A few years ago, officials at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage had a major problem. They had an elephant that was overweight. Her name was Maggie, and she was a massive, African pachyderm. All kinds of people weighed in on what should be done. Folks like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
John Seawall, who directed the elephant habitat at the Alaska Zoo, said, “she (Maggie) could stand to lose a couple of hundred pounds, but out of a weight of 9,200 pounds it’s somewhat insignificant.” Still, the zoo recognized the inevitable problems that come from a sedentary animal. Especially one as large as an elephant. So, they began exploring all the options.
Conveyor Engineering in Boise, Idaho agreed to help by building the world’s first treadmill for elephants. They designed heavy-duty conveyor systems used for mining and Sid Cannon, their vice president, said, “I figured that we put rocks on our conveyors that are as big as an elephant, and a treadmill is basically a conveyor, so building one would be no big deal.”
They also contacted a company called EquiGym in Lexington, Kentucky to help. EquiGym built treadmills and other exercise equipment for horses. Apparently, treadmills for animals are really nothing new. The exercise wheel has been standard equipment for years so mice could get exercise. Aquatic treadmills have been used by veterinarians to help rehabilitate injured dogs. There are also high-speed treadmills for racehorses and even camels that race. Maggie’s treadmill was 20 feet long and 5 feet wide when completed. The plan was to bury it in a pit so the surface was at ground level, and they hoped she got used to walking on it before they actually turned it on.
Ironically, African elephants in the wild are constantly moving, approximately 16 hours a day, as they search for food and water. Since Maggie was confined in a zoo and lived in Alaska where the winters forced her to stay inside, her keepers had to improvise to get her to do what she would normally and naturally be doing on her own.
Sounds like some churches I know. Constantly putting together systems and strategies to get their people (who call themselves Christians) to do what they ought to be doing normally and naturally on their own. So, every year they set out to try and find the latest newfangled product or program that will help lethargic laypeople get off their sanctified sofas and out doing what they ought to already be doing. After all ... they are Christians.
It’s not just elephants that need to get up and move. Many evangelicals do, too! The growing surplus of saints who sit, soak, and ultimately sour, are saturating churches all around the world, weighing them down and keeping them from being able to do what God called them to do.
Why should it ever be a struggle to get Christians to serve? Why would the church ever have to challenge a follower of Christ to be faithful? Why would spiritual leaders ever have to remind anyone who’s been redeemed where they ought to be on the Lord’s Day or what they ought to be doing every day of their life because of their love for their Redeemer?
If your church has become nothing more than a zoo where the keepers try to get everyone to do what they ought to already be doing, take heart, you’ve got plenty of company – it’s a jungle out there. But if you’re tired of the monkey business that passes for ministry in too many churches, get up and do something about it.
Just don’t build a treadmill.
© 2014. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.