I often ask people how long they wish to live, and in most cases the answers range from 80 years and above! We all want to live long, and enjoy illustrious and prosperous lives. As Christians, long life and prosperity are a ‘desirous duo’ to say the least. The Bible speaks of a holistic prosperity in 3 John 1:2: ‘Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.’
To truly enjoy good health in the Christian community, we must become better custodians of our bodies, particularly in terms of the food we eat and our activity levels. Christianity and nutrition can seem like two different topics, but if you really think about it, what you eat affects every area of your life, even your spiritual.
Your mission here on earth is largely reliant on you being in good health. Our bodies are a precious gift from God, crafted to enable us to ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all nations’ (Mark 16:15).
God has designed us all to fulfil purpose, He is passionate about us thriving in His will. Just as we need spiritual food and discipline, we also need good nutrition and exercise to help us grow in good health and vitality. Many Christians are unwell due to poor food and lifestyle choices, this does not glorify God, neither does it fulfil purpose.
Poor health affects the whole church – it impacts on the leadership, individuals, families, finance, education and the surrounding community. The economic impact of poor health upon the UK health service – the NHS, is phenomenally high and funds are at an all-time low level.
Black African–Caribbean people in the UK are more likely than people from other cultures to have certain health conditions, including high blood pressure (hypertension), type 2 diabetes and prostate cancer. It is not fully understood why this is so, but there is an evidence to suggest different mechanisms for fat metabolism & storage. For a long time, the importance of physical health has been relegated in the Black African – Caribbean church. Our misplaced tradition of long boisterous prayers, filled with often frenzied yelling of ‘minus me in Jesus Name,’ and binding the devil over any suggestion of ill health, has often left us in denial regarding our responsibilities for our bodies. That is the bitter truth and we fail to see it from this perspective of health.
Certain cultural beliefs, over-spiritualising of health-related issues, being superstitious, and running with half-truths and fables, has left many in the body of Christ at a great disadvantage.
Statistics shows that many Christians from African Caribbean communities in the UK, will hardly go for a health check, and believe that you “only go to hospitals when you are sick.”
Increasing numbers of ‘our’ children are being diagnosed as overweight or obese. They are directly influenced by their parents’ cultural and faith choices. There is evidence to show that obese children become obese adults.
The influence and role of black Christian leaders is well documented – the position is highly revered, and often more heeded than medical advice. Yes, many church congregants, especially Pentecostals, believe their pastors over their GPs.
Black Christian leaders are influencers, and are known for directly or indirectly influencing, economic, political empowerment, and the maintenance of cultural and racial/ethnic identity. I believe they also have a role to play in signposting members to healthier living.
Health messages from the pulpit and church-based health programmes (CBHP) have been shown to be highly effective in several black majority churches in the USA.
Black communities are often deemed hard to reach by health care providers. Basically, we ‘don’t turn up’ to medical appointments, or we arrive horrendously late. The attendance at church meetings and services clearly shows that church is an ‘ideal’ place to ‘reach’ out to people. Church environments are also very supportive and can provide a ‘safe’ environment for groups and individuals to receive advice on prevention and first line treatment and monitoring of conditions such as obesity, stable type 2 Diabetes and hypertension. The gospel message emphasises on health, wellness and purposeful living – the church is part of the solution to ill health. So, next time you are asked “how long do you want to live?” Pause and consider carefully your attitude to health and wellness. Are your current habits a help or hindrance to your prosperous health? Judge ye now for yourselves – that which is right.
By Shola Oladipo
Shola Oladipo loves living a full-time life. She is a registered Dietitian with over 20 years of experience in several clinical areas working in the NHS, and in the food industry. Shola runs ‘Food for Purpose’ an exciting initiative aimed at empowering people to eat, live and serve purposefully. She serves in a pastoral role alongside her husband Tim. They also minister internationally on relationships and marriage via their ministry called ‘Before and After I do’ (BAID). Shola is an avid writer, seasoned speaker and lover of words. She is mum to four incredibly wonderful children.