Slimming Down the Body of Christ

By Randy Robison, Copyright Christianity Today International

A new movement of Christian health experts says the church's witness is compromised when it forgets the importance of physical fitness. Here's what they want you to know about taking control of your health.

Browse any Christian bookstore and you'll discover an ever-expanding list of diet and health books. Ask anyone in ministry what the top prayer requests they receive are and health-related concerns will invariably rank at the top of the list. American Christians, like all Americans, are worried about their health more than ever before—and for good reason.

"Christians don't feel like they can drink or use drugs, but they do feel they have a license to eat."—Dr. Don Colbert, author of What Would Jesus Eat?

One of the biggest health crises in the U.S. these days is what has been dubbed "the obesity epidemic." According to the Center for Disease Control, two out of three American adults (about 65 percent) are overweight, and a quick inventory of the bodies in the pews and pulpits of America reveals that the church is far from exempt.

Dr. Don Colbert, an Orlando, Florida-based physician and ministry leader, deals with a wide range of overweight patients—from the morbidly obese, whose excess weight poses a threat to their very lives, to the average dieter seeking to drop a few pounds. His research prompted him to write the best-selling Bible Cure series and What Would Jesus Eat?

"There is a spirit of gluttony in the church," Colbert says bluntly. "Christians don't feel like they can drink or party or use drugs, but they do feel they have a license to eat. And eat they will." This inattention to diet, combined with the inherent idleness of most of our occupations and hobbies, has led to pews and pulpits filled with obese people, adds Colbert.

callout align="left">"Nothing takes the place of exercise. God's design for muscle and bone is for them to be active."—Leslie Sansone, fitness trainer and creator of Walk Away The Pounds

Though it's fun to joke about the ubiquitous nature of fried chicken and baked beans at the church potluck, or the ready availability of doughnuts and pastries after Sunday services, the fallout out from our unhealthy eating habits is no laughing matter. Dr. Cris Enriquez, medical director of the Rapha Health Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, identifies excess weight as "a very significant risk factor" in the development of the three biggest killers of the modern era: heart disease, cancer, and stroke. "As temples of the Holy Spirit, to neglect the health of our bodies is to disobey God," he writes in his book The Healthy Life. "[God] desires us to care for our health—spirit, soul, and body."

Christians should not only stand out in the world as spiritual salt and light but also as a physical witness of healthy living and self-control, suggests Jordan Rubin, author of The New York Times bestseller The Maker's Diet. "Thousands of years ago, the Israelites were much healthier," Rubin observes. "They were much more separate. Today, health-wise, there is very little difference between a believer and a non-believer. So, my passion in life is to help transform the health of God's people, one life at a time, and through God's people change the world."


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