The epiphany occurred at a baptism.
With more than 800 people waiting, Pastor Rick Warren took them one by one and immersed them in the church's baptism pool. During this spiritual rite at Saddleback Church, the pastors hold the people briefly underwater, and then pull them out.
"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.' "
Warren turned his realization to himself.
"But I thought, I'm fat," he said. "I'm a terrible model of this. I can't expect our people to get in shape unless I do."
Warren, considered one of the most influential pastors in the country, delivered the inaugural prayer for President Obama in 2009 and wrote the best-selling book "The Purpose Driven Life." Now, he was embarking on a new mission: Curbing the obesity epidemic at church.
Warren seems like an unlikely man to lead an anti-obesity crusade. A ruddy man with plastic frame glasses, he has admitted to gaining 90 pounds over the last 30 years and failing at various yo-yo diets. He declined an interview for this story.