigh evidence. If you are not in a proper condition, if your brain is confused, you have no right to take part in the meeting... . Do you feel as though you would like to fight some one? Then do not go to the meeting; for if you go you will surely dishonor God. Take an ax and chop wood or engage in some physical exercise until your spirit is mild and easy to be entreated. Just as surely as your stomach is creating a disturbance in your brain, your words will create a disturbance in the assembly. More trouble is caused by disturbed digestive organs than many realize. --Medical Ministry, p. 295.

Clearly we're told we will dishonor God unless we are fit to attend to our duties. What does it mean to be physically fit for the service of God? It does not require you to have the swiftness of a 100-meter sprinter or the musculature of a Samson. The ultimate purpose of physical fitness for a child of God is not brutish brawn but a pure brain for broad, sound, quiet, spiritual reasoning ability that can maintain an unbroken circuit with Heaven. That is why we are told:

Our ministers should become intelligent on health reform. They need to become acquainted with physiology and hygiene; they should understand the laws that govern physical life, and their bearing upon the health of mind and soul. . . .

In their own lives and homes they should obey the laws of life, practicing right principles and living healthfully. Then they will be able to speak correctly on this subject, leading the people higher and still higher in the work of- reform. Living in the light themselves, they can bear a message of great value to those who are in need of just such a testimony. -Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 376.

Physical fitness is defined in many ways, depending mostly on one's frame of reference and purpose. There is room and even validity for Seventh-day Adventists, who have objectives higher than the highest human thought can reach, to develop their own definition with its dominant emphasis, keeping the physical and spiritual priorities balanced.

Physical fitness for the Adventist minister can be described briefly as that state of body condition including skeletal, circulatory, and organ health that will support the highest energy level of spiritual development and Christian service. This state of physical fitness integrates the various body systems into a functional role programmed to nurture the strength of the will, the control of reason, and the cultivation of godliness, which is its ultimate objective. While vital roles are played by nutrition, psychological attitudes, and specific disease-control practices, we will focus here on activity and exercise, including their physiological contributions to physical fitness.

The healthy trend of this generation is to move away from the Charles Atlas image of bulk and sheer strength in favor of a motor fitness that develops each person to an optimum level of his capacity; not to his maximum capacity, for that is unnecessary and impractical, but to an optimum level for functioning in his job, for reaching the more important and ultimate spiritual objectives of being fit. Stamina, or endurance, as a measure of physical fitness deserves great emphasis, as described currently by specialists in this field.

The element of endurance or stamina has emerged as the real indicator of fitness. Endurance or stamina is the ability to with stand the physical and emotional stresses of daily life and to meet the emergency demands which may occur throughout the course of one's lifetime. Therefore, in the concept of physical fitness endurance training has become more important than strength training. Continual, rhythmic-endurance exercise is the essence of fitness. 1

Endurance to withstand daily physical and emotional stress is not merely a psychological transfer, so that if one can courageously endure to run steadily for thirty minutes he can courageously endure other strains of life. The relationship is largely a physiological one, related to body chemistry, that is cultivated through endurance exercise. The respiratory, excretory, and circulatory systems are so improved as to cope physiologically with strain through the day without the strain's inducing injury to the system.

Those who are engaged in constant mental labor, whether in study or preaching, need rest and change. The earnest student is constantly taxing the brain, too often while neglecting physical exercise, and as the result the bodily powers are enfeebled, and mental effort is restricted. Thus the student fails of accomplishing the very work that he might have done had he labored wisely. --Counsels on Health, pp. 563, 564.

Outdoor Labor a Blessing

If they worked intelligently, giving both mind and body a due share of exercise, ministers would not so readily succumb to dis ease. If all our workers were so situated that they could spend a few hours each day in outdoor labor, and felt free to do this, it would be a blessing to them; they would be able to discharge more successfully the duties of their calling. If they have not time for complete relaxation, they could be planning and praying while at work with their hands, and could return to their labor refreshed in body and spirit. --Ibid., p. 564.

Physical-fitness screening pro grams of ministers confirm the suspicion that being fit doesn't follow automatically with ordination. A sustained deliberate effort must be made, but an effort that can be enjoyed and incorporated into the daily schedule from now on.

Physical Evaluation

Before beginning a systematic fitness program, an evaluation of your present physical condition is extremely important. To begin such a program without an adequate physical evaluation is unscientific, unsafe, and unwise. Your physician can advise you as to whether or not you have any condition that would limit or prohibit your embarking on an exercise program.

In addition, in some areas professionally conducted stress testing is available. A number of measurements of physical fitness are taken, the most essential of which are an electrocardiogram, blood pressure, and pulse rate taken under exercise conditions. These are usually the limiting factors in recommending a personalized physical-fitness program for the average person.

Type of Exercise

The specific form of exercise you choose for your physical-fitness training program should depend upon your age, your starting physical condition, safety (jogging in big cities can be dangerous for women), and your personal likes.

Whatever exercise you choose, it needs to be continued over a long period of time, fifteen to thirty minutes or longer in some portion of the day, so as to develop endurance, as opposed to an all-outburst of energy and strength that may do more damage than good to the body. Remember, too, that physical-fitness training accomplishes most if it is enjoyed, and it is not fully productive if done under strain or duress.

One purpose for a mild-to-moderate level of exercise as opposed to a violent or strenuous level of exercise is that in the latter there is such a demand for blood and oxygen in the large skeletal muscles that the blood supply to many of the internal vital organs is restricted in order to provide blood flow to the larger muscles. Moderate exercise induces uni form circulation throughout the body, benefiting stomach, liver, kidneys, heart, and muscles simultaneously. As will be developed more fully next month, the objective of the exercise period is to elevate the heart rate to a certain level for a period of time long enough to benefit all the systems of the body.

It is not necessary to be an athlete or to run and strain to be in optimum physical condition. Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, author of The New Aerobics and one of to day's most quoted authorities in the field of applied physical fitness, said:

Done consistently and according to the aerobic charts, walking can gain for you the same benefits as any of the more strenuous exercises. The only difference is that it takes a little longer. Even if you do nothing but walk, you can eventually be as aerobically fit as anyone.2

Dr. Cooper's statement is but a scientifically measured confirmation of the following counsel: Walking, in all cases where it is possible, is the best remedy for diseased bodies, be cause in this exercise all the organs of the body are brought into use. . . . There is no exercise that can take the place of walking. By it the circulation of the blood is greatly improved. --Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 78 (1948 edition). [Emphasis supplied.]

Walking is an adequate form of exercise from the standpoint of energy expenditure. Interestingly, a person walking very fast at 5.3 miles per hour (or1 mile in 11 minutes and 20 seconds), which is within the range of most men, will utilize 80 more calories per hour than if he ran a mile at the same rate.3

For those who may wish a more strenuous form of physical fitness for reasons of time or ambition, there remain jogging, swimming, cycling, and running in place.

In view of the fact that it requires a 3,500-calorie expenditure to burn up one pound of body fat, it would require seven hours of swimming by an efficient swimmer to "swim away" one pound of fat. Other figures are sometimes quoted, such as you can lose one pound of fat by "walking 36 hr., splitting wood for 7 hr., or playing volleyball for 11 hr." 4

But this approach conveys a misconception. It would be more realistic to point out that if a person split wood for just thirty minutes every day, in two weeks he would have reached his seven hours, and in one year this amount of exercise time would represent a weight loss of twenty-six pounds of body fat.5 This is a significant and recommended procedure for weight control.

One great benefit in weight control that comes from exercise is the residual effect of the activity. A thirty-minute period of adequate exercise during the day can raise the level of fuel that the body consumes hours after. Thus the weightloss process continues throughout the day as a result of the exercise performed during only a small portion of the day; i.e., exercise increases the basal metabolic rate (BMR).

[Part 2 of "Are You Fit for the Ministry?" will appear in The Ministry next month.]


1. Fred W. Kasch, Ed.D., and John L. Boyer, M.D. Adult Fitness; Principles and Practices (Greeley, Colorado: All American Productions and Publications, 1968), p. 1.

2. Kenneth H. Cooper, M.D., M.P.H. The New Aerobics (New York: M. Evans and Company, Inc., 1970), p. 23.

3. Arthur C. Guyton. Textbook of Medical Physiology (Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Company, 1971), table, p. 827.

4. Jean Mayer, and Fredrick J. Stare, M.D. "Exercise and Weight Control Frequent Misconceptions": quoted from Background Readings for Physical Education, Ann Paterson and Edmond C. Hallberg (New York, Toronto, London: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967), p. 444.

5. Ibid.

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-Pastor of the Richmond, California, Seventh-day Adventist church at the time this article was written

January 1973

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