This year, I’ve been on a journey to improve my overall health and fitness. I started the year with the usual best practices: increased exercise that incorporates cardio, flexibility, and strength training; along with improvements to my diet, including more whole foods, less processed junk, and smaller portions overall.
One of my desired outcomes from this journey is weight loss, and I confess, the progress in that area has not always been as fast as I would like. A few weeks ago as I got off the scale, I realized that I felt tempted to scrap my new lifestyle, in order to short-circuit directly to faster weight loss.
But here’s the thing: my changes are paying off. I’ve gotten leaner (over 12 inches lost from various body parts, and decrease in percentage of body fat). I’ve gotten stronger (noticeable muscle and I can lift significantly more weight). My endurance is better (faster runs and less fatigue). My perspective on food is healthier (I crave healthy food and can recognize and manage weak spots). In other words, I’ve become everything I hoped to become through this journey — except significantly lighter.
I know that continuing my new lifestyle will eventually result in the additional weight loss I desire, in addition to the positive changes I’ve already experienced. But what if I chose to focus only on the outcome of weight loss? Then I would completely change my approach. If the scale became the sole indicator of success, I would do anything just to get that number lower. But in the process, I would compromise my improved health — which, when it comes down to it, is the true desired outcome. Yet it’s amazing how easily I can be tempted to short-circuit to a result that is really a by-product of much deeper change.
We face the same danger in our ministry. We are told that healthy churches grow, and that one measurable outcome of this growth is increased attendance (i.e., numerical growth). But instead of sticking with the long process of planting, nurturing deep roots, tending young plants, watering and pruning, and then finally seeing the fruits of our labors, we are tempted to short-circuit to the by-product of that process, and to do whatever we can to increase our numbers. We tell ourselves that higher attendance must be evidence of true growth, when in reality we’ve substituted the former for the latter.
Don’t be deceived: There is no short-circuiting to the results that only come from the process of deep and total change. Are you committed to the discipline and patience of a transformative process, or are you more focused on the final number?