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Everyone who knows me knows I’m a thinker. My brain is constantly going and you can always tell by the look on my face. My mind often wonders over to really random and sometimes bizarre things like aerobics. I am a little overweight--depending I guess on which city I am in. In Paris, I was the fattest guy on the street. At home in Dallas, I feel pretty good about myself. When I was faced with the dilemna of getting back in shape, the risk of showing up for the wrong class struck me--maybe not too unlike what people feel when they decide they need to be in church for the first time in a long while.
At my gym, I was pleased to find separate classes for beginnners, intermediate and advanced. What a novel concept. What if we could do that in church? Wouldn't that remove a lot of intimidation for the visitor? Wouldn't it be the goal to reach someone where they currently were and progress them to the next level or class?
Is that not a mirror of the Gospel? That Jesus meets us right where we are but does not stop challenging us to grow? Step by step. faith by faith. Precept upon precept.
How lousy would I feel if I walked into a "one size fits all" aerobics class and could not keep up? Would I come back? No way.
As a pastor, I am sure you are wishing you could just have different services: for beginners, intermediates and advanced Christians. Many churches are actually doing that. Different services are casting nets at different levels. But suppose you can't do that and you were left with one "class" to teach all levels. How would you connect with the spiritually "unfit" and still challenge the advanced crowd?
Ok, imagine that you are an aerobics instructor. I know, I know…it’s a stretch (pun intended). But seriously, imagine if you were an instructor who held regular workout classes and wanted to see growth—meaning, more people working out and being pushed to the next level, but you had to train them all in one class.
So how would you hold your class? If you cared about the people, you would start by explaining all the aspects of the class and communicating that beginners should not feel obligated to overdo; nor feel intimdated if they cannot follow along. You would make sure there were some "light" exercises just for them. You would let them know they are welcomed and give them grace to join in at their own pace. You wouldn’t just yell at everyone. You wouldn’t tell them that they are not doing a good enough job—people would feel terrible about their progress and not return. Your heart is to see people move up the highest level, but that is done one affirmed step at a time.
If Jesus was an aerobics instructor, I’m pretty sure that’s how He would do it. (By the way, I think He would be the best aerobics instructor ever). Seriously. What do you think?
© Richard L. Reising