Spirit Alive: Is Your Church a Spiritual Gymnasium?


Spirit Alive is a weekly blog that looks at different aspects of mission and ministry throughout the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference and beyond.

November 3, 2015

With Heart, Soul, and Mind

“Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind….and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Matthew 22: 37-39

Is your church a spiritual gymnasium? A base camp? Or a warehouse?
I recently returned from a trip to Korea, where I had the privilege of being a part of a delegation from the Western Jurisdiction of the UMC that participated in an immersion experience to learn more about the Korean Methodist Church. It was a rich, powerful experience. It is an amazing experience to attend worship services daily at 5AM and be with between 500-1000 people each day. The church there has much to teach us about having a passionate faith, being dedicated to a daily rhythm of spiritual practice, and sharing extravagant hospitality with others. There is a lot to learn about church life and spiritual practice from our brothers and sisters in Korea.

This experience in Korea made me think about what it was like years ago to watch our youngest daughter, Kelly, work out with her rhythmic gymnastics team. During those years, I would go and watch her practices and sit there and think about what it would take for the church to become more of a spiritual gymansium. What would it look like for our churches to create a setting for a team of "spiritual gymnasts" to work out with each other regularly? Consider for a moment what your congregation would be involved in doing if it consciously set itself up as a place to practice spiritually. What would your church's spiritual equipment be? I’m thinking that John Wesley was concerned about such questions when he established the various cells and bands that became a part of the Methodist Movement. I’m not sure that our spiritual gymnasiums would begin with daily 5AM times of worship and prayer as they do in Korea, but what would our versions of spiritual practice look like?

In Micah 6:8 it says, “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Paul says, in Galatians 5: 22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” And when we join a United Methodist Church, we promise to support the church through our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.

So what would our congregations look like if these things were consistently part of how we spent our time together in spiritual workouts each week? Take a moment to look at this workout tape from Billy Blanks, doing Tae Bo in the 1990s… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvILSQr_WVY

Ready for a workout?

Tired? OK….Eight minutes of physical effort is one thing, but what would a spiritual workout really look like? How do you practice kindness, patience, and joy regularly? Could our congregations be places where these things were worked on in a consistent manner? Take a moment to write down two things that you could do as a part of a weekly spiritual workout. Are there others who would be willing to join you?  How would you begin?


“We spend our lives shaping the places in which we live, and then those places shape us.”
Frank Lloyd Wright

What would it mean to move from being a spiritual gymnasium to becoming a congregational base camp?
If your church is a “spiritual gymnasium,” it is much easier for it to become a base camp as well-- a place where you can go to get ready for the journey to the top. At a “base camp,” you catch your breath and organize yourself for the ascent ahead. But a base camp isn’t the destination. It’s the place where we gather the supplies needed, so we are ready for the strenuous climb before us. Edward Hays’, in his book The Ascent of the Mountain of God, says that “…Sundays are the ‘(base) camps’ where we come together with other climbers to chart our course and to find the mutual encouragement we need to continue. They are occasions to be aware that our ascent is no private exercise.” If our churches can be gymansiums to “practice” our faith and become base camps to “ready ourselves” for the journey ahead, then we will be more prepared to face our future as a people grounded in faith.

How’s it going with your spiritual workout these days? Is your church a place that helps you prepare for the journey ahead?

Blessings on your journey,

Lowell Greathouse
Lowell Greathouse is the Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church. He looks for places to find where the spirit is alive and help them grow in vitality and fruitfulness. Share with him at lowell@umoi.org