Is Our Body Really a Temple? Part 2 – The Pastor Problem

Fitness2 Because discipleship include the whole person, including the body, to some extent, how we care for our bodies must be taken seriously. What that means may be open to some definition. However, the overarching principle of temple care, while annoying at times 🙂 is something I believe the church should always take seriously.

That is wy this headline from a 2010 article continues to bother me: Duke Study Finds Clergy Outweigh Parishioners. The study cites as a contributing factor that self-care is seen as selfish. I believe there are other reasons. Among them:

  • Average clergy works long hours in a higher stress vocation. Thus, time reserve energy for exercise are not readily available.
  • A false dualism between between body, soul and spirit still exists. Body is seen as detached from or secondary to matters of the spirit–rather than viewing our being as an integrated whole comprised of different parts. This is in part why most Christians have never heard good teaching on a theology of the body. Many preachers don't believe there is one–or don't want to risk offending people by articulating it. It's easier to say, "Don't drink, don't smoke, don't have sex before marriage." That, however, isn't a proper theology of the body that helps both preacher and congregation understand what it means to live in our bodies as if they are blood-bought and not our own.
  • Clergy are public figures. Thus, any change in appearance is noted by the congregation. If anything from clothing style, haircut, etc. is changed people notice. One's self-image is personal…and they don't want the congregation commenting on it for good or ill.
  • Laziness and/or gluttony.

Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that many pastors avoid the subject of temple care because they themselves are continuing to add rooms to their own. I'm not suggesting that all pastors are overweight. In fact, some of the most physically fit guys I know are pastors. I'm also not suggesting the pulpit be used as a place to articulate the virtues of P90X. Jack Lalanne and Jesus are different people…this I know. However, it seems to me that saying nothing about stewardship of the body isn't an option any longer.

Let me ask your honest opinion on a few things. Pick one or all of them:

  • Do you lose a little respect for pastors who are overweight? Why?
  • Is it vain or biblical to judge someone's spirituality based on their self-care?
  • Do you agree that preachers are reticent to talk about matters of health beyond the typical drinking, smoking, drugs, pre-marital sex topics? If so, why?


Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Share Your Thoughts

6 thoughts on “Is Our Body Really a Temple? Part 2 – The Pastor Problem

  1. Brooke,
    Thanks for the honesty. Not many have wanted to “weigh in” on this one (pardon the pun). I’ll be interested to see what the bloggers out there think.

  2. Wait, I forgot to answer the “why”.
    A couple of reasons; they themselves feel guilty for not being an example of what God may be asking/requiring of us to treat our body as a holy temple. But my guess would be that if a pastor preached on this, with confession, and asked his fellow brothers and sisters in the body to hold him accountable, not only would they, but that would give the body confidence that they could take on this new healthy journey alongside their humble pastor.
    Another reason, maybe the lack of knowledge scriptually, where to really turn in the scriptures for proof that this is what God wants from us!!??

  3. Hey Tim,
    Very ironic you wrote on this very subject. Several times YOU have been on my heart regarding this subject. :). If I’m being brutally honest, I’ve wondered how long b/f you start having health issues with the amount of coffee and energy drinks you drink throughout the day. 🙁 (response to part 1 and 2)
    Anyways, I’m personally glad that you’re going to be excercising and taking care of yourself. This subject is very touchy and everyone’s decision on how they treat their body, what goes into their temple, etc… effects their relationship with God. Something we each have to live with. I know that for me when I lack good exercise and food that nourshes me, I don’t feel energized or the closeness to God to get through the day and spend my day being the best mom, wife, and daughter for God’s glory.
    With that being said, I tend to lose a little respect for pastors who are very overweight and obese. How can they do their best to shepard God’s flock if they do not even care to take care of their own self? God gave us great and healthy food to eat. I personally believe indulgence is okay to a point, but it should be limited. You can make a delicious home cooked meal with healthy food. Adding to what JamesBrett said above, the questions that would be important for pastors (and people in general) is 1)Are you fueling your body properly to do the work God wants you to do and who He wants you to be for your family and those who you are supposed to be witnessing to? and 2) Daily, are you home to eat well balanced meals w/ your family and available to your kids and wife to get outdoors and be active/having fun family time?
    Your second question is a tough one. I could probably write a thesis on this but I try to keep my answer short. I believe it is biblical to judge someone by their weight. As you get older, and speaking from a woman’s point-of-view, weight is a battle after kids. I see how God has blessed us and I think strongly desires us to live a life to full health (to the best of our ability). If you’re overweight or obese, you have/use so many excuses to hide, to eat more, etc… when you could be using your vibrant body to serve, to teach. Being a mom, I hear God’s voice directing me physically and emotionally as I make daily choices on what to eat, taking care of my body physically, etc.. so I can serve my children better. Another “measurement” I see society face daily and why I believe our health is a biblical topic is b/c I think of how often people are driving through fast food or eating out and not making the best choices to fuel their body… well, are they going into debt to eat out so often?? (Goodness, I’m sorry for the novel, I’m very passionate about this topic, more and more and not b/c I’m anywhere close to being miss fit but b/c I want to do the best for my family!!!)
    To answer #3, yes, I don’t recall ever hearing a sermon or series being taught on Godly health from the pulpit. I wish there would be one b/c I think it’s so important to remind people that your body is not just for you. God gave you your body for your spouse, your kids, your community and more importantly for His Glory! Find the time to treat it right. Prayer runs/walks are fun! Family time, dinner at the table in your HOUSE!
    Okay, again I’m sorry for the novel. 🙂

  4. Simplistic Solution:
    Several knee bends through the day
    as you pray. Regular times of prayer
    and fasting. Regular times of “prayer
    walking” through neighborhood. My
    choice exercise for today: Trying
    to pull this heavey beam from my eye.

  5. Good stuff, James. I tend to agree with you across the board. I would add that I know very few pastors that are true deserters of their families due to excess time at the gym 🙂 Where it happens, I certainly agree. It’s about ordering life properly, and allowing room for whole person health.

  6. while you can’t know someone’s issues from their pants size alone, i tend to think of being overweight not so much as a spiritual / sin issue — but as an issue of discipline and balance in life. and this is something with which many ministers seem to struggle a great deal. i’d say the clearest example, though, is overworking to the detriment of one’s family (demonstrated lack of balance).
    being overweight (when not due to a medical condition) almost always stems from a lack of discipline or a lack of balance in life. i can’t refrain from eating too much food or certain types. or i can’t make myself spend a saturday morning at the track. or i can’t make myself say ‘no’ to a few ministry opportunities to provide time to take care of myself. or i work so much that when i do have a little free time, exercise seems to much like work. for most ministers with these issues, my assumption is that the answer (to any of them) is to work a little less.
    but i don’t lose respect for overweight pastors. i do, however, lose respect for those pastors who aren’t present for their families because of their churches. i suppose i see a spectrum of importance when it comes to balance and discipline in life.