Feb 16, 2010

New mixed martial arts ministry for believers

by Sasha Braithwaite

Most people are typically repelled by “Bible beater” Christians, so chances are that most people are not going to be too keen on the idea of a ministry in which literal beatings occur.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is swiftly rising in the world of international sports. It is a combination of boxing and various forms of martial arts from all over the world, according to blurbosphere.com. Fight fans don the infamous “Tap Out” (the sport-related equivalent of crying “Uncle”) tees and MTV viewers tune in to watch “Bully Beatdown,” which features professional MMA fighters matching up against so-called “bullies” for a $10,000 reward.

Now numerous evangelical churches all over the nation have “tapped” into the world of MMA fighting as a tool for ministry.

John Renken is the pastor of Xtreme Ministries, a church in Nashville that hosts a ministry through its own MMA academy. Renken serves as coach to the men enrolled in the academy where their motto is “Where Feet, Fist and Faith Collide.” About 700 churches are participating in a fight ministry of some sort, according to the New York Times.

The New York Times article subtly portrayed a negative view of the fight ministry. It reported that before a match, Renken led a group of men in a prayer to be examples of Christ and then was later heard on the sidelines contradictorily yelling to a fighter to serve “hard punches.” Renken’s men match up against both Christians and non-Christians.

Despite criticism, Renken and other participants stand firm behind the ministry, based on their belief that churches have been targeted toward women for too long and now men finally have a way for their spiritual needs to be met through a masculine sport. The ministry especially draws in males who come from gangs and troublesome backgrounds.

Pastors hope to make Christianity more appealing through fight ministries. They use mottos like “fight the good fight of faith” from Timothy 6:12 as foundational metaphors for the purpose of the ministry.

“Compassion and love — we agree with all that stuff, too, but what led me to find Christ was that Jesus was a fighter,” lead pastor at Canyon Creek Church Brandon Beals said, according to the New York Times.

However, not all Christians support the new ministry fad. Eugene Cho, of Quest Church in Seattle and Executive Vice President of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals Robert Brady disapprove of the ministry.

“(MMA evangelism) so easily takes away from the real focus of the church, which is the Gospel,” Brady said, according to New York Times.

They fear that men may be signing up to follow a Jesus different than the one portrayed in the Bible.

Although the MMA fight ministry is a bit unorthodox, there is nothing wrong with it as a whole. It is, after all, a recreational sport like any other and these men are not fighting out of a personal vendetta toward one another. People are becoming Christians through this rough man’s sport and giving the credit to Jesus. Perhaps there may finally be a sign-up sheet rival to softball in the church
bulletin.

Contact Sasha Braithwaite at
smbraithwaite@liberty.edu.
 


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