JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It isn't your typical Sunday service. But every week members of Central Metropolitan CME Church roll up their sleeves, pull out the tape measure, and step on the scale for the Lord.
"The bible says faith without works is dead. So you got to do more than simply pray to that the Lord fixes your heart," said Pastor Marquise Hardrick.
It's part of a study called HEALS. It stands for Healthy Eating And Living Spiritually. And it's helped Pastor Hardrick lose 25 pounds. "Healthy eating is mentioned over and over in the bible. Every single member that's in the program has seen some sort of success," said Hardrick.
The University of Florida created the 12-week program as a way to help people lower their blood pressure through the church. And it's gotten Deborah Dickenson off most of her hypertension medication. "I feel good. I have more energy," she said.
Every day members write down what they eat and track their activity. And once a week they discuss and pray about their progress as a group.
"Of course I prayed about wanting to lose the weight, and I know that he is helping me on this journey. But I know a lot of it depends on the actions I take," said Dickenson.
It's the physical and spiritual support they need to put down the fork and pick up their bibles.
The University of Florida spent $40,000 on this study. They hope to take it to about 24 more churches next year.