Part Two: How Does CrossFit Speak to the Issue?
In my last post I discussed an issue I assume to be prevalent in the modern, American Church. The American Church has “rock star” pastors preaching sermons and giving talks that people go nuts over. Church leadership catches hold of and casts these visions very, very well to their audience; yet, this is about as far as the collective vision goes. With all the hype and excitement these visions are creating nowadays, the American Church is still in decline.
We have conferences, seminars, think tanks, and workshops every time we turn around. However, the vast majority of the nodding heads leave the discussion never effectively applying those ideals that so stirred their hearts, and, for those that do act, they often do so as an individual and not in the church community as we are called to live.
We live in a church culture that comprehends discipline and discipleship on an individual level, but that is not a biblical model. Church is cooperative. Evidently, there is an underlying disconnect between what we know we should do and what we actually do.
For sometime now, I have likened this disconnect between what the congregant knows he or she should do and what he or she actually does to that of the person who wants to get into shape, but does not. Both goals (getting into spiritual shape and into physical shape) take discipline and are goals that many of us want, but never pursue to fruition. This is a very real problem that we never really examine.
A person might read in a magazine, or watch on a television show, or hear from a friend or doctor that he or she should get into shape in order to have a happier more fulfilled life. This person might even find great suggestions on how to get into shape. He or she might, with all of his or her being, want to get into shape. The person has vision (with practical knowhow) and clear goals (even reasonable ones); he or she knows in theory what must be done; yet, this person still does not act.
Because there is a real disconnect, a missing link, between knowing what to do and doing it, between vision and accomplishment. In other words: Knowing what to do and how to do it is not enough. All communities, the Church and CrossFit included, have to bridge the gap if they wish for their members to live out the mission they want to see lived out. CrossFit is spreading like wildfire. The Church is not (at least in America). This must mean that CrossFit is doing something right to bring vision and praxis together. We can’t just talk vision into being; something else has to happen.
Why can’t the church see this? Why are we still talking and not instilling? Think about it this way. What if the originators of CrossFit (If you don’t know what CrossFit is, now is a good time to learn) never built a gym, but merely took their ideas on the road, holding conferences for getting into shape? What if their whole plan for getting people into shape was to talk at them?
Sure, people might attend such conferences, but when they get home, are they really going to begin CrossFit in their garage on their very own. Probably not. It certainly would not have so many members as it does now. People need more than words. They need real community, and community is not just a bunch of people getting together. Communities have vision. They have modeling. They have structure. They provide real opportunity to live the vision out. Community takes commitment.
For you CrossFitters out there: You know that community is not a bunch of people wanting to get into shape with no real means. Community is a box occupied by other members with a daily WOD led by an instructor(s) who care(s) enough to not just teach with words, but with action and discipline. Not sometimes, all the time.
The need for constant community led by passionate leaders is an obvious advantage for these people getting into physical shape. Why is it not obvious for the church? Seminars are great, but we need more. Church leadership at some point has to stop casting vision and start living it out with the rest of the community. Leaders have to actually lead in word AND deed. We, leaders and community members alike, have to get our hands dirty together (and ripped apart, if you do CrossFit).
I interact with a lot of ministries and ministers, and I see this issue in so many of them (as well as in me): They talk, and talk, and talk, saying, “Once we do this, great things will happen.” But, they never stop talking enough to see it through. They talk it to death. They tell others what to do, without doing it or being there with them, consistently, and they become frustrated when things don’t change.
We talk because we want to see our vision happen, but real vision will spread better when it is seen rather than when it is heard. Ministry leaders, however, are too busy to stand around and teach one group for want of telling someone else. STOP IT.
People need real, consistent opportunity provided by people who can really disciple (teaching through example and replication) others to do as they do. This is what CrossFit does so well. Church leaders cannot simply be those faces we see on Sunday; those almost famous personalities at church that never really manifest out in other, real social interactions. Ministry leaders have to really be there for their congregations, daily.
What I found, at least at CrossFit Brunswick, is that, unlike your generic gyms, CrossFit does not merely provide a place for people to workout, to attempt to get into shape, with the occasional programmed, instructor-led workout. People need hands-on, constant instruction and opportunity. Sure, some individuals will grow within a less structured setting, but to ensure large, consistent growth for groups at a time, structure and consistency is crucial. Not sometimes, not most of the time, all the time.
Many church leaders see this truth in part. They want their congregations to grow together. They know that living out a vision takes opportunity, but their opportunity comes in the form of a programmed event: “We are going to do some hands on learning of missions on the third Tuesday of March.” This is not opportunity. This is a program to fill a checklist.
Vision is not something that should be lived out every-now-and-again, just when we set out the time to live it out. I think that church leaders should actually lead the church, daily. Call me crazy, but this habit of using an entire week to plan for Sunday interaction (and the occasional program) is just not working out for church staffs. We need to live our call to disciple our flock daily, consistently, with purpose.
CrossFit knows this better than any community I have ever seen. CrossFit has a vision and praxis that are inseparable. They have vision for how fitness can and should be done, and they live out of that vision day-in and day-out, and those involved are fanatics because they are successful. If CrossFit, a business, not meant to transform every aspect of one’s life to the extent that ministry is meant to impact lives, does so well at this, how much more so does the church need to be consistent.
Here’s a shocking surprise to the American Church with all its attempts to become relevant: CrossFit’s big secret is not marketing (we, the church, have tried our fair share of that and we need to stop). It is something much more applicable to a life of discipline, which is the sort of life a Christian should live. CrossFit grows as they create real results that get the larger culture around them to ask: “How are they doing that?” Growth is a product of real, lived out, communal change for the better.
How has this movement been accomplishing the task the church has found so impossible to see through, having people not only acknowledge vision, but live out the vision, and in such a seamless way? CrossFit is intentional at providing tangible ways by which one can actually live out of the vision it provides all the time. Opportunity (the chance to live out the vision) is not something that is built into the system of CrossFit; it is woven into the fabric of CrossFit.
CrossFit is not a place where people go to work out on their own, to flounder about with no guidance. CrossFit is not open if it is not teaching structured classes designed, not to merely demonstrate how, but to have people act together under the guidance of a leader. That is the model of biblical discipleship in action if I have ever seen it.
Not only does CrossFit suggest, “This is how you should workout, and here are the results you should find.” They are there to show you how, to work with you each step of the way. Not only that, they provide the actual workout; the opportunity is there, set out and thought through. No one is left wondering, “How do I accomplish this goal.” CrossFit does not leave the success of its vision up to chance, giving people the vision without the opportunity. They are there to instruct and discipline, and not once in a while, which seems to be the American Church’s MO so much of the time.
Someone might say, well the church is not CrossFit. We do not need to follow their model simply because they are successful at it. But, ask yourself this: Whose model do we follow? Christ’s example of discipleship is far removed from how the church acts and is closely related, in many ways, to the model I have suggested CrossFit has demonstrated to me. Christ (by example) taught through constant, daily modeling of His vision, and He invited His disciples to join in with Him in His task with daily consistency.
So the missing link has been found. The space between knowledge of what I should do and acting it out is opportunity, but this is not just any opportunity. It is cultural opportunity being provided and directed by leadership, in my example’s case, the CrossFit trainer. Discipleship should be the same. We should not say, “Here is what to do, now go do it. See you next week” We should disciple. To disciple others is so much more than casting vision. It is real training, being there to ensure the vision is lived out.
So, how does CrossFit provide real opportunity, and how could the church benefit from this model? In other words, what are some real examples of how this looks? Come back Monday for the concluding Part 3 of this series.