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    New Trend?  Churches using Fight Teams to Reach Men

    New Trend?  Churches using Fight Teams to Reach Men

    From the New York Times:   In the back room of a theater on Beale Street, John Renken, 37, a pastor, recently led a group of young men in prayer.  “Father, we thank you for tonight,” he said. “We pray that we will be a representation of you.”  An hour later, a member of his flock who had bowed his head was now unleashing a torrent of blows on an opponent, and Mr. Renken was offering guidance that was not exactly prayerful.

    “Hard punches!” he shouted from the sidelines of a martial arts event called Cage Assault. “Finish the fight! To the head! To the head!”

    The young man was a member of a fight team at Xtreme Ministries, a small church near Nashville that doubles as a mixed martial arts academy. Mr. Renken, who founded the church and academy, doubles as the team’s coach. The school’s motto is “Where Feet, Fist and Faith Collide.”

    Mr. Renken’s ministry is one of a small but growing number of evangelical churches that have embraced mixed martial arts — a sport with a reputation for violence and blood that combines kickboxing, wrestling and other fighting styles — to reach and convert young men, whose church attendance has been persistently low. Mixed martial arts events have drawn millions of television viewers, and one was the top pay-per-view event in 2009.

    Recruitment efforts at the churches, which are predominantly white, involve fight night television viewing parties and lecture series that use ultimate fighting to explain how Christ fought for what he believed in. Other ministers go further, hosting or participating in live events.

    The goal, these pastors say, is to inject some machismo into their ministries — and into the image of Jesus — in the hope of making Christianity more appealing. “Compassion and love — we agree with all that stuff, too,” said Brandon Beals, 37, the lead pastor at Canyon Creek Church outside of Seattle. “But what led me to find Christ was that Jesus was a fighter.”

    More from the NYT here...

    What do you think?

    Todd

     

    Comments

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    1. Christopher Fontenot on Thu, February 11, 2010

      What a GREAT IDEA!!!  Next, we can start having girls wrestle in Jello!!  That will get even more men into the church…Problem Solved!!!!

      To think that Jesus would actually believe that true believers going outside the four walls of the church building and preaching the Gospel to the lost would be and effective way of building the Church….BOY!! This church showed Him!

    2. Leonard on Thu, February 11, 2010

      I love it!

    3. CS on Thu, February 11, 2010

      Remember when we actually believed that the preaching of the Gospel was sufficient as the means of people coming to faith in Christ?  Boy, what fools we once were…


      CS

    4. Peter Hamm on Thu, February 11, 2010

      CS,

      Even Jesus told interesting stories that made sense to people and did pretty fantastical attractional things…

      That said, if this is UFC-style fighting I am so totally against it I can’t tell you. Physical violence for its own sake as entertainment? Yuk.

    5. CS on Thu, February 11, 2010

      Peter:

      “Even Jesus told interesting stories that made sense to people and did pretty fantastical attractional things…”

      Yes, but the stories were a part of the larger Gospel, and not the focus in and of themselves.  And His, “fantastical attractional things,” were to validate His divinity and authority.  Big difference between someone telling good stories today to get people’s attention and making the spectacles the draw cards.

      “That said, if this is UFC-style fighting I am so totally against it I can’t tell you. Physical violence for its own sake as entertainment? Yuk. “

      That’s exactly what this is. 


      CS

    6. Leonard on Thu, February 11, 2010

      This does not bother me at all.  The violence is not an issue for me since it is in the context of contest.  Rugby and football are as if not more violent.  If this were illegal street fights with no training, discipline, rules for the purpose of angry aggression… I would not like it.  but that clearly is not the case here.  I know several fighters and they are highly skilled and trained athletes.  Many of whom are also disciplined and focused followers of Christ.

      As for the argument put forth by CS and CF, I am good to simply disagree with you.  There is one gospel, that we agree.  There are many ways to proclaim it and to speak it in the culture we live.  I say good on them for their commitment to make disciples of men.

    7. Christopher Fontenot on Thu, February 11, 2010

      Leonard….only one question: “Does this sort of event qualify as being Christ-like?”

    8. Leonard on Thu, February 11, 2010

      Great Question CF.  Events are not Christ like people are.  Was the Super Bowl Christ like?  I used it to gather some people and at half time shared Christ with them.  My kids run track in school.  Pole vaulting, shot put, discus, high jump… not Christ like.  My kids?  you bet, that is why their friends are coming to know Him.  Even their families are coming to know Him.  Why?  Because events are not Christlike but people can be.

    9. CS on Thu, February 11, 2010

      Leonard:

      “Events are not Christ like people are.”

      Let’s substitute out the event and look at the people with these questions:

      -For the participant, is it Christ-like to beat someone about the head, potentially break limbs, and cause serious trauma, even if it is for sport?

      -For the audience, is it Christ-like to applaud and rally behind people who engage in sports where the competition is to defeat someone with force?

      -For the leaders of these events, is it Christ-like to try to bring people into church by offering them something worldly as a draw card?

      -For all the Christians watching, is it Christ-like to support this sort of activity and approve of it?


      CS

    10. Leonard on Thu, February 11, 2010

      So should we not play any sports?  No football, soccer, rugby, basketball… Because it is not Christlike to sweat, fake your opponent, knock him down, run him over…  Should no Christian ever be a boxer, MMA fighter, football player…? 

      For the audience… Is it christlike to cheer… no offence but that is irrelavant.  Were not talking pole dancing here, we not talking wet-tshirt contests.  We are talking about a highly trained group of atheletes in a controled contest.  do you ever root for a sports team? 

      The leaders - This is not in place of church. They have a vibrant church going, committed to making disciples.  this is an activity of the pastor that he uses to train and reach men. 

      Is it Christlike is probably not even the right question.  Is water skiing Christlike.  how about hunting or fishing?  what about reading the paper?  Is blogging Christlike?  Is BBQing pork ribs Christlike? 

      Are you willing to say that no Christian can be an athlete?  Is that the line you are drawing?

    11. Peter Hamm on Thu, February 11, 2010

      Sorry, Leonard…

      The point of football is not to hurt the other person.

      The point of this kind of fighting is to do physical harm to another human being. It is the POINT and the GOAL of the contest. They knock out teeth, cause the other to bleed (sometimes profusely), actually break bones… on PURPOSE.

      If you actually think it’s the same as American Football… wow… I think there’s a problem.

      Peter

    12. CS on Thu, February 11, 2010

      Leonard:

      “So should we not play any sports?”

      Is the primary purpose of the sport for beating people up and causing them to submit by force?  If it’s a, “Yes,” explain how that is Christ-like, please.

      “For the audience… Is it christlike to cheer… no offence but that is irrelavant.  Were not talking pole dancing here, we not talking wet-tshirt contests.”

      You’re focusing on showing enthusiasm instead of the cause of the enthusiasm in question. 

      “this is an activity of the pastor that he uses to train and reach men.”

      ...and draw them into church, which is what I was saying.

      “Is it Christlike is probably not even the right question.”

      What would you say is the right question to ask when someone bludgeons another man’s head with his fist or snaps his arm?

      “Are you willing to say that no Christian can be an athlete?  Is that the line you are drawing?”

      Absolutely not.  Paul talked about athleticism in relation to the endeavors a Christian should pursue.  But there’s a huge difference between athletic contests and activities that focus on hurting someone.

      For a comparison, let’s take another, “violent,” sport—football.  What’s the primary purpose there?  It’s to advance a ball down into an opponent’s territory.  People can stop each other with force with limitations (i.e. no attacking joints, punching). 

      Compared to MMA, the primary purpose is to hurt someone and beat them or make them submit by pain.  And while there are some limitations (i.e. no groin shots, no head butts), the actions that are available are intended to cause harm. 

      But my big thing is that the Gospel seems to be inadequate in the minds of people today to cause people to then want to become Christians and go into churches.


      CS

    13. Leonard on Thu, February 11, 2010

      No offense Peter but the last 3 super bowls a coach has said, our goal is to hurt the other teams QB.  Not stop him but hurt him.  To use the fear of being hit to make him wilt.  I played enough football to know that the strategy is to HIT harder that the other guy, making him think differently about hitting you. 

      the goal of the contest is to win, hitting is the tool in how you win.

    14. Leonard on Thu, February 11, 2010

      CS, one of the contest was to wrestle… which was to submit your opponent by force.  Often by causing harm. 

      The goal of MMA is to win a contest.  Same as in football, basketball and many other sports.  The goal is not to maim and kill.  That is just your impression of the sport.  to put that goal on this pastor is indeed over the line. 

      Some MMA fighters do fight to harm, but I am familiar with the sport enough to know that this is not the goal.  Fighters with this goal lose more than win. 

      Should no Christians be boxers?  Should no Christians be wrestlers? Studies are now showing that MMA is safer than Boxing because of its rules and regulations. 

      I see it the opposite.  The Gospel is the only thing that can change a persons mind… that is why it is essential to get a hearing by all means possible.

    15. Brian on Fri, February 12, 2010

      I dont think CS has played football.

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