It’s been there, posted on a wall here and there. I just never stopped to think about it until this morning, while working out at the gym. There in front of me was this poster: “Exercise is not Training”. Maybe it’s intended for people like me, who go to the club four to five times a week, swim laps, play tennis, lift weights, and spin. I’m not really destinational. This is especially true in spinning class. We ride lots of miles, but go nowhere. I’m not really training for anything—just maintaining, keeping muscles from going limp and a tennis game from regressing any further, and lungs from devolving. And maybe that is okay. At this point in my life, I am quite content if my body just keeps its shape.
But this is not okay in other areas of my life, especially ministry. It wouldn’t be such a bad idea to put this sign on a number of doors, both at the church and at the seminary. For we enter these places not merely to exercise, but to train (I hope). This certainly was Paul’s language. He did not call us to mere exercise. I Tim 4:7 exhorts us to “train yourself in godliness”. Everything about his faith was destinational, as it must be ours. There is a prize to go after, a race to be run, a line we are called to aim for (2 Tim 4:7).
While I am not so impressed with Steve Jobs personal life, I am impressed with a man who seemed to live by these words, “Exercise is not Training”. I am much of the way through Isaacson’s impressive biography, Steve Jobs. I did not like it at first. I found myself wondering why I should devote much time to a man who was clearly a narcissist and at times a real jerk. But now that I am in chapter 30, I am finding myself reading portions of it to my staff. And here’s why. More than keeping on keeping on, he always kept pressing forward into the future.
In the chapter “The Digital Hub: From iTunes to the iPod”, Issacson recounts how Jobs would once a year take his most valuable employees on a retreat. Standing in front of a white board, he would ask this question: “What are the ten things we should be doing next?” He would get their suggestions, cross off the ones he considered dumb, and then announce they could only do three. It was out of these settings Apple came up with some of their great ideas—ones that moved into reality.
In one of these moments, Jobs and team launched a grand new strategy. Just when experts were predicting the personal computer, the center of the digital revolution, was losing its central role, maturing into something “boring”, edging toward the sidelines, Apple decided that the PC should become the digital hub that coordinated everything from music players to video recorders to cameras. Everything changed for the Macintosh, as well as for Apple.
So what’s the takeaway? Exercise is not training. Doing ministry the same way, leading the church to the same goals, staffing ministry to do the same ministries is simply exercising. Dreaming, envisioning, imagining, and planning for a future that is constantly shifting is training. We talked a lot about this today in our staff. We have no desire to be caretakers of the status quo. We have to keep asking—what are the ten things we should be doing next? And just maybe, God might give us a new strategy that maximizes something people are writing off, or creating something people have not thought about yet.