Rick Waren is one of America’s leading pastors. His church, Saddleback, is one of the largest congregations in the nation and Waren’s words are often in demand. Waren gave the  inaugural prayer for President Obama and his book “The Purpose Driven Life” is a best seller. But now Rick Waren has a new purpose: help people lose weight.

Pastor Waren says he got the idea to help others live healthier lives when he realized many of his partitioners were overweight.

He explained: “On that particular day, I was baptizing 858 people,” Warren told his congregation last fall. “That took me literally four hours.”

“As I’m baptizing 858 people, along around 500, I thought this … ‘We’re all fat.’ ”

After realizing he was setting a bad example for his congregation because he was also overweight, Waren turned to the Bible for answers.

CNN reports: “The program’s name comes from the biblical story about Daniel. In the story, Daniel and his friends, who are Israelites living in Babylon, refuse to consume royal food and wine. By eating vegetables and water, “they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food,” according to Daniel 1:15 in the Bible’s New International Version.

“The Daniel Program, which started at Saddleback Church last January, advises how to eat healthier foods, encourages workout routines and urges participants to join small groups.”

Pastor Waren teamed up with Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist; Mark Hyman, a family doctor; and Dr. Oz to create the program which has already helped him shed over 60 pounds since last January. It’s also helped many in his congregation because they were working towards healthier lives together.

To help its congregants, the church has held healthy cooking classes, workout sessions, and switched the snacks being sold in vending machines and given out during programs. The church also developed a website filled with recipes, workout tips, and health information.

In total, over 15,000 registered for the Saddleback challenge and helped participants shed over 250,000 pounds. Pastor Waren and his team are hoping other places of worship will jump on the bandwagon and create their own faith-based programs.

What do you think? Can ‘The Daniel’ plan work for other churches? 

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