CrossFit, drive-by’s and Jesus. What do the three of these have in common, if anything?
I live near a CrossFit gym. CrossFit, you know, that intense fitness program that combines Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, running and other endurance exercises with friendly competition. It’s sweeping the country.
Every time I drive past the gym, I slow down, turn my head as far as I can while also safely driving and do my best to peer into the big windows. Inside is an industrial looking set up with exposed metal bars. Bright overhead lights shine off of mirrors and red painted walls. Free weights, exercise balls, mats and giant tires pepper the floor. The place fascinates me. Just then, a dozen athletes head out the front door and start jogging down the sidewalk. A group run? I’m even more intrigued. This seems like a whole other lifestyle, almost cult-like, to me. Have you ever had this experience?
As I continue on my drive, I begin to wonder how many people have a similar “drive-by” experience with the church. A person inevitably passes one (or more) as they drive around town. If the person has no church background, imagine how foreign, intense, and just strange everything might look. Perhaps it’s a building that looks unlike those around it with a steeple and stain glass windows or with big walls and no windows. A large cross looms out front. There are cryptic messages on a marquee and groups of people rush in and out of the building at various non-business hours throughout the week. I wonder how many people strain and peer trying to get a sense of what’s going on inside while still keeping their distance.
I’ll admit; I’m a bit skeptical of the whole CrossFit craze. Beyond my drive-by experiences, I’ve garnered most of my supporting information online reading reviews about how it’s a pyramid scheme and an improper way to train that actually hurts your body.
How many people’s only experience or knowledge about the Christian faith and places of worship are from what they look up online and read in blogs? What are they hearing? Are they getting the whole picture? How is this shaping their view of something they’ve never actually experienced? And even more, how are we as a church contributing to their online “drive-by” experience?
You know what’s made me think more respectfully of CrossFit? A friend of mine is part of this world. She’s invited me to join their periodic free classes. Though I enjoy working out, I kindly decline every time because I’m just not sure. She keeps inviting me. Honestly, I have no desire to ever accept the invitation. But my friend doesn’t just talk about CrossFit every once in awhile when she invites me to promotional events. She shares about her CrossFit experiences as she does any other part of her daily life. Her social media accounts aren’t spammed with gym photos. Rather, mentions of working out are appropriately mixed in with the other areas of her life. Yes, she shares photos and videos of workouts but more of her posts are about meeting goals and congratulating friends who are physically pushing themselves beyond what they had thought possible.
Slowly but surely, I notice I’m being worn down.
I think there are a couple reasons why:
- She’s my friend. I care about her life even if I am not interested in pursuing the same path myself.
- She’s consistent. This isn’t just a phase for her. She’s made a commitment and is keeping it. She puts in hard work and is getting in better shape. I admire and am inspired by her level of work ethic and commitment. Her consistency and the evident “fruits of her labor” make me more interested. There’s an authenticity there because her actions are backing up her talk.
- Closely tied to consistency is that she’s been at it for awhile now. She didn’t just mention CrossFit one time when they were holding a free class for new people. She doesn’t gingerly talk about the topic like it’s taboo or offensive even though she knows my disinterest. Yet her persistence has helped normalize the concept for me making me more accepting and open to the idea. It doesn’t seem so strange and mysterious anymore.
I’m really not trying to speak for or against CrossFit. I still have my doubts. However, I see lessons we as the church can learn from my CrossFit friend. As Christians, we also can be accused of seeming cult-like and viewed with skepticism, cynicism and doubt with people questioning our agenda. What can we learn?
- Be a friend. This can’t be overstated. This whole experience started with having a friend who introduced me to something unfamiliar. I’d blow off a billboard or sponsored ad online. But not so with a friend. I care about her so I listen to her and want to better understand her life. This trusting relationship lays the foundation for an attentive ear.
- Be consistent in your way of life. People pay more attention to what we say when they see it is consistent with how we live. Jesus tell us His disciples will be recognized by the fruit we bear and the love we share.
- Stick with it. While it’s great to invite friends to church events targeted for those not connected to church or on special occasions like Easter morning worship, let’s not stop at these ‘every once in awhile’ occasions. Invite them regularly. Even more, boldly speak about your ongoing commitment to faith as you do your other activities in life. Share about it online, in conversations, with friends. Who knows, you may help normalize a foreign concept and in turn, get a more receptive ear.
Is it possible I’m being influenced by the pyramid scheme of CrossFit? Perhaps. Is it also possible being a friend, living consistently in faith and sticking with it may influence our neighbors’ view of Christianity? Yes. Here’s to turning drive-by moments into springboards by the power of the Holy Spirit.