What I Have Learned About The Church’s Potential From CrossFit (Part 3)

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Part Three: Real Application to Providing Optimal Opportunity:

The success of a gym and a church are certainly not always related, but I believe I have seen some overlap. When I first heard of CrossFit I belittled it. Somehow the passion of those involved intimidated me so that my only response was to refer to the group as a cult, a bunch of fanatics. Yet, their excitement comes from living out a vision that I see as reflecting a biblical model of community.

Oh, how I wish the world would look at the church and say of her passion, “Those of the church are just a bunch of fanatics,” and not just based on our ideas and words, but our actions. As I pointed out in the last post, I began to wonder, what makes these people (CrossFit members) so fanatical. Why do they all eat the same things, wear the same shoes, and adhere to such specific workouts? Because they see real results from the community they have formed. I have mused on this topic for the last two posts. Now it is time to get practical:

Here are 5 specifics I have seen make CrossFit such a successful community, 5 specifics that I also see reflected in biblical thought:

Vision: Before you can provide opportunity for cultural transformation, you have to have a goal in mind. Anybody who knows anything about CrossFit knows that it has a vision to create elite athletes, and they are unapologetic about the way in which they see this coming to be. If you are not up for the task, they wish you well, but they are not going to change.

Christ certainly had vision, and a message to teach through word and deed. His words were inviting, but challenging as well. The church needs to stand firm in its vision of who we are called to be. This is not a vision we must lay out ourselves; it is a vision given us in Scripture, to be a community called to mission. We too should be unapologetic in our approach and assured in the results it produces.

Opportunity: In the last post, I spoke to how CrossFit provides real opportunity and how opportunity is the real missing link between desire and action. There is a huge disconnect in the church between knowing what we should do and doing it. This is the same for so many who know they should better take care of the self through exercise and diet and want to be healthier, but do not do what it takes. CrossFit has met this issue head on by providing the crucial link between want and action, which is cultural opportunity to live out a well, thought out vision. Christ invited His disciples to live out of vision on a daily basis.  Like working out, living out the Christian faith takes discipline. That is why we are called disciples.

Catechesis: This word is definitely one of those that if uttered at CrossFit would get a lot of confused looks, but they do catechesis, nonetheless. Catechesis is definitely a church term, but it is something that today’s American church knows little to nothing about in practice. Simply put, the practice of Catechesis was the early church’s means to ensure converts were ready to be a part of the community.  Today people join the church with little to no education on what it means to live as a Christian or how to be a Christian. We know little of discipleship. We expect all converts to simply have the tools at hand, as if discipleship is nothing.

At CrossFit Brunswick (the box/gym I attend), all new members are asked to join the On-Ramp class. This course gives all new members the basic tools to properly workout at CrossFit with the rest of the members. This provides a level of confidence to the new member. Christ spent three years training His disciples before sending them out on their own. The early church used to provide this sort of preparation, but now we leave new members to figure it out on their own (unless we offer a “basics” class that is so basic it really is no training at all). This leads to a lack of confidence and to a lack of proper protection. The new member is not protected against false teaching or misunderstanding. This leads to injury, spiritually speaking, and the new member either does not participate or leaves the church altogether.

Community: This is not a word unfamiliar to CrossFit, and while we pay lip service to the idea of community, the church really does not do church in community. We only get together on Sundays, not everyday in mission. Unlike other gyms, where you might have a class here and there, CrossFit is always done in community, always done together.

Once again, Christ surrounded Himself with community and called us to do life together. Discipline is difficult, but it is made much easier in community. One does not feel so alone when others are walking, even struggling, together. One is not so concerned with not knowing what to do in a given situation in community, because he or she has others there to help think the situation through, and to help make any corrections needed. Moreover, in community, one is constantly reminded not to lose focus of the goal. So often a task can become more about the steps than about the purpose, but in a group, people constantly spur each other on with the true goal in mind.

Evangelism: Here is another word that CrossFit does not use, but lives out, and it benefits their cause greatly. In addition to providing support, groups build enthusiasm. And even more than groups, results produce enthusiasm. Enthusiasm leads to evangelism. I once heard a fellow CrossFitter, and one of my trainers, Russ Hutto, refer to his earliest reaction to his CrossFit results as being evangelistic. In other words, after seeing such great success in his own life, he wanted to share it with others, and so it should be with the church.

We often think of evangelism as just another task we must do as disciples, and we often view this as a burden. Many times we do not want to share our faith. But, if we could catch fire and really see the marked improvements that being the church has on our own life, we would naturally become more evangelical. Evangelism is not a task, but an opportunity. When evangelism happens, community grows and the process continues. Unlike how evangelism has happened in the past, it can be very organic, a natural flow from properly executed community life.

Conclusion:

So, when I say I know a group of people that come together in real community to spur one another on to a richer life through discipline and encouragement and often encourage those not involved in their way of life to join in so that they too can enjoy the benefits of living out of the communal vision, I hope that I am not just speaking well about my CrossFit box (gym for the layman), but about the body of faith known as the church as well. Through casting a proper vision, people can come to see who they ought to be and will hopefully gain the desire. To make the vision a reality, opportunity can provide people an outlet to achieve their goals in a disciplined manner. This discipline is aided in community where people spur one another on to greater and greater success. Once people see success in their selves, they will have the confidence to share their story with others.  At our foundation, this is how the church has operated fro our earliest days, and we need only to reclaim this way of life to see further success.

So, get involved.

Catch the vision. Connect with the community. Be disciplined. Live out of purpose. Never do so alone, and join your local CrossFit box while you are at it.

-TM

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  • http://www.theworshipcommunity.com Russ Hutto

    Great article (as a whole) Tab! I think this is one I’d love to share with The Worship Community as well! What say you?

    • TabMiller

      Thanks for the share, Russ!

  • nun

    Mixing the world and Jesus. No talk of self denial, no talk of conviction, no talk of holiness and purity, just happy go lucky “Christianity” mixed in with the world. I did crossfit for over a year at a “christian” gym, saw nothing but the world mixed in with a watered down gospel. 1Timothy 4:8 says For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. You cant mix something that is worldly and make it in with Jesus. Crossfit is pride havon, I commend you for trying,

    • TabMiller

      I am certainly not above admonishment; however, I do not believe you understand my convictions. This article is not a suggestion that CrossFit is the church or that the two should be blended in some manner. Instead, I am using an example from popular, cultural knowledge to share truth about God’s Kingdom. This is a matter of having persons relate to truth through experience. Certainly all analogies break down at some point, and CrossFit is not the way to the Kingdom, but I do not feel at all convicted for using it as a means to relate to those around me, not least those in my CrossFit gym who do not know our Lord.

      So, how did I use CrossFit? I use it as analogy. Basically, the Scripture gives us principles that benefit community, not by some secondary means, but by primary means. God’s laws are not a simple reward system, as if God’s rewards are somehow secondary to His design. In other words, when we live by His design and in pursuit of holiness, He does not simply pitch us a pellet, as if we are dogs who just sat on command. Instead, God gives us principles. Principles, like laws, have natural consequences. At least this is the case much of the time. Consequently, there are principles that benefit humans naturally, perhaps not in some eternal means, but that is not my argument in the first place.

      I am not sure how carefully you read my article (Parts 1, 2, and 3). I never once claim that I wish to blend Jesus with the world or with CrossFit. I simply point out that the church does not live up to certain principles that God has given us. Moreover, I point out that I see these principles being lived out, in part, by another community that is thriving because of it. These are not simply “spiritual principles,” but practical principles. As such, there is no claim that we should copy CrossFit into some new way of being. I make this clear. The principles, I point out, are ancient principles that the church once held. We held them long before CrossFit, but because they seem out-of-date to us as the church, we try to live by more modern means of promoting our community, such as advertising. In order to show that such modern promotions are not the only way to promote community, I use CrossFit to show that other principles of communal promotion work.

      Thus, my point is one of analogy, which Christ used a lot: “The Kingdom of God is like…” Instead of copying CrossFit, I want to show how God’s truths, even used by a community not directed by Scripture, are beneficial. Moreover, I am speaking of my experience at the gym I attend. At my gym, we promote the listed items above (vision, opportunity, catechesis, community, and evangelism). If these are not principles we can see being asked of the church, I am not sure what is. I am not saying that my gym’s vision, opportunity, catechesis, community, or evangelism looks like the church’s, but, as a principle, they work in a natural way. If the church simply copied CrossFit, and did not place Christ as number one, we would lose. Paul points out that we can follow and obtain many lesser goods, but without love, we have nothing. So, again, my point is not to blend, but to learn that if a community not based in the love of Christ can benefit from some of the principles spelled out for the church in the Bible, how much more can we, the church, benefit from doing the same, we who have love?
      I would also wish to point out that this is not my only writing upon Christianity. You come out with guns a blazing, accusing me of not dealing properly with my approach, but, through patience and kindness (that is giving me, as a brother in Christ, the benefit of the doubt) you might learn that I did not write this as the end-all-be-all on church growth and development. You might find that we consider each article on The Echo Life as dependent upon our larger vision. I promote with passion: self-denial, conviction, holiness and purity. Look at my background and you might realize that. I have written well over a thousand typed pages of theological essays online, many that cover such topics. Moreover, in this article (parts 1, 2, and 3) I think there is talk of discipline (which is self-denial) out of conviction that what we, as a church, are not doing right by God’s calling on our lives. Holiness, moving toward the character of God, encompasses everything that I write. In fact, my call for the church to be more visionary, opportune, communal, educational, and evangelical is certainly a matter of being more holy by pursuit of His sanctifying grace.
      We at The Echo Life are quite aware of I Tim 4:8. Once again, if you would not treat this article as the only thing we have ever written on the topic, you might know what I am about to say. But, allow me to make this clear. We, at The Echo Life, do not see physical discipline and exercise as the pinnacle of Christian principles. We fully agree with Paul that primary to human health is our eternal health. However, we do think that it is telling of spiritual health when Christians, with full means to take care of the precious gift of the body that God has given us, do not. We are all for sacrificing the body for the sake of the Gospel, but many a Christian’s poor health is not a matter of not being able to be healthy because of the toil his or her ministry has put on the body. Instead, this is used as an excuse. If we have time to sit on our butts to watch TV, we have time to run in place while doing so.

      Let us talk for a moment about Biblical principles and Paul’s point here to young Timothy. Paul is making clear to us that biblical principles benefit both our life here and our life beyond death. So, exercise, in itself, as a means to promote life, is foolish. Without godliness, we will perish no matter how fit we are. But, if we live to God in all aspects of life, physically and spiritually, in godliness, we will benefit our whole life, including HERE AND NOW. So, if we are right at The Echo Life, and stewardship is a big way of echoing godliness, then that applies to the body as well. It is the temple of God and deserves respect as such. Again, Paul’s point is that exercise is good for a while, but on its own, only benefits me here-and-now, and therefore, on its own, does not benefit at all. But, putting God’s ways first, he assures us, benefits this life, both now and forever. This is not an excuse to dismiss the body, but is a calling to allow the higher things of God to be the means by which we serve our bodies and our souls.

      Moreover, if you wish to argue from I Tim 4:8 that the spirit is the greater concern over the body, then you probably would say, and I do not care to disagree, that the spirit is greater than the body. In other words, the spirit is to lead the body. So, riddle me this: if the model of the Kingdom is for the greater to lead the lesser through service, how should our spirits lead our bodies: Through servant-leadership. If the body needs to be led, then it is to be led by Kingdom principles, not by dismissal. Let our heart’s command the body in service so that we realize that we are not to use and abuse what God has given us, but to steward and promote what God has given us. Giving our heart reign over our body does not negate that the body is important and can be blessed by God.

      In the end, while there are many Christians at my gym, the gym staff have never claimed to run a “Christian” gym. So, I am not trying to mix the church and the gym so that I have to do less driving, nailing two birds with one stone. CrossFit simply served as my analogy. I will say this, I do obviously have a much higher regard for my gym than you do yours, and I have never thought about judging them as you have yours, but then again, my gym has not claimed to be leading people to Christ. I do CrossFit, not out of pride, but out of stewarding God’s gift to me.

      I hope that in the future you will treat me, not as a distant author, but as a brother in Christ. I hope you will give me a chance to explain my thoughts if I seem to be “watering down” the gospel. I cringe at the thought. To make myself clear, I believe and proclaim, “Jesus is Lord.” I am, if you proclaim the same, your brother. Please treat me as such.

      Bright blessings,

      Tab