I have been in full time ministry for 5+ years now. Prior to this I have been heavily involved in local church ministry since my conversion over 10 years ago. One thing that has always intrigued me is overweight pastors. If you want to get a gage on how prevalent this is, you just have to visit a pastors’ conference. I am not saying that everyone is rockin’ the elastic waist pants, but, there are a lot of guys that, well, are fat.
As a guy in the fraternity, the pastoral fraternity, I want to think about this a little bit. In this post I want to highlight some of what I believe to be the causes and then in another post, I want to talk about the way out off it.
So, here are some of the reasons why I think a lot of pastors are fat.
1. Schedules- Pastors have crazy schedules. There are times when we are really busy, moderately busy, and then somewhat quiet. It seems that the ‘really busy’ phase lasts far longer than the ‘quiet’ phases. Therefore, we run from meeting to meeting to deal with the issues. A lot of said issues are ad-hoc, or they are not planned. We are putting out fires or assessing wounds in pastoral triage. When we are not in the meeting we are thinking about the meetings. Therefore, it is easy to let the unpredictable and emotionally draining schedules get the best of us. Instead of thinking about food as fuel and medicine for the body we may grab something quick and easy. Often times this translates into fat and unhealthy choices. If you do this over time you will start to look like Homer Simpson.
2. Lunch Meetings- In these meetings we often meet with folks over a meal. Eating out on a regular basis is a subtle trap. Most food on the menu is not helping your waistline. There are some healthy options but you usually have to work to find them. Often times we want to order something fast and then ‘get down to business’. If you are eating 5 pound buritos 10 times a months you will get fat.
3. Given to Extremes- This may not be true with all pastors, but many of us are given to extremes. We are bold and loud on truth and we want to go a hundred miles an hour. Sadly ministers can take this attitude to the table as well. I have seen guys talk about food and their ability to throw it down like college frat guys boast about their ability to toss back beers. It is taking the fundamentalist extremes to the dinner table. A good idea might be to be an extremist about moderation…just a thought.
4. Lazy- Let’s face it, the bottom line for the expanding waistline for some guys is that they are lazy. They sit around at their computer, drink soda, eat chips, then go out and eat burgers and fries everyday. There is no effort here to lose weight or eat healthy. Guys are lazy with eating well and exercising but hard-core committed to eating bad and sitting on their cans. The words lazy and pastor should not be in the same sentence. It’s as nonsense, like being a blind truck driver.
5. Hypocritical- Being a fat pastor might be probably is a symptom of a bigger spiritual issue. Pastors preach and teach about being disciplined and self controlled. We talk about doing all things to the glory of God (funny that the verse actually talks about ‘whether you eat or drink..’ 1 Cor. 10.31). However, we conveniently compartmentalize our lives to exclude food, drink, and health. If I am visiting a church and the pastor is preaching about living for Christ, the power of the gospel and the pastor is fat (and not because he has a medical condition) then I’m thinking he doesn’t really believe what he is saying. Fat pastors unwittingly let the air out and deflate of the gospel tire of its power by rocking their own spare tire.
6. Work/Reward Mentality- This was me. I work in an environment of pastors that are all about getting after it in ministry. The motto, “Work hard, Play hard” has been uttered many times. This is what we do. I think we have the work hard part down, but at least for me, my play hard often meant eat hard. After long days of ministry I would feel like I earned the right to polish off a half gallon of ice cream, a bag of Doritos, and perhaps a pizza (not in that order). Aside from the fact that I think I was making food my functional savior in an Oprah-esque way, this pattern was really not healthy or helpful for me. I found that this type of release often translated to misunderstanding of ministry work, true reward, consolation, and overall joy. In addition, I was getting fat.
7. De-emphasis on the body- I don’t know if this a fear of being seen as mystical, worldly, vain or what, but a lot of guys do not see their physical bodies as a stewardship.
Pastors think about their bodies and the earth in much the same way: they have expiration dates on them and God will one day make them new. But this type of fatalistic thinking omits a key feature: God gave us our bodies (and the earth) for us to be stewards over. If we are treating our bodies like people (allegedly) treat their rental cars then we have a stewardship issue. I don’t think guys think about this when they think about what they are going to feed themselves each day. Instead we think like little sovereigns over our rental bodies, so to speak. Our bodies are not like a suit that we just walk around in, they actually affect how we work. Our study, preaching, shepherding, prayer, families, friendships, indeed everything is affected by how we treat our bodies.
Most guys don’t have this on the radar. Instead, we just rock our ‘man suit’, our bodies, with little regard for how we should live and care for ourselves. And further, there is little emphasis upon how this affects everything else.
OK these are some of the causes that I have thought of and experienced. I am sure there are more. You can feel free to pile on and add some of your own.
If you are overweight because of a medical condition, please note that I am not pointing at you. Some of these things may apply though, but I understand that some folks work really hard to be healthy but are still overweight.
Also, you could not necessarily be a ‘fat pastor’ but still fall into some of these traps above. I think it’s helpful to think through these things even if you are not wearing ‘stretchy pants’ (Nacho Libre voice).
And finally, if you are a fat pastor, don’t be discouraged. Instead, go for a walk today and pray. Ask God to help you to be disciplined, love Christ, hate idols, and serve him with joy and temperance. You don’t have to be overweight. I’ll write more about my story in the next post on this topic. Stay with me.