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‘Atkins-friendly’ churches

By J.D. Mallory

It was a Tuesday and the pace of work had been fast and furious when the sound of my growling stomach forced me to look at my watch and discover that it was way past lunch. Heading downtown, being led by my taste buds, I walked into a local restaurant. I didn’t need a menu; I wanted a nice, juicy hamburger. You know, the kind that you need extra napkins for. The kind that you need to eat by yourself because it’s never polite to open your mouth that wide in public.

The young lady taking my order asked if I would like to try the “Atkins-friendly” hamburger. Seeing the puzzled look on my face, she went on to explain that instead of a bun, I would hold onto the burger with two pieces of lettuce. I don’t think she caught my quip when I asked if the lettuce could be slightly toasted.

Since then I have learned how to eat tomato-basil-wrapped subs, and on a good day I can hold my breath just long enough to get past the bakery. I have even become accustomed to the Atkins-friendly lingo that now seems to permeate every restaurant, supermarket and food commercial.

The basic concept behind this trend is essentially a low-carbohydrate and high- protein diet — light on the sugars and heavy on the meats.

As I considered this diet’s phenomenal impact on our culture, it hit me — we need “Atkins-friendly” churches. Quite possibly the thought came to me as a result of sugar deprivation, but I believe that its meaning ran deeper than that.

We live in a culture where it has become apropos to sugarcoat the truth. Instead of messages from our pulpits being drenched in the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, we often get frosted sermons with the spiritual nutritional value of a donut hole.

Hebrews 5:12 speaks of a dilemma that has continued with the passage of time: “By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one — baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago” (The Message).

Where many of us should be teachers of the Word, we instead are in need of being taught. We have become used to the sweetness of milk and have not yet developed an appetite for the solid food of the Word’s deeper truths.

We live in an era where we have at our fingertips the best materials, the best technology and the greatest opportunity to make an eternal difference for lost souls; yet we grasp for sweet social conformity and bypass eternal instruction that still changes lives.

If our spiritual diet is “high-carb and low-protein,” if we prefer the sweets to the meat, our lives will suffer, our spiritual energy will be diminished and our effectiveness will be compromised.

God is still calling us to a place where we have a steady diet of solid spiritual food and a hunger to understand the deeper things of God. In a culture that is embracing an Atkins-friendly approach to nutrition, we also need “Atkins-friendly” churches where the meat of the Word is served.

J.D. Mallory is pastor of First Assembly of God in Morganton, N.C.
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