Crossfit, Community, and Church

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Last year, two students from Harvard Divinity School published a fascinating report entitled “How We Gather.” In this report, the authors note a dramatic shift that is taking place within American society: Individuals are finding deep community in locations other than their local congregations. The authors examine ten community based organizations (such as Cross fit, Soul Cycle, and the Millennial Trains Project) where people are gathering regularly instead of their local congregations. Distinctively, these organizations embody creativity, accountability, social transformation, purpose finding, and personal transformation. What is missing? A distinctive faith component.

Nevertheless, others have described these organizations like “religious” bodies with regular gatherings, standard liturgical elements, accountability, and most importantly opportunities for the formation of deep, personal relationships. A CrossFit participant, Ali Huberlie says, “CrossFit is family, laughter, love, and community. I can’t imagine my life without the people I’ve met through it.”

Reflect on your church. How is your congregation living into creativity, accountability, social transformation, purpose finding, and personal transformation? How are you offering intentional opportunities for authentic relationships? People are seeking communities with these characteristics. At its best, the church can offer and embodies these elements better than any organization on earth.

In the extended video that follows, Greg Glassman–the founder of CrossFit–talks about his organization and the larger mission of his world-wide movement. After discussing their active campaign to decrease the use of soda drinks in America, Glassman discusses some of the philosophy of his organization–changing behaviors, the role of belief, and a host of other interesting topics. Church leaders would be wise to reflect on the strategies and thought processes employed by these alternative communities.

As a church leader, what can you learn about how to shape your community more effectively?



Thad Austin is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, a PhD candidate at Indiana University's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, and William and Edie Enright Fellow at The Lake Institute on Faith and Giving. Thad also serves as Editor of the Church Leader Collective for Seedbed. Thad served as Executive Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In his free time, Thad loves to travel (41 countries and all 50 states, thus far), hike (has hiked the 1,100 miles between Pennsylvania and Georgia), sail, and spend time with friends.