Unhealthy church members need more than a sermon

cheftimothy@cheftimothymoore.com | 5/17/2012, 3:36 p.m.

Obesity is rampant in the African-American church, and too many overweight people are packing the pews with little regard for their physical wellbeing. However, if the clergy is responsible for saving souls, shouldn't they be just as responsible for preparing healthy bodies for the "Kingdom?"

If the church were to take up the banner of health and wellness, the worship experience, in my opinion, would be gratifying. That's why I decided to write this column based on a conversation I had with someone who'd asked, "Why are African-American churches slow about teaching their congregation about the benefits of proper nutrition?"

The question threw me for a loop, but I was prepared nevertheless. "From what I have observed from certain churches, if it's not about financial prosperity or giving tithes and offering, it's not really important," I explained to the young man, trying not to deride the church or cause a furor.

If you've noticed, the African-American church and its people are plagued with more than widespread obesity. High blood pressure, diabetes and cancer are growing menaces as well, and our children are suffering from illnesses normally attributed to adults.

The clergy and other church leaders are just as unhealthy as some of the members in their congregation. Some of them are suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes – and many of them are just too fat. So maybe the clergy can't really preach and teach health and wellness when their own bodies are wretched temples.

The church is where you're supposed to seek and receive spiritual help and healing. But for some reason, the members tend to look elsewhere other than church leadership. It's not a one-stop shop for most churches, I would imagine. If there were some, they most likely would entrust their health ministry coordinator to conduct in-house health fairs.

When counseling individuals about nutrition and the benefit of eating a well-balance diet, along with some form of physical exercise, I explain to them that they have to take good care of their body. It is my belief that an unhealthy temple cannot support a soul that's waiting on its final destination.

To regain ones health, the church faithful will have to stop over indulging in foods such as fried chicken, neck bones, ox tails, peach cobbler, cornbread and sweet tea, and start eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. I assume it's difficult for most people to give up foods that they're accustomed to eating – but it can be done.

The clergy needs to stand in the gap for their members who're stuffing themselves and making themselves sick. If more church leaders get involved in healing more than just the soul, there may not be as much church hopping. People are looking for solutions to their problems – both spiritually and physically.

I don't think God wants His people to be sick, but you'll have to trust in Him for your salvation and good health too. It wouldn't hurt also for God's representative to intercede on behalf of those struggling with ill health. Just in case I wasn't clear before, there are some pastors who've used the pulpit to advocate for a number of things. Why not advocate for a healthier diet other than the standard staple of soul food?