Let’s compare the varied programming of a CrossFit gym with the programming of the Wooly Mammoth Community Church (Where God’s love is big and fuzzy). Let’s assume the WMCC has a goal to help its members grow in love by becoming more like Christ so that they develop the heart of God. This is their way of saying they’re pursuing spiritual fitness together.
What of kind programming do they use to train their members for spiritual fitness?
WMCC relies on a handful of predictable exercises done over and over again. At the large group gathering, there is singing, preaching, scripture reading, prayer, and communion. These things happen in the gathering week after week and usually in the same order. WMCC also offers Bible classes and small groups for the purposes of fellowship and Bible study. There are also service opportunities for those inclined to volunteer their time during the Sunday morning gathering. Finally, the leadership of WMCC encourages everyone to engage in a few spiritual disciplines like prayer, meditation, fasting, and Bible reading on their own time.
There is nothing wrong with any of these activities. Nor is there anything wrong with developing certain routines or rituals around these activities. In fact, we need rituals to keep us grounded. Starbucks nailed it with last year’s holiday slogan: Take comfort in rituals.
CrossFit has its routines and rituals too. While every workout is different, most CrossFitters have a specific warm-up and cool down routine they follow every day they train. Many athletes don’t feel ready to workout if they don’t get to do their usual warm-up. Likewise, if they don’t go through their cool down routine, their workout can lack a sense of closure. CrossFit has found a way to imbed constantly varied training into the comforting framework of daily rituals. It’s a powerful combination.
One of the weakness of Wooly-Mammoth’s programming is that everyone is encouraged to pursue spiritual fitness by picking and choosing the environments and exercises that work best for them or where they are most comfortable. This results in the majority of their members repeatedly attending the same kind of event where they do the same things week after week. It’s comfortable, and they enjoy it, even if it is a little bit boring. But at some point, they stop growing.
In exercise science, there is a principle known as “adaptation.” Over time the body adapts to an exercise so that its impact diminishes. Here’s how it works. If I’ve never done push-ups before, when I start doing them I’m going to show a lot improvement very quickly. But if all I do is pushups, my body is going to adapt to the movement and my improvement will eventually stall. The solution to overcoming adaptation isn’t to stop doing push-ups and start doing something else, but to mix up the routine by adding new movements to my program.
Many Christians who attend worship gatherings week after week have adapted to the usual routine of preaching, singing, and praying and are no longer being stimulated to grow the way they once were.
Question: Do you think the principle of adaptation applies to the pursuit of spiritual fitness the way it does to physical fitness? Please make your case in the comments below.