Functional Movements: CrossFit and the Church

In part one of this series, I mentioned how CrossFit and the Church have similarities (or at least they should) in their ability to constantly vary their routine. Where typical CrossFit programming varies its movements or its rep scheme, the church can learn from this in the way it varies its programming or structures its ministry offerings.

To set us up for today, CrossFit can be define as “constantly varied functional movements done at a high intensity”. As we’ve talked about the ‘constantly varied’, let’s move forward into functional movements.

Functional movements are the backbone of CrossFit. Movements that are performed in any WOD (workout of the day) can be applied to your every day routine. For example, a deadlift can be defined as lifting any object from a resting position on the ground. If that object is then moved up to your chest or shoulders (‘front rack’ position), congratulations you’ve completed a clean. Every time you sit on the couch or in a chair, or to get on and off the toilet, you’re performing a functional movement called a squat. When you go to put a cereal box into your cupboards, you’re performing an overhead press. This is what we mean when we say that our movements are functional. They are movements found throughout your daily routine, movements that you should be able to do. These movements are not isolated movements (i.e., you’re not sitting on a chair doing leg curls…because when in your daily life have you needed to sit in a chair and curl your leg?), they are multi-joint, compound movements. These movements start in your core and move to your extremities, and the more we utilize and train these core-to-extremity movements, the more power we can output, and the fitter we can become. Remember, We are as fit as we are able to move large loads over long distances, and do so quickly. Functional movements are natural. They come natural, they’re movements we don’t have to think about before doing. The more we train these functional movements, the more prepared we are for unknown events.

So what are the essential functions of the church? What would be considered a ‘functional movement’? Would it be singing hymns or worshipping songs? Maybe it’d be praying for others. I’m going to offer you two things that I believe are the essential functions, the things that could be considered multi-joint, compound movements that move us from core to extremity.

Throughout the Old Testament there are 613 laws. 613 rules to follow to show God how devoted you are to him. These laws can be found throughout the Torah (the first five books of the Christian Bible). However, I do not believe that there can be 613 ‘functional movements’ of the church. In fact, I believe there to be only two functional, multi-joint, compound movements of any church: “love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind. and the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Met by the teachers of the Law and challenged with the question of “what is the greatest commandment?” Jesus says love God and love others. When we think about this, these two answers are the functional movements of the church. Most churches on a given Sunday will receiving a tithe, gift, or offering during their service. A time where the people in the pews can give money to the church to support the mission and vision of the church. As the church uses these givings, are they not performing the functional movement of loving others? When the church pulls from its bank accounts to help cover medical bills for a member, start a new class for widows or widowers, or even sitting down for coffee with a teen in the youth group…are they not showing love to others? And members, in the giving of your tithe, gift, or offering, you are doing the same! You are showing a love to God by giving to your local congregation as you support and love your neighbor. If you’re thinking to yourself, ‘but Trav…I don’t ever give…’ fear not, this is not meant to shame you and I believe you’re still performing the functional movements of the church in other ‘tasks’ like prayer. Prayer is a time for us to confess, to tell God how much we love and desire and need Him, to lift others up who need help…it’s a place where we love God and love others.

If the church is to be the church, it needs to really hone in on its functional movements. It needs to become proficient in the essentials before it gets fancy. We don’t need a new smoke machine or a 10 piece praise band; we don’t need to do laser tag nights or escape rooms for youth group. We need to work on our functional movements of loving God and loving others in a way that is authentic, that is desirable, and that shows others we care, we see them, and that they are loved. That’s all people want: to be seen, heard, and loved for who they are and who God created them to be.

So, what do you think? Do you think there are more than two functional movements of the church?

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