One of the writing projects I’ve been working on for the past few months is about the connections between physical and spiritual fitness. I’m going to start posting some early drafts here to field test my thought process. If any of this strikes a chord with you please leave a comment or hit the “like” button at the end of the post. If there is anything you’d like me to clarify or explain more fully, please let me know. Thanks for helping me write my next book.
I love the church. I love her so much she drives me crazy. I’ve given my adult life to helping churches make hard, necessary changes so they can do a better a job of accomplishing their mission. My efforts have led to tremendous frustration for both myself and for the churches I’ve served. This was brought about by both my pastoral insensitivity and the difficulty–some would say impossibility–of bringing deep change to religious institutions that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Many churches want to change the world, but they don’t want to change themselves or upset any of their big givers in the process.
Several years ago, with my head sore and swollen from constant banging against a brick wall, I gave up. Forget about changing the church. Forget about making a difference. Just accept that things are the way they are and there’s nothing we can do to change them. I stood before the chasm between what the church can be and the way the church is and relinquished my dreams of ever bridging it.
I kept preaching the same kind of sermons, praying the same kind of prayers, and pressing for change. That was my job. But I stopped expecting my efforts to make much of a difference. “What’s the point?” was my mantra. I was burning out on church as I knew it. I was in danger of checking out completely. Not because I didn’t believe in Jesus or because I no longer found the gospel story compelling, but because I didn’t see Jesus and the gospel he preached making much of a difference in the church. So I lowered my expectations and embraced the status quo that had whipped my tail and broken my spirit.
Then something happened to reawaken my love for the church and reinvigorate my vision for what church can be when it’s at its best. This unexpected inspiration came from an unlikely place–a CrossFit gym.
Don’t let the “cross” in CrossFit fool you. It’s not a Christian exercise program. It’s an underground fitness movement that is growing exponentially and turning the fitness industry upside down. If you haven’t noticed a CrossFit gym (we call them boxes) near you, just wait, one’s coming.
CrossFit is a radical approach to fitness. Some compare it to P90X, a popular do-it-yourself-at-home program advertised on TV and radio. While sharing a few similarities, P90X is not as intense as CrossFit. I consider P90X a “gateway drug” for CrossFit. If you like P90X, you’re going to love CrossFit.
CrossFit is a protocol for attaining fitness across a broad spectrum of capacities (strength, endurance, power, etc.) It’s also a brand name with a headquarters overseeing all that goes on in the CrossFit empire. But more than being a fitness program or a brand name, it’s a rapidly growing community of fiercely loyal adherents. You don’t hear people talking about being a part of the Gold’s Gym community. Nor do they gush about the difference 24 Hour Fitness has made in their lives. But hang around a few CrossFitters for five minutes and they’ll start to tell you their story. Then brace yourself for an invitation to come give it a try. CrossFitters are some of the most naturally evangelistic people on the planet.
CrossFit changed my life. I hesitate to say it this way, but its true. I’ll tell you more of the story later on. The CrossFit community is full of stories about people just like me who came to CrossFit looking to get in better shape and lose a few pounds and are then surprised to find it changing the trajectory of their lives. This is over-the-top language, but this is the way CrossFitters talk about CrossFit. (Yes, I know there is a danger in using this kind of language to describe anything but God, and we’ll talk about that later too.)
Here is why all of this matters to me: I have high expectations for the gospel. I believe that the gospel is the power of God at work in the world to bring about a great transformation. The world will not always be the way it is right now. Someday, everything will be different. This is at the core of the Christian hope, a basic promise of the gospel. Some might call it a restoration of the way things once were, but I think it will be better than that. A transformation into something beyond our imagination and surpassing our collective memories.
But why should anyone accept these beliefs on faith alone? Is there any evidence to justify this kind of hope? Yes, there is. God’s plan for the world is revealed in each one of us. God is changing the world, transforming it into something different, and he’s doing it one person at a time. The gospel changes lives. The church is the primary community in which this drastic life change is supposed to happen. Church is not a building; it is a gathering of individuals who have had their lives changed, their trajectories altered, and their destinies shaped by the power of the gospel.
Am I still overdoing it?
I don’t think so.
I’m attracted to changed lives, a sucker for testimonies. I love a good transformation story. Rags to riches, homeless to high society, fatboy to skinny jeans: these are the kind of stories that grab my attention and invite me to take a closer look. There are few things more compelling than “before” and “after” photos. The CrossFit community is exploding because transformation stories are the norm.
Shouldn’t they be the norm in the church as well?
You can read more about the connections between CrossFit and spiritual fitness in Train For Something Greater, available in Kindle format.