What would Jesus eat?

Yes, someone actually wrote a book with that title, and there is a slew of other Christian-themed diet books that have been written in the past 30 years. “Slim for Him,” “The God Diet” and more.

Can the power of the pulpit transform? Can Biblical principles help guide us down the narrow aisle and past the double fudge ice cream?

The New Testament passage from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reads “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

Not only invoking the precepts of moderation and scorn for gluttony, the author of “What Would Jesus Eat?” touts the Mediterranean diet common at the time of Christ, which of course included bread, vegetables, dates and fish but certainly no Mountain Dew or Thickburgers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention actually conducted a “Body and Soul” nutrition education campaign in black churches in North Carolina and Michigan from 2008-10.

Check out the CDC report, for a thorough reading of the evaluation, but I think it is safe to say the results were mixed.

The CDC said black churches could represent an important point of intervention:

“Adequate consumption of fruits and vegetables, 5 or more servings per day, may reduce the risk of several chronic disease and prevent approximately 30% of cancer deaths. However, many Americans are not meeting the dietary recommendations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and blacks appear to have less healthful diets than whites. Data for 2009 indicate only 22.4% of blacks reported eating recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. Therefore, effective behavioral interventions directed at increasing fruit and vegetable consumption are needed.”

The study said fruit and vegetable consumption increased slightly with the “Body and Soul” campaign, but the members of the congregation didn’t seem too motivated to reform their ways.

Interestingly, the program did not mandate that pastors addressed the issue from the pulpit, but some did.

From the news release:

“One pastor stated, ‘The body and soul are intertwined, and it would be pathetic of me to just talk about someone’s soul and not touch on their body.’

Pastoral counseling to individual members about health and encouraging church members from the pulpit about weight loss were other indicators of pastoral support.”

For pastors, as with all role models, it is probably easier to sell the “body and soul” message if the preacher/teacher makes it his or her own.

Do as I say and as I do is the needed approach. If the pastor of my church is a real health nut, I am more likely to listen to his message about the body as a temple that can be transformed to honor God.

With the plethora of congregational sins to choose from, preaching on “What would Jesus eat?” in the context of the corpulent church buffet and Sunday dinner with the deacon board may rank low on the priority list and high in possible pushback.

Yet it is a message that, given with the right measure of encouragement and exhortation, may produce the intended effect on over-indulgent church members.