A new documentary to premier this month follows a group of fighting pastors and examines the relationship between MMA fighters and Christianity. In the movie’s trailer (see below) one pastor asks “Can you love your neighbor as yourself and at the same time knee him in the face as hard as you can”.
At first glance the entire premise seems repulsive. Pastors teaching men of all ages of the church a proper armbar while quoting scripture seems a far cry from what the rest of Christianity shares about Jesus. Then the more I thought about it the more sense it made. In today’s ultramodern churches that feature Jazzercise, book clubs, and dodge ball teams why does this shock anyone? Haven’t our churches and pastors changed drastically in the past decade in order to keep “the church” relevant for today’s culture? Youth rooms look like Dave & Buster’s, church lobby’s resemble a Starbucks, and sanctuaries feel like movie theaters. Church websites and bulletin boards offer an array of activities to join other church members in everything from cooking to Crossfit. It really can’t be the violence, because there are plenty of Christian groups at the gun range and paintball fields every weekend. I know both of those things have happened in my own church within the past month.
Christians are desperately trying to do whatever they can to get butts in the pews. If you look hard enough I’m sure you can find a niche church for just about whatever your pastime. I recently had a conversation with one of our pastors and several elders about ditching the formal adult class model for an open plan for groups who wanted to meet before and after running, yoga, etc. to sit and chat rather than heading to a coffee shop.
But the problem I see is that Christian culture has created a barrier between itself and everyone else where they no longer know how to interact with the rest of the world. We’ve drawn a hard line in the sand where Christians are supposed to be in the world and not of it, therefore we can no longer permit ourselves to actually interact in it. Rather than Christians intermingling with non-Christians and sharing their faith in the real world, we have to create settings for the world to come to us. We must add features like MMA training to our churches only in the hopes that we can trick some unwitting fool into salvation. But in the end all it does is serve those who are already saved and in the church. It’s not evangelistic. Evangelism is going out from your comfort zone and meeting others where they are at. Not expanding the fortress walls to accommodate your Jacuzzi.
I remember how dumbfounded I was when I first saw Benson Henderson of the UFC enter the arena to the music “Awesome God”. However, at least he’s trying to take his faith outside the fortress of the church and into the countryside where he may actually meet someone. I’ve always found the public gravitas of athletes for “giving God the glory” off-putting. But it’s so much more than the countless Christian’s who by tickets every weekend to skip church, drink beer, and yell obscenities at people they’ll never meet.
But in the end, how can you truly evangelize Fight Church, while observing the first rule of Fight Church?