Off the Treadmill … Take a Hike I've never been very good at exercising. Weight lifting, exercise bikes and treadmills have never had any appeal for me. But that doesn't mean I couldn't stand to use them. If I were a committed user of the aforementioned contraptions, I am confident that I would be in better physical shape than I am currently.

But what if instead of lifting dead weight I went to work on all of the physically demanding projects around the house? Or helped my neighbor, my church, or my community by volunteering my labor? Or if instead of riding a stationary bike indoors I would get out and take a bike ride with my family? Or if instead of using a treadmill, I would get up and out of the house and take a long walk with my wife? These exercise contraptions are a convenient, comfort-oriented replacement for the real living that would be even healthier for us.

Church consultant Will Mancini suggests that the church in America has also substituted similar "spiritual exercises" for a real-life journey with Jesus. He believes that the majority of churches spend the majority of their time, money, and attention on the "ministry treadmill": the routine of comfort-oriented church programming that we often suggest will lead to spiritual health. Evangelism is often reduced to an invitation for others to join us for exercising on the treadmill to get in shape spiritually. Yet the problem with treadmills is that they get boring. You start to feel like you're just going through the motions and getting nowhere. You begin to realize how you can better use your time and your commitment to the treadmill slowly wanes.

But what if our communities of faith looked less like a treadmill and more like a hike through life with Jesus? What if we focused our attention on living in real life with our real Lord and Savior instead of settling for going through the motions of religious activity? What if our congregations clearly understood their unique purpose and calling of God and began to live into it, following Jesus each step of the way? Now don't get me wrong, ministry treadmills are certainly more healthy than being a spiritual couch potato! But I believe they are simply a modern-day substitute for the true spiritual exercise that God intended for us. I believe God desires you and me to live our lives every day in a real relationship with Jesus.

A friend and colleague mentioned that he believes that we've lost touch with Christian vocation: disconnected our faith from our lives as a husband or wife, mother or father, employee or employer, community member, neighbor, and friend. We often abandon the idea that a life lived with Jesus impacts every aspect of our real lives, not just for an hour or two on Sunday mornings.

Friends, let's stop just going through the motions of religious activity, get off the treadmill, and take a hike with Jesus! Let's focus our ministries on an authentic journey together with Jesus and help one another live that out in every aspect of our lives. And let's invite others to come and walk with Jesus, too!