We All Need A Spotter: Church and CrossFit Gym

Gym image by Robert Kneschke / Shutterstock

Gym image by Robert Kneschke / Shutterstock

I can’t lift my arms.

They scream in muscle soreness after 3 weeks of CrossFit workouts. At the age 43 I’ve found myself in poor physical condition; my career having taken over my usually fit body. But a block behind our house in a slightly ghetto strip of businesses along a sidewalk dotted with empty gin bottles and crushed packs of generic cigarettes is a little white building with red trim. Inside this vintage garage which 2 years ago was where most of the neighborhood dope slinging happened, is now a CrossFit gym.

When walking my dog I’d pass by the crazy people lifting weights and stepping up and down on giant tractor tires and pulling themselves up over steel bars and I thought I surely was not in good enough shape to show up.

But three weeks ago I did just that. I hauled my out of shape middle-aged ass over to the gym and have worked out four days a week for the last three weeks.

Now I can’t lift my arms.

I was talking to my husband about why I am loving CrossFit and it made me realize that it is for some of the reasons I love church.

Ubuntu and the Hopelessness of Individualism

Flag decorated white picket fence, Bill Fehr /

Flag decorated white picket fence, Bill Fehr /

What is Ubuntu? The principle of Ubuntu was birthed in Africa and there is no direct translation of the word into English. Archbishop Desmond Tutu summarizes it well:

“You know when it is there, and it is obvious when it is absent. It has to do with what it means to be truly human, it refers to gentleness, to compassion, to hospitality, to openness to others, to vulnerability, to be available for others and to know that you are bound up with them in the bundle of life, for a person is only a person through other persons.”

The observations of my life thus far have led me to conclude that it is popular to argue for the advancement of the individual.

Young Adults: Forget Church, Follow Jesus

pathway image via Shutterstock

pathway image via Shutterstock

The teachings of the church are seen as devalued. This doesn’t have so much to do with the inherent importance or validity of what is being said, but rather it’s a reflection of the value of information overall. It’s really a matter of supply and demand. Abraham Lincoln probably wouldn’t have walked so far to get a book from the only area library, after all, if he had Wikipedia and Google Books at his fingertips. Most anything being said, taught or preached about in a church on Sunday can be found somewhere else, wherever and whenever we want it. Why wait?

The institutions have outlasted their original purpose. Most of our churches were built when populations were static. People didn’t divorce, change jobs and move around like they do now. This mobility, combined with the diversification of networking opportunities, online and through other means,  puts bricks-and-mortar institutions in an awkward spot of hoping people find them where they are. And much of the outreach efforts of church is still an attempt to get people “in the doors.” But the fact is that most young adults don’t particularly care.

Faith is Certain and Endless

Sunrise over New York City. Image via Wiki Commons (

Sunrise over New York City. Image via Wiki Commons (

I know that the sun will rise tomorrow.

With all of the scientific facts and astronomical data we are blessed with today, I can expect to wake up tomorrow and see rays of light shining through my window.

There is also no debating time. Our clocks, both digital and internal, continue to tick onward no matter the circumstances. These are inexorable certainties in life. However, these proven facts of our existence are limited. They are not the whole story.

There are things in life we neither can physically see nor explain, and yet we choose to believe anyway.

When our little siblings place their fallen teeth underneath their pillows, hoping to see a winged fairy deliver gifts in return, they are relying entirely on an unproven belief. When students choose universities to attend, they do not know what the outcomes of their decisions will be, nor can they predetermine their futures after school. But they continue to grow and experiment with life anyway.

Even the wisest of theologians and clergy have very few answers to the questions pertaining to God’s existence that enter our minds on a daily basis. All of these situations represent something many of us hold onto so dearly: Faith.

The Bouquet

Photo by Jenny Burtt via Wylio

Photo by Jenny Burtt via Wylio

Most every Sunday Ruth or Lily Janousek hands me a drawing on the way out the door. I have quite a collection.

Lily and Ruth are budding theologians. They may not know that about themselves, but that’s what they are: budding theologians — they do theology. They do their best to speak of God.

They draw pictures of God and us. Like the one from last Sunday — a drawing of a bouquet with the words:

“God doesn’t love us as a flower but as a bouquet.”

Spiritual Refugees, Mainline Protestants and Missed Opportunities

Photo by Graeme Montgomery via Getty Images.

Photo by Graeme Montgomery via Getty Images.

I've been speaking at many small colleges that have historical ties to the oldest mainline denominations in the U.S. I have been noticing something interesting: a terrific hunger for a deeper spirituality on the part of many young people who come from evangelical backgrounds like mine and also like me are looking for something outside of the right wing conservatism they come from.

I've also noticed that while some people in the so-called emergent evangelical movement are reaching out to these young people the leaders of the mainline denominations both locally and nationally often seem blind to a huge new opportunity for growth and renewal staring them in the face. That new opportunity is the scores of younger former evangelicals diving headlong out of the right wing evangelical churches.

LifeBuilders: Help Rebuild Lives (and Souls) in Detroit with the Click of a Mouse

When Marilyn and Larry Johnson sold their computer business in suburban Detroit about a decade ago, they figured they'd settle into the next phase of their lives with ease. Retirement meant more freedom, fewer pressures and ample time on the golf course. But a life of leisure turned out to feel terribly hollow for the Christian couple.

"I remember coming in from a golf game and Larry asking me how my game was, and I just started crying," Marilyn told Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom recently. "I said, 'My life has no purpose.' "

So the Johnsons began volunteering at shelters, treatment programs and soup kitchens. On Thanksgiving eight years ago, they wound up serving turkey dinner to the homeless. It was a turning point.  An epiphany.

Seven Reasons Why Young Adults Quit Church

Dezhaviu /

Photo via Dezhaviu /

From time to time I revisit the question: Why are young adults walking away from religion?

Although the answer(s) vary from person to person, there are some general trends that I think apply in most cases. (In the list below, when I refer to “we,” “I” or “me,” I’m referring to younger adults in general, and not necessarily myself.)

1. We’ve Been Hurt

I can actually include myself in this one personally. Sometimes the hurtful act is specific, like when my youth leader threw a Bible at me for asking the wrong questions. Sometimes it’s rhetorical, either from the pulpit, in a small group study or over a meal. Sometimes it’s physical, taking the form of sexual abuse or the like. But millions claim a wound they can trace back to church that has never healed. Why? In part, because the church rarely seeks forgiveness.

From time to time I revisit the question: Why are young adults walking away from religion?

Although the answer(s) vary from person to person, there are some general trends that I think apply in most cases.

See Christian's answers inside the blog...