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Joel-Osteen-Blessed-Six-Pack-AbsSort of.

One of the greatest men my wife and I had the privilege of being shepherded by used to wear his pants very high on his waist. His belt was practically underlining his chest. He looked like a dork, and it was distracting when he stood before the congregation. So one of the creative guys at the church “took one for the team” and took him aside one day to recommend he wear his shirts untucked. He did, and the sight was much better. But what I loved about this pastor is that he had zero idea this was an issue. I mean, I’m sure he thought he looked fine — he wasn’t unkempt, just uncool — but obviously worrying about his image wasn’t even on his radar.

By contrast, I used to see another area pastor at the local coffee shop in the same town who was pushing sixty and was rockin’ — or thought he was — the embroidered jeans, Affliction tees, leather cuffs, and frosted bedhead. Professing to be cool, he became a fool.

In the age of Pastor Fashion and sermons forbidding the eating of pork in service of the gospel of weight loss — I mean, does anything scream “Judaizer” more loudly than preaching the dietary law? except maybe actually preaching circumcision — don’t the pastors who don’t care about their image, their profile, their reputation seem more dignified?

Now, of course this is not to say we should be careless about our bodies and our general health. I have nothing against Joel Osteen (pictured) looking good on the surface; I just have a problem with him preaching there. He is perhaps the West’s most successful purveyor of the paltry. I mean, no matter how much abundance he promises, his gospel is actually the puniest one out there. The love of the superficial will kill the soul, stealing our spiritual oxygen like Ed Young’s spanx. Man looks at the outward appearance, of course, and that’s who these guys fear, that’s whose ears these guys are trying to tickle, that’s who they’re seeking to please. When Paul warns in Philippians 3:19 against those whose god is their belly, it’s just as applicable a warning today about the Crossfit junkie as it is the chocoholic.

The pursuit of the appearance of having it all together is not new. We might have the most advanced whitewash, but you can’t really improve a tomb.

I don’t think you even need me to list all the evidences that American evangelicalism is obsessed with image, with cool, with seeming impressive. What we need are men (and women) who will lead the way in rejecting the Photoshopping of our faith. And wouldn’t it be a huge relief, wouldn’t we all just kinda exhale in relief if we were led in this way to stop sucking in our guts? Our stomach might increase, but wouldn’t we actually decrease in the right ways? Wouldn’t that kind of freedom to breathe — the freedom to simply be ourselves — be a fruit of the gospel?

So no, I am not advocating gluttony here, just a Christward self-disregard, a godly un-self-consciousness. I am praying for an increase in the tribe of self-forgetful pastors — if not all-out dorky ones — with platforms thrust upon them genuinely “aw shucks”-wise, men who will love not their images even unto death. Men who at least are not obsessed with the camera catching their good sides. Give me a fat guy in the pulpit so long as he preaches not himself and not the law but the glorious gospel. And if you’ve got a pastor with washboard abs who does that– well, that’s okay too, I guess.

…He had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.

— Isaiah 53:2

Pastors, Pathological Immaturity, and Courageous Un-self-consciousness

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92 thoughts on “In Praise of Fat Pastors”

  1. Flyaway says:

    Thanks for the chuckle. Our prayer group prays that the pastor’s attire won’t be a distraction. That all will hear the Gospel clearly. If a pastor wears clogs with his suit or is stuck in 80’s dress, we pray that the congregation will hone in on the message not the messenger.

  2. Jason says:

    Good stuff. Thanks for sharing this.

    I also found John Piper’s thoughts on Dieting, etc. quite relevant. You can find those here:

  3. Have at it Jared…A really wonderful post! And that’s not even mentioning all the pressure that’s put on women to be “beautiful” so they can “reflect” God’s beauty. Perhaps it’s just now that the men are finally feeling what women (especially women in ministry or pastor’s wives) have felt for decades. Thanks so much!

    1. Uhhhhh, just a quick thought that stuck me here concerning “women in ministy or pastor’s wives” : I am a pastor’s wife and I AM “in ministry” ………. :)

  4. You made me laugh with “stealing our spiritual oxygen like Ed Young’s spanx,” and made me say “yes” with “wouldn’t we all just kinda exhale in relief if we were led in this way to stop sucking in our guts?” and finally led me to repentance and prayer for “a godly un-self-consciousness.”

  5. Trillia says:

    “What we need are men (and women) who will lead the way in rejecting the Photoshopping of our faith.” Great line. Thanks for this, Jared.

  6. Aimee Byrd says:

    You had me at: “I have nothing against Joel Osteen (pictured) looking good on the surface; I just have a problem with him preaching there.”

    But I totally understand why someone took one for the team on the overly high-waisted pants. The pastor I grew up under had such a bad comb-over, that as teenagers, a friend and I both admitted to being totally distracted while he preached. We couldn’t stop imagining what it would look like if we combed it the other way. That’s what we envisioned the whole time he was preaching (Well, and how cool it would be to jump off the balcony and swing on those awesome chandeliers.). Of course, the good-looking pastor at that time was dressed in a suit with good hair, so maybe he was more like the pastor in the coffee shop.

    1. Ray Nearhood says:

      Yes, to the awesome chandelier swinging.

  7. James says:

    I get your point but I’m not sure why being fat should be assumed to be spiritually inconsequential. It is sinful to make the body an idol but absent a medical condition or similar, a person’s body can be a direct indication of poor stewardship over one of the most important things we are given to care for. Not to mention obligations we each to love and seek the best for our spouse who has promised to love and cherish something we may now be misusing. We cannot necessarily assume anything specifically spiritual by a person’s physical size but everything else being equal, a well proportioned pastor is preferable to a fat one without a good medical reason to be so.

    1. Melody says:

      I don’t know. The body should be cared for, but I wouldn’t call it one of the most important things to care for. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a single biblical command to do so. Not that I couldn’t be missing something, but…it’s not exactly God’s top priority, is it?

      1. Anon Coward says:


        Since most everyone worked in agriculture throughout Biblical history (and most of history), and the diet consisted of vegetables and almost never of fatty meats, most people were probably (very) fit and lean, so it’s not surprising the Bible never really discusses it (minus Paul’s comment about bodily training in 1 Timothy or, perhaps indirectly, references to sexual beauty in Song of Solomon and Proverbs).

        The issue is character. If someone cannot control themselves and eats too much, it often points to gluttony or a relief mechanism for other stressors.

        1. Melody says:

          In our country a person doesn’t have to be gluttonous to be fat. It’s cheaper to buy meat and bread than veggies and fruit. We’ve got high fructose corn syrup loading down many if not most of our processed foods. Our jobs tend to be sedentary even when we’re working our hardest. Too much stress and too little sleep are shown to make us fatter. Even our diet foods have additives that are shown to hinder instead of help weight-loss.

          It’s good to be healthy, but I’d be very hesitate to judge someone’s character on that basis.

    2. Darren Blair says:

      Just because a person is “fat” doesn’t always mean that they don’t take care of themselves.

      If you’ll look at weight lifters, or old-school (mid-1980s and earlier) professional wrestlers & boxers, you’ll see something: a lot of them are thick as trees.

      In these sports, the extra bulk helps to solidify a person’s core and can actually be used to help give them leverage.

      In my case, I can combine my personal bulk with the extra leverage I get from the abnormal construction in my leg joints to pull off various feats of strength; the abnormal construction gives my joints just enough “give” to where my upper body can somewhat “float”, allowing me to use my bulk as ballast. I actually once pulled a Humvee out of a ditch – by myself – using nothing more than a good length of rope.

      And while I am somewhat out of shape, it’s due more to the unusually heavy pollen counts of late (which limits my ability to go outdoors due to my allergies) than anything else.

    3. Sam says:

      Agreed. Jared’s trying to equate disregard of self-image with being a more genuine pastor. Trying to look good doesn’t make you more genuine. Looking like a slob doesn’t make you more genuine. Being genuine makes you genuine.

      In fact, physical health means he/she has the vitality to work better. Being in tune with culture and fashion and just general upkeep also signals he/she is more relevant. The danger lies in the temptation for those things to become idols instead of pursing God’s calling. But pursuing such things in itself is a good thing.

  8. Scott Burdett says:

    “What we need are men (and women) who will lead the way in rejecting the Photoshopping of our faith.” This is a perfect description of the American church. Nice post.

    1. How about; SOME of the American churches? As a missionary in France for sixteen years with my husband, I many times said, “SOME American churches” are like the t.v. churches they were seeing, not ALL, not even the majority. “SOME” American preachers were like those they were seeing on t.v., not ALL, and not even a majority. Every time I heard that, and hear it now, it (obviously) irritates me :) because I would think, and do think, of all the churches who supported us, and very few were large, rich churches. Most were small to medium size congregations with pastors and members who were honestly trying to live the lives God wanted them to live; they were the people who loved us, prayed for us, gave as they could (some giving when we knew good and well they couldn’t “afford” it), sent us Christmas gifts and cards, get-well notes and cards, birthday cards with dollars stuck in them to each of our four kids, etc. These were mostly men and women who DID and DO try to “reject the photo-shopping of our faith” – my pastor husband included. We are back at the small church where we started out years ago, after being here the first nine years of ministry. This little “American” church has certainly not “photo-shopped” its faith; I refuse to put it, and many others, into the “American church” category, as the term is used here. I’m sorry, but I just get tired of someone or something always being dumped into the same category or group, even when they do not “fit” into that category or group.

  9. Linda says:

    When I was a fairly new Christian with two young children, I was invited to women’s bible studies at a local megachurch. I noticed a “look” the majority of the women had–stylish clothes and hair, perfectly applied makeup, and expensive (or expensive looking) jewelry. To be sure there were a few that didn’t fit this mold, but it was noticeable enough for me to come to the conclusion that being a Christian woman came with a requirement to look a certain way. It affected my walk with the Lord because I was focusing on externals, not so much the internals, believing it’s what I DO, not who I AM. And I realize that had a lot to do with where I was spiritually, but the fact remains these ladies, most likely unconsciously, sent forth that message. I also realize this article is about pastors, not women’s ministry leaders, but I think my experience tells us that this image-consciousness affects all areas of Christian leadership and ministry.

  10. lydia says:

    Beautifully written!

  11. Jennifer says:

    You hit another one out of the park here. Good use of humor to drive the point home. We need pastors who are godly MEN, not self-centered narcissists. Keep up the good work!

  12. Jeff Johnson says:

    I had no idea what “spanx” is/are, so I Googled it. Now I’m going to have to explain this one to my online accountability partner. Thanks a lot. j/k

    1. H says:

      I did the same thing! Went ahead and ordered myself one of those things while I was there. (not)

  13. TLC says:

    Brilliant piece, Jared. I shared this with my D-Group Leaders. I love the challenge to be more self-forgetful of our images. And not for one hot second did I think you were advocating gluttony or misuse of our temples. You nailed it!

  14. nancy hull says:

    Love this, all of this. Thank you. A note of honor to my wonderful pastor who depends on his fashion-mindful wife to set all his clothes out every morning. When complimenting him on his footwear, he thoughtfully looks down and says, hey thanks! -like he never saw those shoes before.

  15. Rachael Starke says:

    Honest question: What do we say to the argument that pastors must not talk about their sins, temptations or weaknesses from the pulpit, because it is bad for their people and potentially disqualifying? Not only do I know pastors who believe this, I know one seminary that teaches it.

  16. Dean P says:

    I always loved the little KUDZU comic strip that Os Guiness put in his book FIT BODIES FAT MINDS where the preacher sums up fitness idolatry to a tee: ” Buns of steel.. brains of silly putty.”

  17. Clarice says:

    Thanks for this. I wonder how many church budgets are clogged with the excess spending of a egocentric pastor (organic food, gym memberships, a new car, etc).

  18. Rachael Starke says:

    So, I was getting kind of frustrated because I thought this was post using appearance as a metaphor – that we need pastors who are more honest about what they’re really like on the inside – and most people were commenting about the external issues.

    But on rereading, are you actually saying that someone who’s seventy five pounds overweight and on the verge of Type 2 Diabetes and gets up to preach on the need for sexual self-control doesn’t have his own “pants around his armpits” issue that he might need a little help with? Might that not be the very way he humbles himself?

    And I’ve written and deleted three times a comment about a certain Reformed pastor whose glowing white smile and tan out Osteen Osteen’s, for fear of seeming inappropriate. He preaches like Joel Osteen’s evil twin (as in he preaches that actual gospel of Jesus, and relentlessly so).

    1. Nelson says:

      I don’t think Jared was calling for this, but like you, I find it kind of strange when I hear overweight preachers talking about self-control when they can’t even control their own eating. So yes, we need preachers who are not egocentric, but that doesn’t mean we need pastors to be servants to food. It seems this is just picking and choosing what sins we allow our pastors to commit.

      1. Darren Blair says:

        Not everyone who is “overweight” cannot control their eating.

        Some people are professional athletes in sports where having bulk can be an advantage, such as weight lifting and catch wrestling.

        Others have medical conditions that, in some fashion, cause them to gain weight. It could be water retention. It could be that the portion of the brain that governs appetite is misfiring. It could be that they are having abnormal trouble in losing weight. Et cetra.

        It’s not wise to judge a person on this matter until you know their specific circumstances.

        1. Nelson says:

          Darren, granted, like most “rules,” there are exceptions. But that doesn’t change the fact that the vast majority of people (and that is likely an understatement) who are overweight are overeaters, and this includes overweight preachers. And me pointing that out doesn’t imply that I am “judging” pastors for being overweight anymore than I am “judging” them when they have no self control over their tongues, sexual desires, etc. I’m not calling for people to look down at overweight pastors and treat them like second class citizens, I’m just not sure why we pick some sins in the church as acceptable.

        2. Sam says:

          So you’re saying most pastors who are overweight are big, not because of poor eating habits but because they are either purposely trying to get big like a professional athlete or because of a medical condition? What you’re describing are exceptions. People are fat because they eat too much.

          1. Darren Blair says:

            No, I’m saying “don’t judge an individual person until you are familiar with their circumstances.”

          2. Sean Nemecek says:

            “People are fat because they eat too much.” This is not true. Some people who are fat eat too much. Others are fat because they eat the wrong kinds of foods. Some people have bodies that respond to stress by storing more fat. There are several different body types and not everyone who is fat is unhealthy. I know several pastors who eat healthy and exercise regularly but still carry a lot of extra weight. They are wise and godly men who do not deserve this type of judgment.

  19. noel yah says:

    I have always resolved not to attend a church with a fat pastor. One shouldn’t be vain but that’s no excuse to be slovenly

  20. Jonathan says:

    I choose to assume that Wilson was attempting to argue against extremes in terms of attention to our bodies. But what he ultimate does is argue something like “our extreme is better than their extreme”. Yes, I’m sure that this is not what he wanted to communicate but read it again: he is giving a pass to those among us who lack personal diet and fitness discipline as long as we preach a biblical Gospel.

    Want to really get attention? Argue that God’s command to Adam to take dominion over creation include doing so over Adam’s own body. Adam sinned because of his being disobedient on this very point. In this era of attention to Biblical Manhood (this is the Gospel Coalition, right?), there is no better basis from which to argue manly dominion that to do so giving the clear outward example that you are doing so where it is often most difficult.

    We live in an era where access to outstanding teaching is at its greatest availability and lowest cost in history. The same is true for quality clean/whole foods and exercise techniques (you can get a gym membership for less than $20/month is most cities, you can buy a copy of P90x on Craiglist for much less, etc…).

    Aside from the fraction of the population who have real medical issues completely outside of their own control (and yes, those of you – brothers AND sisters – who use this an excuse to deflect from attention to personal dominion, I’m looking at you) we not only have no excuse, we’re missing out on a great opportunity to extend the effective life of both our ministry and those we mentor.

    Next, perhaps we can discuss what being fat and unhealthy does regarding the global mission…

    1. m seda says:

      Thought your answer was spot on.

  21. Adam says:

    Ha! You nailed it man. Balanced and funny. And what can I say…I do like it when someone respectfully reminds the world about the true wolfish identity of ol’ Joel.

  22. Can we next slam the “over hipster-fied” worship leaders? I’m serious. I wonder if the beanie wearing, skinny jeaned, “sponsored by Urban Outfitters” worship leaders spend the same amount of time working on their looks as the bands on MTV that they’re trying to emulate.

  23. nate j. says:

    Hey Jared. I appreciate you taking on this topic. I think the challenge of this message is the context you are speaking into. I know the skinny jean-ed self-involved pastor is a reality, but gluttony is definitely a pet sin within our community of faith. Lord knows I stress eat like the best of them. I think you went for the easy target versus the plank in our own eye.

  24. Mike says:

    This is a great article!

    One point I would like to make: Any pastor who is obese (for non-medical reasons) ought to do some serious reflection. Being overweight because you’re to lazy to eat right and exercise is a value statement on God’s creation. All things in balance and moderation of course.

  25. Bill Baldwin says:

    Absolutely spot on and refreshing.
    Thank you for putting language to what many gospel preachers have thought but figured it would be uncool to say.

  26. Andrew Raymond says:

    We need pastors who are placing the gospel first. This includes pastors who are self-aware of how the affect the gospel. If I don’t shower and am unkempt that has an affect on my ability to approach people and sustain relationships. The Holy Spirit can overcome any obstacle that doesn’t mean we are unwise in our approach to societal expectations. Barring the aforementioned genetic/disease issues a christian should seek health in a way that honors the gospel, not hinders it. This may mean risking health to go to diseased ridden parts of the world or this may mean healthy eating and exercise to have a mind and body fit to serve. I understand you are trying to combat a culture obsessed with image but let’s present a fair and balanced picture of scriptural expectations.

  27. Rick says:

    Though I think the article is well written with some great lines as others have already quoted, I think there is a fundamental problem with the premise. I don’t accept that any men or women I know could have a “a godly un-self-consciousness” about their weight.

    Those of us who have lived most of our lives with a weight problem are obsessed about it as much as those who are obsessed about six-pack abs. There really is no difference. Fat people may even outwardly appear “jolly” and not bothered by their size, but I can assure you they think about it all the time. Both are all about control. It’s a mistake to think either one is not active in their outcomes.

    Having lost a lot of weight, I can also tell you that I still think about it all the time, even though I am not overweight anymore. But I don’t think it is an obsession that in any way minimizes my theology or affects how I share the gospel. It never has.

    Joel Osteen’s teaching would be lukewarm even if he was not fit. A fat pastor who teaches the truth does it in spite of his obsession about his weight.

    If by “Self-forgetful” you mean they don’t care what the latest fashion is, I would agree. But no sinful human being is really self-forgetful. Some just appear that way better than others. At the heart of our sinful nature is pride, whether positive or negative. We are all self focused by nature.

    I don’t need a pastor who is self-forgetful, but one who knows he is not and can admit it.

    1. Lori says:

      I disagree that everybody is obsessed with their weight. Many people, both fat and thin, are not. Sure, they may sometimes give it some thought, but there are many people for whom weight really isn’t of much importance.

  28. Mike says:

    So basically what you’re saying is that we shouldn’t judge on appearance but then that’s exactly what your article does! How do you not see the irony? You say “The love of the superficial will kill the soul…” but you appear to be judging Osteen on this very thing. He’s not sucking in his gutt – he just happens to be trim. So what?

    It’s not like Osteen has said something new and outrageous this week. The entire impetus for this piece appears to be photo of Osteen having a six-pack! What we should be pointing out is how unbiblical his teaching is instead of suggesting something can be read into his appearance.

    Even if this title is tongue in cheek it is self-defeating because you have ended up focusing on the very thing you tell people not to. You almost imply that fat pastors are more likely to have sound theology than trim ones which is defeating to your very purpose in writing! The concession in the last sentence does little to dispel this impression.

  29. Abby says:

    and now for something coming from a slightly different angle..

  30. Oddly, “fat” here is referred to as “fat” as opposed to “lack of self-control” (a rather probable *reason*) whereas Osteen’s care of his body is assumed to be for the wrong reasons (as opposed to maybe he is just “fit.”)

    Sure, I’ll take fat over an inappropriate gospel, duh. I doubt anyone here would argue that.

    But in a country where gluttony seems to be commonplace and not really talked about (even though it definitely is in the Bible, and quite strongly!), it seems odd to dismiss the problem of a pastor who can’t/doesn’t care to control his eating. I bet we wouldn’t dismiss him smoking (even though that’s *not* directly talked about in the Bible) because of our culture, yet we dismiss his overweightness … ?

    My guess is that Jared would agree with all of this. Perhaps it was just some miscommunication, ambiguity, or responding to an experience/context that I don’t have. But the way it came across was that we shouldn’t care if our pastors have problems with being fat, because that’s unimportant (but we should be wary of pastors who take care of their bodies – here’s an idea, maybe their wife likes them trim, fit, and muscular? Maybe that’s a possible reason they do it? :) )

  31. Fred says:

    Speaking of worrying about one’s image, what does it say about a pastor if he has so much free time that he’s able to spend 3-4 hours a day tweeting “witty” quips to promote his brand and books? In the grand scheme of things, probably time that would be better spent in the gym staying healthy, or in the word, or shepherding his flock, etc…

  32. Marcee says:

    I was going to write what Mike said: The piece is trying to be funny and I get that, but in the end, it’s self-defeating.

  33. Actually, the outward has nothing whatever to do with the inward. Which for me, is good news.

    1. toby says:

      Yes. This.

  34. Sean Nemecek says:

    I am an overweight pastor. I watch my diet and eat only 2000 calories per day. I work out 6 day per week for 45 to 90 minutes each day. I have found that the high stress level and sedentary nature of pastoral work make it very difficult to maintain a healthy weight. It really irritates me when people say fat pastors are gluttonous or lazy. Most of the overweight pastors I know are neither. The are men who make significant sacrifices to preach the word and live godly lives. It is unfortunate that some people would dismiss them because of how they look.

  35. Bill Baldwin says:

    Everyone—personally, I don’t think Jared’s article was about overweight pastors at all. He was driving at the “spirit–attitude” that has infiltrated the church today, which is far more concerned about how we look than the gospel we preach.

    I am not at all skinny, battling my weight most of my life. I never detected this.

    However, I heard his heart. It’s my concern too. Much of my praying is over the fact that so many church leaders are concerned with cool rather than Christ. And it’s not just the appearance of the leader(s). It appears in the high value we place on our presentation, technology, etc.

    Ok…I’m sure I come off as “old school”.

    Isn’t it amazing how we have the largest attended congregations America has ever known, and yet sin is more rampant, even protected by law to a degree we never imagined.

    This, I believe, is some of the same spirit Jared was hinting at. Not fat vs cool preachers.

  36. danielle says:

    First…LOVED this post. Which my preacher hubby forced me to read btw. ;)

    Second…reading through the comments was so disheartening. No wonder so many pastors are discouraged out of ministry these days. It’s crossed my mind that this whole fitness craze is just the new “legalism”. And people looooove their legalism.

    1. Bill Baldwin says:


  37. Julia says:

    Everyone struggles in some area or another. Grace is needed on all sides. Some Christians exhibit intellectual laziness, while others are lax about diet and exercise. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone…” Physical training is of SOME value, but spiritual discipline is of far greater worth.

  38. Benjamin Davenport says:

    A pastor will never be perfect. There will always be a place to improve in. He is never excused from caring about his physical well-being, his spiritual well-being, his family’s spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being, nor his congregation’s holistic well-being. But again, a pastor can never be perfect, and grace must therefore be given. The important thing is that a pastor prioritize what is *most* important, and that has to do with the spiritual rather than the physical. Again, though, this does not excuse him from being careful about his physical well-being. Obesity is epidemic in our day and age, and how could a pastor possibly care as well for himself, his family, and his flock if he is not physically fit, indeed, if he is rather UNfit, such that his life on this earth is shortened? Yet this physical fitness must serve the cause NOT of his looks, but of everything else he does. The physical fitness must not be an end in itself, but a means to a greater end. The problem that I believe Jared is emphasizing is when physical appearance becomes of such great import that it becomes an end in itself.

    On the other hand, I think that when a pastor’s appearance is distracting (in that he looks nerdy or whatever), that is also a problem. The point should be to make yourself un-noteworthy, so that you may decrease, and your God may increase.

  39. Mike says:

    Appreciate your love for the Lord bro, but using a picture of Joel Osteen in your post is pretty oppositional to reflecting the love of Christ. Just keeping you accountable. I don’t personally believe in the theological vision of Joel Osteens ministry, but this doesn’t mean I’m going to slander his image on my personal blog and try to label it a “theological issue.” You care about your image just as much as the next person. If this isn’t the case, please remove your name from any of the books you’ve previously written and give all the credit to God instead.

    Matthew 7:3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

  40. Sean Carlson says:

    Obesity in Americans is a very serious contemporary issue. For a pastor to be indifferent to his obesity is a serious blind spot. One of the commenters had it right. It’s about stewardship. It’s about Christ reigning over one of the most difficult areas for Christians…our appetites.

  41. Good post! Anytime you can get Elyse, and Nancy talking about a post = big win. Throw in a Rachael Starke and you have it!

    It is true that we (I am a Pastor) need to watch out that the way we look and eat. Paul did say to buffet our bodies but too often we buffet our bodies. If you are really concerned about your Pastor’s weight, make sure you don’t invite him over and serve a rich meal with dessert. It is hard to turn these things down and come across as being nice.

    If you want to help your Pastor, make sure that your church schedules time for him to work out/get fit. He is already expected to visit everyone in the hospital, take every phone call, preach a dynamite sermon every week, shepherd his family better than anyone else. Maybe get some of your fit leaders to help him in this way. Just a thought.

    1. Darren Blair says:

      One of the big things about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (re: “The Mormons”) is that because the denomination uses a lay ministry system, individual members of the congregation can and usually will be asked to perform individual tasks that in other denominations would largely be left for the pastor.

      For example, I’m the finance clerk for my congregation. It’s my job to record the weekly donations, ensure their safe transit to the bank, and make disbursements as required; protocol simply requires one of the pastor’s assistants be with me rather than the pastor himself (unless his assistants are unavailable), and the pastor simply needs to review and co-sign as appropriate.

      In most congregations that I’ve seen, the pastor does all of this on their own. That’s another 30+ minutes out of their day.

      Perhaps other congregations should consider whether or not they could get individual members of the congregations to similarly perform tasks otherwise left for the pastor.

  42. Bill Baldwin says:

    I say again…so many comments about a pastor’s weight…and that wasn’t even the point of Jared’s article.

    Anywho… :-)

    1. Jared C. Wilson says:

      Bill, I think it might prove my point about our struggle to think more deeply than the surface.

  43. Bill Baldwin says:

    And by the way, I don’t know Jared. First time I’ve ever read anything by him. So, my last comment wasn’t protective in nature.

    Indeed, it does prove your point, Jared, why we are (as a church), where we are, especially in the West.

  44. Shane Anderson says:

    What branch of historic Christianity has ever taught “Give me a fat guy in the pulpit so long as he preaches not himself and not the law but the glorious gospel.”

    Christians love God’s law! Why is this anti-law sentiment so pervasive among people who say they hold to the Westminster confession???

  45. Lori says:

    I’m troubled by so many comments equating obesity with gluttony/lack of self control. Saying that a fat pastor is unqualified because they lack self-control is like saying that a pastor with liver disease is unfit because they are an alcoholic. Even if gluttony or alcoholism did cause the problem, you can’t conclude that it’s still part of a person’s behavior, because certain things are very hard to change.

    There are many reasons why a person might gain weight: medications, illnesses, pregnancy, aging, and, yes, gluttony. The issue is that, once a person gains weight, it can be very hard to lose and keep off long-term. A person who at one point gained a lot of weight–perhaps through their own bad choices, perhaps because of circumstances outside their control–may currently be eating a balanced, moderate diet and remain overweight, because losing significant amounts of weight is difficult and time-consuming. (One study found that people who kept significant amounts of weight off for 5 years or more exercised, on average, two hours a day. That kind of time commitment may be neither desirable or possible for many people.)

    I will use my father as a case in point. He’s a large man. He was very thin growing up, and got used to being able to eat whatever he wanted and staying thin (and it’s still gluttony if you’re thin!). As he aged, his metabolism slowed down, and eating the same amount of food he’d eaten while younger caused him, over a couple of decades, to gain a lot of weight. At 60, he was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. He has, since then, gone on medication, changed his diet, and begun to exercise regularly. He lost about 20 pounds but then his weight loss stalled (not uncommon in people with Type II diabetes, as both the disease and the medication can make it hard to lose weight). He remains significantly overweight even though his blood sugar and overall weight have improved, he follows the doctor-recommended diet, and he eats better than he did 20 years ago.

    So should my father, or other people in his situation, be judged as if his weight reflects his current behavior? Should a woman who gained 60 pounds during a pregnancy and is still struggling to lose it even though her baby is one be judged as if her weight reflects current bad behavioral choices?

    I’m not saying that habits don’t affect weight: they do. Unfortunately, for most people it is much easier to gain weight than to lose it, and people who have gained weight (whether through bad habits or other factors) can often change their habits to healthier ones and not see a significant reduction in body size, because of how metabolism works.

    So we should make judgments about a person’s behaviors by their behaviors, not their size. Just like we shouldn’t assume that a person with yellow teeth is a smoker (they may be, or they may have quit five years ago, or they may have yellow teeth for another reason), we shouldn’t assume that a fat person is a glutton. Because, while gluttony is a sin, having a large body is not, and it’s very important to make that distinction.

    Just like it would be wrong to assume that a very thin pastor is vain and self-obsessed (while they might stay thin because they focus obsessively on their body and spend many hours a day exercising, they may just be naturally thin, or they may be ill, or they may be slim for many other reasons), it’s wrong to assume that a fat pastor is a glutton. They may be, but they may not be. We should not think we can determine a person’s behaviors by the way they look.

  46. Richard says:

    This reads and sounds like a gospel-centered discernment blog. Thanks for calling false teachers like Joel Osteen out by name!

  47. Enlightening read. I suppose if we embraced simplicity and authenticity we wouldn’t get over wrought with image and performance, from the wardrobe to the plate.

    Focus on the real—real grace, real gospel, real food, real relationships, then perhaps balance would occur.

    Perhaps a trip for evangelicals to a third world country where everyday is real survival, no time for fascades or skinny jeans, just fill bellies with the gospel truth and some food, I believe that’s what Jesus did.

    Thought provoking writing

    1. Bill Baldwin says:


      Best response here! You get it!!

    2. Jonathan says:

      “Perhaps a trip for evangelicals to a third world country where everyday is real survival, no time for fascades or skinny jeans, just fill bellies with the gospel truth and some food, I believe that’s what Jesus did.”

      This is a great idea. I’ve spent a great deal of time in the developing world on business trips over the last 15 years (50+ trips, +1200 days). What I’ve learned from the nationals who who live in these countries (nearly all in the most unreached, 1040, region) is that obesity is very frequently associated with a self indulgent lifestyle and very often becomes a significant hurdle to Gospel advance.

      We cannot discount what our appearance says about our personal discipline and the impact that has on whatever we advocate.

  48. Margee Dyck says:

    Cool is the new holiness.

  49. Thomas J. Ramundo says:

    In praise of fat pastors. Really? I mean, you gotta be kidding. How can you ever defend in the name of serving God, a lack of sound health? All the addictions those pudgy preachers would counsel against–drugs, alcohol, tobacco–but their food addiction is o.k, Really? Such hypocrisy! What happened to “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit”? Besides, why would any minister want to be in such lousy shape it impairs their ability to have the health and energy to serve God and care for their families as capably or for as many years as they could. My observation is that obesity among the clergy is at epidemic proportions. Let’s whip these fat boys into shape. Being fit isn’t unspiritual, but being fat might be.

  50. Thomas Ramundo says:

    Would appreciate knowing why my comments were not posted…

    1. Jared C. Wilson says:

      I was away from my computer all day — spending time with my family — so was not able to approve comments until now.
      Thanks for your patience.

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Jared C. Wilson

Jared C. Wilson is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, director of The Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church, and author of more than ten books, including Gospel Wakefulness, The Pastor’s Justification, and The Prodigal Church. You can follow him on Twitter.

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