The good father: you are what you eat...

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The last thing you think about when your first child is born is your church. Rather, your mind is focussed on the hospital (or midwife) bill, whether you have enough diapers, how long your mother-in-law will stay, which car seat to buy, whether you and your mother-in-law will get along, whether your mother-in-law and your wife will get along, when your baby's conehead will go away... But the church?

Isn't the church like a sound system; if you have to think about it, it's failed? Your wife has just given birth to your first child and the church should stay in the background. Yeah, the first day or so it would be nice if the pastor and his wife visit, hold the baby, read Psalm 139 (except those crazy verses near the end), pray, and leave. Also, it would be nice if the church women helped with food. They can fill your refrigerator with...

all the special-needs food your wife's non-celiac gluten phobia requires.


When women of the church help out with meals, they should simply double their own dinner recipe and bring half of it over. No muss, no fuss—unless someone has a peanut allergy. Be polite. Eat what those kind enough to cook for you are eating themselves. "Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them" (1 Corinthians 6:13).

But there's another kind of food provided by the church that really is a matter of life and death. Here "you are what you eat" is actually true.

I'm speaking of spiritual food—of the preaching of God's Word, the administration of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord's supper), and the discipline of the church's members by her pastor and elders. The way you distinguish between a true and false church is to examine these three food groups your church serves.

Have you ever thought about false churches? You know how the hospital was so careful to keep anyone from stealing your baby? Back a few centuries, it was common for the wealthier classes to give their newborns over to wet nurses so mothers wouldn't be inconvenienced by nursing. Not surprisingly, babies put with wet nurses had a high mortality rate.

You don't want a false church feeding you, your wife, and child. What you eat at church is infinitely more important than what you eat at home.

The Roman Catholic Church claims Protestant churches are false churches feeding souls spiritual poison. Back during the Reformation, the Pope told this same lie and Protestantism's faithful shepherds came up with three marks1 of true churches:

  1. A true church has preaching that is faithful to Scripture;
  2. A true church administers the sacraments as Scripture commands; and
  3. A true church correctly disciplines her members.

Our next three "Welcome to fatherhood" posts will show the importance of each of these food groups. But right here, commit yourself to relegating food for the stomach provided at home to a much lower position than food for the soul provided by the church.

Twenty and thirty years from now, you and your wife and children will be what your church has fed you. You'll all be recognizable by the food you've eaten from the hands of your pastors and elders, those in the church who used to be called the church's "nursing fathers."

If you wouldn't give your little baby over to a wet nurse, why would you give him over to hirelings who refuse to protect you from Satan's fiery darts?

Sure, it's a lot more comfortable right now to simply choose a church for its music, denominational affiliation, or hipster eyeglass frames. But when you stand before God and He demands of you an accounting for the souls He placed under your charge, how will you explain your loved ones' emaciated souls?

Remember: you are what you eat!

  • 1. See also the Confession of the English Congregation at Geneva (1556), the French Confession of Faith (1559), the Scottish Confession of Faith (1560), and the Second Helvetic Confession (1566).
Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!