‘Sweat Evangelism’ in Post-Christian America

ccccI was on a bike ride a while back and I saw something that has become a cultural movement. In the center of town on the public lawn of the Transit Station/Parking Ramp was an outdoor fitness bootcamp happening.

Now everyone knows that fitness is an American obsession these days. Gym memberships and fitness classes of every conceivable variety have exploded in the past decade.  This is a great thing — I should join the movement!

However, what intrigues and convicts me as a pastor and leader of a Christian community is how much more passionate and public — even evangelistic! — these folks are about their cause than Christians are about ours. These outdoor bootcamps are quite widespread now. You’ll find fitness leaders and their disciples proudly gathering at beaches, parks, town squares and more, exercising in the most public place they can find for a one-hour experience.

Why? I presume so passers by will be inspired, intrigued, and possibly stop and join in the action!  They are sharing in a group experience that is life-giving and they want to share this experience with the watching world. They believe in something enough to go public, go out beyond the walls of the gym, and share their passion at the busiest intersection. I applaud them. I’m inspired.

We are definitely living in a post-Christian culture.  The majority of people think the church is irrelevant and outdated.  And many churches have justly earned this reputation. But let’s not despair. I also believe we are living in an extremely “evangelistic” time when people are searching for a cause, a group, a movement, a spiritual guru, a lifestyle worthy of devotion and a higher purpose worthy of inviting others into. With the spiritual vacuum left by many dead and lifeless churches, people are seeking other life-giving practices, philosophies, and lifestyles to join.

Whether its fitness classes, martial arts, gardening clubs, vegan societies, environmental groups, pet lover gatherings, or whatever — people are seeking. People are open. People want to belong to a group. People want to find happiness and purpose. When they find a group, they want to share it with others. Like street evangelists of old they are even willing to set up a big tent in the center of town and try to reach the masses. This is evangelism, plain and simple.

Christians, when was the last time you saw a group of Christians gathered out in the town square or city park worshiping, learning and practicing the spiritual practices of Jesus, discussing Jesus invitation to provide for the poor, speak up for the voiceless, embrace the outcast, love the unlovable, pursue justice and extend mercy — hoping others passing by will stop to check it out? How about an open class in the park helping others learn to forgive others in order to find deep emotional healing? And so on. The fact is, we are usually too busy attending programs inside the walls of our churches, hoping people will come find us on our turf.

MainStreet Community was founded on the conviction that we are now living in a day when most will never make the effort to come to church. So, the church needs to find ways to bring our lifestyle and message to where the masses going about their business. So, let’s learn from these Fitness Bootcamps and recommit to finding ways to have a presence beyond Sunday mornings “in the marketplace day by day with all who happen to be there” (Acts 17:17).

That was the original vision of MainStreet. It’s time to recapture it! If this sounds intriguing to you, please join us at MainStreet to dream of a different kind of a church community — a people who are active not just in the sanctuary on Sundays but all week long on MainStreet!

This is a repost from a few years back. -JB

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