In a recent ChurchPulse Weekly episode, bestselling author and speaker, Rebekah Lyons, sits down with Carey Nieuwhof and David Kinnaman to talk about setting healthy rhythms amidst the pandemic. Together, they discuss how embodied practices (such as sleep, getting outside and physical exercise) can help leaders better care for their emotional and physical well-being.
On Living an Embodied Faith in the Church
In recent Barna Cities research, 62 percent of U.S. adults say they’d be interested if Christian churches in their community offered preaching and programs to help them achieve mental and emotional well-being, while an even higher number of practicing Christians (86%) expressed interest in this type of teaching.
Lyons believes that an embodied approach to caring for these physical needs will be a key marker for the future Church, saying, “The Church has gotten so loud with a megaphone, but we haven’t done the way of Jesus, which is the embodiment of witnessing […] The physicality of walking out the scriptures is healing in itself.”
She continues, “We could talk about the healing of God, and we can pray for the healing of God and that is very real. But if we don’t live the healing of God, then we’re [just] thinking about, ‘Where do I go in the afterlife, and how secure is my footing there?’”
Lyons continues, “If we grasp that as a Church–what is the embodiment, the physicality of being a disciple of Jesus today and tomorrow and next week, starting from our homes and then outside those walls into our communities—then all of a sudden we’re talking about flourishing.”
On Grounding Yourself in Nature
In an increasingly digital age, Lyons continues to emphasize the importance of exercise and spending time outdoors. She notes, “The grounding effect of being outdoors is really the antidote to all the digital, but we’re not doing it.”
One practice Lyons suggests is finding a nearby park. She shares, ”We lived on the upper east side for two years, and I would walk to Central Park and do that Southern loop with hundreds of other runners. It was just removed enough from the concrete jungle, where it was green all around […] I cannot suggest highly enough how vital it is to get outside.”
Kinnaman shares his own practices, saying, “Hiking for me has been one of these things where you can feel the stress sort of come off. […] It’s been one of those [activities] that helps me pause all my ambition and try to just take in what life has to offer.”
Lyons says, “Your body at 50 starts to stop and shut down, but if you put these practices of movement in place, you can almost sustain that same life rhythm up until you’re 80. But you’ve got to get ahead of it; you’ve got to get into it and practice.”
On Rhythms of Rest
One natural rhythm that Lyons finds essential for all leaders is a healthy sleep pattern, noting, “sleeplessness is one of the leading triggers for all mental health disorders.” She continues, “I had horrible insomnia […] I found it impacting every area of my life: my vocation, relationships, role as a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister.”
She notes, “It’s science as to why we aren’t sleeping. It doesn’t mean that you have trust issues with God […] It’s truly the fact that the circadian rhythm was intended by God to govern our sleep and our ability to rest.”
One practical solution Lyons has adopted to realign her circadian rhythm for better sleep is to walk every sunrise and sunset. She says, “A sunrise emits blue light that tells you to wake up, so get outside in the morning. I sit on my front porch like an 80 year old, and I love it.”
She encourages leaders to prioritize their sleep, sharing “I feel like I could run a marathon right now. I feel like the amount of energy that could come from uninterrupted sleep for so many of us in leadership who haven’t had that for so long, we don’t even realize that we’re operating at about 30 percent of our capacity.”
About the Research
Barna Cities: The data shown above is based on a representative sample of 2,007 interviews with U.S. adults, ages 18 or older. The interviews were conducted online from April 23 to May 5, 2021. The margin of error is +/- 2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence interval.
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2021