Constantly Varied: Crossfit and the Church

I’ve been interested in the intersection of my faith and my fitness journey for a handful of years. Admittedly, I’d never seem to connect the two as if they are two separate versions of myself; strangers who knew each other well. However, in the last year or so, I have found myself—and found Christ—at my local box. It’s a place where people from all walks of life come together to encourage one another, and to become a community built on shared experiences and personal betterment.

In late January 2021, I drove to St. Louis Missouri to attend a weekend Crossfit Level One certificate course at CrossFit Gambit. This course was full of helpful feedback for not only learning the fundamentals of CrossFit’s methodology and the movements often associated with crossfit workouts, but it was also helpful in giving me language for how I should be serving in ministry. In these next few posts (which will be sporadic due to my ministry schedule and class schedule) will connect one definition of crossfit (“constantly varied functional movements done at a high intensity”) with how they apply, or should apply, to our ministry with anecdotes from my few years in various ministry settings. This is the first of that series.

One way to define CrossFit is that it is constantly varied functional movements done at a high intensity. If you’ve taken the Level One Certificate course or have browsed the manual, it is drilled into your mind. CrossFit specializes in not specializing. We would say that the best athlete is someone who can adapt to any workout or movement thrown into a bingo hopper and pulled at random. We may not win every event, but we will be able to do well in most. The fact that we believe in constantly varied movements does more than set us up for success in a competition. It keeps our attention—doing the same movements (leg press, bench, squats, etc.) at the same rep scheme (5 sets of 10 reps, etc.) every day would get boring. It allows us to work on the things we’re not good at. If we only do deadlifts because we can deadlift 400lbs, we’ll never work on our pressing movements and they’ll lack. Constantly varying our workout routine, programming or movements or time, allows us to become well rounded and able to best complete any task that is thrown at us in our daily life.

The church can learn a lot from the constantly varied programming of the typical CrossFit box. The same reasons that the constantly varied style of the CrossFit WOD are the same reasons the church needs constant variety. We become bored with singing the same songs, we become biblically literate in only the New Testament texts and disregard the Old Testament, we do the same outreach events because 10 years ago it ‘really worked’. The church need not be afraid of constantly varying their programming. I am not advocating for switching up every single thing every single week. People like knowing what is happening and can enjoy predictability, but have we confused ‘traditions’ with ‘ruts’? Have we gotten so used to the ‘way things always have been’ that we have forgotten there’s a new generation coming, a new way to meet God, a new way to serve our communities? We need to be constantly varied so that, like the CrossFit athlete, we can be ready for what the world throws at us, so we can reach the unreachable, love the unloveable, and serve those in our community who are image bearers of God.

There is—or should be—more in common with the church and the box than meets the eye. Ponder these questions as you wait for the next installment of this series:
1) What are some ways that you can vary your ministry?
2) Who would benefit from your church’s ministry if you were to be a constantly varied church?
3) How can you bring the variety that you learn/do at your box into the church or out into your community?

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