What I Learned About Church from CrossFit

I love seeing biblical principles for the church applied in secular places. It fuels my belief that there are several things the church can learn from secular culture (and reminds me of several things the church needs to forget). But the most recent example of this for me came from a place I least expected it: my CrossFit gym.

Before I go any further, a bit of background:

I played sports in high school and dabbled in exercise during college. But after graduation, I immediately found myself behind a desk where I have sat for the last seven years. The only times I ran was when there a line forming for pizza and I didn’t want to be at the back.

That became a problem when my kids wanted to play and I simply couldn’t keep up. I decided I had to do something. I was completely intimidated but decided to give CrossFit a chance.

I expected to be ashamed by my lack of strength while being surrounded by ripped bros high-fiving each other after lifting small vehicles. I was wrong about my shame and the bros. And through learning how wrong I was, I also learned some valuable truths applicable to the church.

Be humbly honest about where you are

The morning class at my CrossFit is filled with people spanning the spectrum of fitness. There are people who, like me, struggle with every exercise, and people who would not look out of place at Olympic competitions.

Those who are weak are encouraged, taught, and motivated. No one looks down on us weaklings for being weak because the experienced and strong remember when they first started. But it is definitely a humbling experience and exercise in honesty.

Church pews are filled with people across the spectrum in regards to spiritual maturity. Young or immature believers can be intimidated and refuse to do anything that would reveal what they feel to be their shallowness of faith. In a place where everyone confesses sin and dependence on God, some wear a mask to appear more mature than they are.

Churches must develop a culture where the immature are welcomed and encouraged to grow. Where everyone is honest about where they are and find encouragement to grow. It must also be a place where the mature come alongside the weak in the faith for the sanctification of them both. Paul spends the entirety of Romans 14:1-23 on this very topic.

The standard stays the standard

The point of CrossFit is the WOD (Workout of the Day). The coach designs the WOD and then designates the different levels for it. The goal of everyone in the CrossFit program is to do the Level 3 WOD as it is prescribed, meaning you do not have to modify the weight or repetitions.

In the church, it is easy to overlook sin and change the standard to make people more comfortable. While we accomplish making them nice and comfy, we fail to recognize and uphold the standard. Ultimately, this means we diminish the power and beauty of the gospel of Jesus. He is the standard for holiness and righteousness. While we will never be perfect, we should all acknowledge the standard and strive for it together.

What happens in the box doesn’t stay in the box

When I have tried to exercise on my own, the only thing that changed about me was that I had an activity planned for a few hours a week. Nothing else. The way I ate stayed the same, as did the way I thought about fitness.

But when I go to CrossFit in the mornings, the rest of my day is different. I eat differently (because I don’t want to feel this miserable and still be fat). I get up and move throughout the day (because if I am still too long I will be more miserable). I drink more water than anything (because I think about hydration now).

After particularly tough WODs, members of my class text each other to see how they are doing. We share techniques to handle the soreness and give more encouragement.

Basically, what happens in the box (what CrossFit calls its gym) always has ramifications outside the box.

In a similar fashion, what happens in church should never stay in church. When fellowship begins before worship, it should continue during dinner of Tuesday night because someone invited someone else into their home. After a sermon, believers should discuss it, ask questions of one another, and challenge one another. For many, including myself at times, most of the sermon is forgotten before lunch is over. This is a travesty and shows that either the pastor is not preaching the full power of the gospel or anyone with a tendency to leave the sermon in the sanctuary is not truly wrestling with what is being taught.

Change is evident and obvious

Since I started CrossFit, I have lost several pounds and inches. So much so that people who do not know I started working out have started asking questions. They do not ask if I am working out, but how I am working out.

When I say I am doing CrossFit, people nod with a knowing look. They expect my body to change if I am doing this workout regimen because CrossFit has that reputation.

The church should also have a reputation for change. Not that the church should seek behavioral modification, but that each believer should learn to better reflect Christ during each gathering of the family of God. The change may not be as evident as quickly, but it should happen.

Now, I know my CrossFit experience is not the same that everyone has ever had who walked through the doors of their local box. The atmosphere of our CrossFit is due in large part to being led by a great coach who seeks to reflect Christ in every aspect of his life, including his business.

But this should be part of the experience of every church.

So what about you? Where have you seen biblical principles applied in secular settings?

Teddy James Jr.

Write, AFA Journal
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