Uniting our bodies, minds, and souls in Christ

Written by Shawn Naylor

Recently, I played a board game called Newton’s Tree, where you place apples onto a tree, trying to prevent the tree from falling over in the process. Essentially, the objective of the game is to maintain the tree’s balance.

The same objective is essential in life as well. When we are out of balance, everything seems to collapse in on itself and cause chaos.

I believe each person is made up of three parts: the body, the mind, and the soul. Even within the Christian tradition, there are many theories about the relationship between these three. Here’s how I’ve come to understand them.

The body is the external form that exists in the material world. We try to keep our bodies healthy so they can operate most effectively. In an ideal situation, bodies are intended to move and work. They thrive from use. Sadly, if our bodies are unused, uncared for, or fighting illness, they will weaken.

The mind is the conscious control mechanism for your body. Similar to the way the body needs exercise, when the mind isn’t stimulated, it becomes weak, unimaginative, stale, and stagnant. The mind needs problems and difficulties so it can grow. And as it grows, so does its capacity to create and understand beyond its perceived limitations. 

The soul is the essential driver behind all decision making. It is the immeasurable presence within a person. The soul is not bound by reason, rather it has a proclivity to operate outside of dialectics/earthly logic.

You’ll often hear someone say, “I don’t know why I did it, but I felt like I needed to.” That is the soul overriding the mind. I like to think of it this way: the soul can take the body through things that the mind is trapped by. 

When these three elements, body, mind, and soul, are functioning in a healthy relationship within a person, this creates a life-giving synergy.

Synergy is the outflowing of two mutually beneficial relationships that produce something new that wouldn’t exist otherwise. When a Christian is living their full life potential, there is a synergy between their body, mind, and soul.

As I searched through the Scriptures looking for what Jesus said about this kind of balanced connection, I found this incredible moment where He tells His disciples, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). 

What does this look like? A story in Acts 16 comes to mind. Paul and Silas were in prison. Their bodies were beaten and they were wrongfully imprisoned, but still they sang songs in worship to God. As they sang, the prison gates opened. But being in tune with God, they didn’t leave. They stayed to save the life of the jailor, who was ready to kill himself when he thought the prisoners had escaped.

His response was, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). He would have likely faced physical death in his culture for allowing the prisoners to escape. But more importantly, the jailor’s question isn’t just about his body. He wants spiritual salvation as well.

Paul and Silas’s response is an example of where the physical, mental and spiritual are all working in balanced order—leading to someone coming to know Christ. I don’t know about you, but if it were me and those gates opened, I would have run. If their bodies hadn’t been physically ready to endure beatings, their minds hadn’t been ready to persevere, and their souls not connected to God, the jailor would have taken his own life.

When a Christian is firing on all cylinders, the result leads to more life. What’s interesting is that Paul and Silas had no idea the gates would open, they just began to sing because their souls had the desire to worship God. Their minds were ready to reach people with the good news, and their bodies were ready to carry them there.

Let’s apply this to leadership. We must be concerned with the effectiveness of our work, with managing daily life, and with our mission. 

What is your leadership producing? Is your leadership only producing numbers, or only managing, or only making mission statements? If we only focus on one area, the result is dysfunctional and ineffective leadership.

Personally, I have to focus on the managing area, otherwise I stumble and fail miserably. But as I observe and make time to balance all the areas of leadership, I see greater health and synergy in the results.

A self-leadership experiment

Try this every day for a month.

  1. Go for a 20-minute walk.
  2. Take the current situation you’re dealing with and consider how you would resolve it in a way that produces life.
  3. Share with God something you appreciate and something that concerns you.
  4. Record your thoughts throughout this experiment.