Physical fitness tests and the church

I’m blessed to have the opportunities to talk to church leaders about their congregation’s outreach. If you’ve read Church Inside Out, especially the workbook, then you know that much of the book is focused on self-evaluation. It calls a church to look at what it’s doing well and what it’s not doing well.

Today I was remembering the Presidential Physical Fitness test from my youth. If you went to school after Eisenhower and before Obama, you had to do these tests in some form or fashion. I remember the tests as being 600-yard run, 50-yard run, chin-ups, sit-ups, standing broad jump, and softball throw. Since I didn’t get my coordination until junior high, those tests were a nightmare. I could nail the sit-ups, do okay in the broad jump, and would be totally humiliated in the other categories.

We would take those tests once a year, then forget about them. We did nothing to try and improve our performance. We merely ignored the existence of the test until it came around again.

In an ideal world, when those tests revealed my lack of upper body strength, someone should have helped me develop in that area. (Poor Mrs. Jenkins was dealing with 50+ kids in P.E. class; there was no way she could have paid that kind of individual attention to one student. She did well to keep us from killing one another.) Then the next year’s test would have been an interesting evaluation of progress, rather than merely confirming the previous year’s results.

When churches look at their strengths and weaknesses, they should be looking for how to improve in the areas where they are weak while taking advantage of their strengths. It’s not about criticizing nor ridiculing; it’s about finding areas where improvement can be made.

The same goes for each of us personally, of course. We seek outside evaluations of our spiritual lives, not to swell with pride or wither in despair, but in order to learn to strengthen the areas that need fortifying.

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