Last week I shared a story from the New York Times which featured churches with mixed martial arts ministries. The article quoted Brandon Beals, The Fight Pastor, of Canyon Creek Church. Following my post The Fight Pastor comment on this blog which led to a pretty interesting interview about his ministry (My questions are in bold, while his answers are in italics):
To start with, who are you and what is MMA?
First, MMA is mixed martial arts. Multiple forms of fighting used in a combat sport. I am just an average guy. I am a husband, father, and pastor who happens to be a HUGE MMA fan. My bios explain some of this, here are the links: Canyon Creek Church and Fight Pastor
Have you always been into MMA or is it something new for you?
I have been an MMA fan for as long as I remember. First it was Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee, then Lone Wolf Mcquade with Chuck Norris, then UFC 1 with Royce Gracie, now it is UFC 109 with Randy Couture.
And what does it have to do with ministry?
I started Canyon Creek Church over 5 years ago. I wanted to be a part of a missional community that wanted to engage culture and reach people where they are at. Basically, I wanted to be a pastor who wasn’t trying to be something he wasn’t but was comfortable in his own skin. I wanted to lead the church as the man God uniquely made me to be. I have always been an MMA fan so an MMA ministry was a natural outflow of who I am.
How do you respond to those who say “MMA doesn’t sound very churchy”?
I realize MMA isn’t very “churchy.” My church isn’t very “churchy.” There are plenty of churches and ministries that are “churchy.” If people want to be involved in some that is “churchy” there are plenty of options for them. We created a church and various missional outreaches that are targeted towards those who don’t go to church.
What about “turn the other cheek?”
I agree with turning the other cheek. Jesus said that in relationship to normal interactions with people, to disagreements, or conflicts. It wasn’t referring to actual sporting events. If UFC fighters were picking fights outside of actual sanctioned, refereed events I might have a different attitude about it. Fortunately, they aren’t. MMA is a sport. It is a violent sport like boxing, hockey, or football. I realize it isn’t for everyone.
The NY Times article refers to churches which host fights. Does your church host fights? What do you think about churches that do?
Probably the biggest misperception from the article is that Canyon Creek Church and Fight Pastor host actual live fights at our church. We do not nor will we ever. It is not our mission. We host pay-per-view showings of UFC fights.
If someone feels called to promote actual fights at their church, good for them. I am not opposed to that idea. It just isn’t part of our mission and wouldn’t fit the culture of my church.
So, how does your ministry “work”? What is your philosophy of evangelism?
There are several different parts to Fight Pastor. We host UFC events for fans in a safe, clean environment. It is strictly relational ministry. At the UFC Fight Nights we share about Fight Pastor and invite those interested to check out our church. We are just simply there to hang out with people.
We have an MMA Chaplaincy where we our the spiritual influence at various MMA gyms. We go to those places to serve the trainers and fighters in any way possible. That is our going out.
Our philosophy of evangelism is to go out to people and meet them where they are at. Now we aren’t involved in MMA strictly as a missional outreach. We ARE huge fans. It started with our love of the sport and evolved into a missional ministry. I have always said God took my hobby (MMA) and merged it with my passion (missional ministry) and something really unique emerged out of it.
Do MMA fighters/fans really need saving (They look pretty tough to me)?
I believe every person needs to know and have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I feel that way about my neighbors, friends, family, those in Hollywood, professional athletics….everyone.
What can MMA teach us about God, Jesus, Christianity, ourselves? Jesus: lover or fighter?
There are many parallels between Scripture and MMA. I personally feel that Jesus was both lover and fighter. Those two do not need to be exclusive of each other. Jesus loved the world and demonstrated that by the Cross. He was a fighter and demonstrated that by never giving up, giving in, or quiting. He showed us that He was both lover and fighter on the Cross.
What can other (non-MMA) pastors learn from your MMA ministry? I was in a fight once, in the sixth grade (I lost), should I start a MMA ministry to reclaim my manhood?
Our MMA ministry is not intended to bring people into our church. It is meant for us to be “salt and light” in a culture that is absent of it. We are going out into that culture. Non-MMA pastors should ALL be willing to go out into the world and be “salt and light.” Too often we hide in our churches, only associate with other Christians and forget that Jesus command was to GO, not gather and collect.We consider ourselves missionaries to the MMA Community.
Sorry to hear you got beat up in 6th grade. If you don’t want to train MMA to restore your manhood you could join with all the biker, Harley riding pastors. Just get some tattoos, buy some leathers, and grow a goatee. That might be less painful.