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Should Church Leaders Talk About Physical Wellness?

We have a global physical health crisis. We do not have a growing healthcare industry in the U.S.—it is a sick-care industry. We are over-medicated and undernourished by real food from God’s ground. Too many of our members suffer from insulin resistance, hypertension, and inflammation. Our livers are fatty, and our guts are leaky. There is collusion between big pharma, big government, and the processed food industry. I truly believe processed food is largely to blame for our rising rates of chronic disease.

We’re not truly living longer—we’re dying longer.

I deeply care about people under my care and influence having more life in their years, not just years in their life.

I’ve never written words like this for public consumption. Sometimes it feels like I should “stay in my lane.” I’m not a medical doctor. Yet, I think I, and maybe other church leaders, have done a disservice to their congregations by not being more informed about rising chronic illness among our members.

Why is there such silence around this topic within the American Church, especially when we all know that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit? Here are three reasons.

1. We’re generally uneducated on the topic. We don’t know where to go to get good data. We feel weird recommending health and wellness books and podcasts.

I know from experience that health and wellness is rarely, if ever, discussed between pastors at circuit gatherings. Occasionally, a pastor admits he’s going on a diet, while the rest of the pastors think, “Glad it’s you and not me. That sounds like a lot of work.”

2. Our leaders struggle to model healthy habits.

It’s hard to talk about a topic that we struggle with. You feel like a hypocrite. Satan keeps you stuck in your shame, rather than rejoicing in the new man or woman brought to life daily by faith. Invite the Holy Spirit to help you personally get more healthy, and then invite your congregation to join you.

Let’s be honest. Ministry is stressful. We deal with matters of eternity, for goodness' sake. Critics are consistent. Death and another funeral are just around the corner. Dreams don’t become reality. Sunday and another sermon come every week. Shame. Guilt. Fear. Anxiety.

The deadly formula is well-researched:

  • Stress leads to inflammation.

  • Inflammation leads to chronic disease (diabetes, dementia, hypertension, cancer, etc.).

  • Chronic disease causes death to come sooner than it should.

You have the answer to stress. Peace. The peace that comes from Jesus blows our minds. Rest in his peace.

3. We believe talking about health and wellness is legalism.

Uhh. It depends. Does your tone around the topic start with grace centered in the work of Jesus, or do you lead with crippling shame? I recommend the former. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Your body is a miracle of God’s creative genius. The fact that all of our bodily systems work subconsciously to sustain our lives should be mind-blowing.

Jesus loves your body. He prays you do, too.

I would highly recommend two next-step learning opportunities.

1. Put The Model of Health Show podcast with Shawn Stevenson into your rotation of podcasts. He is not a Christian (as far as I know), but his first article and research-backed wellness tips are next level!

2. Read Metabolical: The Lure and the Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine. This is a very comprehensive book by Dr. Robert H. Lustig. I read a lot of books. Not all books are created equal. Some books are obviously the culmination of a man’s life work. Metabolical is such a book.

This book opened my eyes to how the powerful food industry is failing at its primary task—helping humans nutritionally thrive.

Let me give you some startling stats from the book.

  • We spend 97.5 percent of our healthcare budget on individual treatment and only 2.5 percent on prevention.

  • The US ranks twenty-eighth among the most developed countries in the world, and for the last four years, our life expectancy has declined.

  • You have the work upstream of the problem if you’re going to fix the cause. Working downstream only fixes the result.

I truly believe the Church has a role in helping humans “work upstream” through deep community connection, loving encouragement toward eating real food and resisting processed food as much as possible, moving our bodies and receiving the peace of God in Christ that lowers stress.

I would love to hear your thoughts on whether church leaders should care about this topic. You obviously know I have a strong opinion.

The Unite Leadership Collective is here to love, encourage and challenge you on your leadership journey.

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