Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Jesus and Cage Fighting?

    We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the different ways we can help connect youth to the church. Some individuals try to host really big events that draw in large numbers of youth; while other gatherings are more contemplative and smaller in attendance. Both methodologies work well and have their own strengths and weaknesses.

    The other day though, I came across something completely new. According to this article, “cage fighting” is being used by several churches to attract individuals, including youth. The author states that, “The sport is seen as a legitimate outreach tool by the youth ministry affiliate of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 45,000 churches.”

    On the one hand, I can sort of (and this is really a stretch) see why individuals might use cage fighting as an evangelical tool. There are always different approaches and methodologies that are going to be used to draw people to the church. Some will work better than others. Fair enough.

    But on the other hand, I just want to say: Really? It’s pretty clear to me that Jesus, at the very least, opposed violence. Personally, I feel Jesus was a pacifist. I have serious questions about a church that both promotes and encourages violence.

    Is it wrong to judge though? A number of youth I know really like (for reasons I cannot understand) cage fighting. If this draws them to the church, is it wrong to stand in opposition?

    We’d love to hear your thoughts.


    Nathan said...

    This is interesting. If it were "wrestling" I could understand more because as we all know, wrestling is fake. Sure, sure there are times where people get injured but it's basically a soap opera for guys. Cage fighting, on the other hand, is real and pretty violent. The intent is to shred your opponent to.....well shreds. Just because it is a sport doesn't mean it is beneficial. 1 Cor. 10:23 puts that out there. Just because something draws a crowd doesn't make it an effective ministry tool. Would the church promote showing a porn movie because it would get a lot of people to show up? I highly doubt it.
    How do you go from cage fighting to expressing the love of Christ. How can you talk about loving your enemies and your neighbor as yourself after someone was beaten to a pulp?
    I don't think it is judgmental to question the motives of a ministry team, if it doesn't necessarily line up with Jesus' teachings. However, if an event like this IS truly bringing people to the Lord, then there is something to examine. God is bigger than any of us, so I wouldn't be surprised.

    Anonymous said...

    I'm with you on this. I don't see Jesus as being good with this. Would he like for us to have a group of kids over to watch the World Series of Poker? I really don't see Jesus as cheering for a guy to bloody another guy.

    Brian Kirk said...

    We actually have a church here in St. Louis that does this.

    Listening to Christian radio for a few minutes today, the host was mentioning surveys that claim men don't like to go to church because it emasculates them. He asked his audience if they thought this was true. Immediately this guy calls in and says this is bull and goes off on how David killed Goliath, Sampson was the strongest man of all, the Israelites massacred whole cities in God's name and Jesus got mad and turned over the tables in the temple. How could these be models of emascualation, he asked. So what was his point? That being a man is equated with violence? That the only way to attract men to faith is to inject it with brutality as a value? It seems this cage fighting effort falls in the same misguided category.

    Anthony P said...

    I have to say I disagree with the comments. First off, I think it is naive to judge MMA without doing your research. These are not backyard brawls, or street fights. There are rules, they are strictly enforced. And I would say 95% of the time when the fight is over both competitors hug or shake hands and show mutual respect for each other, which is something that you don't see in many other mainstream sports. If you researched you would find that football is actually a more violent sport with many more injuries.
    I understand that Jesus never encouraged violence but the bible also is against laziness and gluttony, and if you have ever seen or heard about the training a fighter does, they are very disciplined and give a good example of staying healthy.
    Not all fights are all bloody and getting "beat to a pulp", in fact I would say those fights are rare.
    I know Nathan brought of the 1Cor 10:23 , but in 1 Cor 9 Paul talks about becoming all things to reach the most people. If that means becoming a fighter to reach people for Christ, I think that is a worthwhile cause. And one the God will honor.

    Anonymous said...

    As a youth pastor I'm not sure it matters one way or the other. Personally I wouldn't use it to draw crowds to my church, but I also wouldn't compare it to showing porn to attract crowds. I don't think we need to make church manlier, I think we need more men in the church to step up and be biblical men. We get a "sweater-vest penny loafer" image because that is what most men of the church have settled into. You don't have to be violent to be a man, but you also don't have to sensitive and soft spoken to love Jesus.

    I have to agree with Anthony. These fights generally showcase a lot of what we strive to teach our youth (discipline, fair play, sportsmanship, respect). We don't hesitate to have superbowl parties for our youth where we see foul language, poor sportsmanship, violence, anger, ect.

    Danelle Layne said...

    I agree with Nathan ... almost anything will draw a crowd but is it just a crowd that you want or a church? Why would I want to come to church or fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ and watch something to (in my opinion) contradicts the word of God? I can watch that at home if I so desire, but for a "church" to advertise and put on this kind of entertainment is ridiculous.

    I don't think anyone is going to feel the presence of God at a cage fight. They might remember the church because of the fight and it may bring them to your church... but I can think of at least 10 other ways of getting people to your church. But even at that everyone has a chance to know the Lord! Isn't the goal of the church to reach the honest hearted people? In my opinion honest hearted people don't need gimmicks.. they are tired of their sin and are wanting the peace and love of that only Jesus can give. Cage fighting doesn't in any way exemplify that. Maybe sportsmanship, maybe a fair fight... But that's not what the Church is about.

    And in regards to men feeling emasculated... well, I couldn't disagree more. However I do agree that some churches get so caught up in the grace and love of God that they seem to leave out the parts that God is a jealous God, that he means what he says about sin, etc... When the Word is preached in it's fullness it's not sissy, feminine or weak!

    We had a young man that was being asked to join a gang that started coming to our church about 4 years ago... Hardened by life & had NO emotions whatsoever. For the first year he came almost every service but sat in the back and often times was high or drunk. He kept a wrench in his back pocket just waiting for someone to treat him wrong... We (my church) just treated him like anyone else, showed him love, kindness but didn't stop preaching the Word... After a year he told our Pastor that he kept coming because he felt love and peace here. He received the Lord, got baptized and is now an usher! There is no way he would have come back if we had been promoting violence.

    Keeping up with the times is good. Having a good music program with music for all generations is good & necessary. But relevance can go too far... Christ will never appeal to everyone! If I'm going to go to church I don't want a watered down Christ that is OK with everything and has no discernment about right and wrong. No thank you.

    Aaron said...

    I am a cage fighter and a very devout Christian young man, I'm 21 years old and every time i go to step in the cage i pray to God that he will keep me safe.
    The Bible does speak against violence but that doesn't mean the people that are cagefighters and also Christians are bad Christians... I keep God at the center of my fighting I thank him for each victory and I thank him for each humbling loss.
    Personally I don't think it's wrong to use it as long as they aren't putting it above God.

    Anonymous said...

    I'm usually very open minded, especially when it comes to working with youth. However, this is putting the church just a bit too close to the edge. How close will we get before we fall over the edge and out of the will of God? I would assume the attraction for an event like this would be the competition. Perhaps other competitive non-violent avenues can be explored. If you promote anything well enough, people will come. Pray and have faith, souls will come.

    john said...

    We have several students who fight regularly and through this many doors have been opened to share their journey in Christ.