The Church and The Gym, Part 2

NOTE: I have no idea what the proper spelling of judgement (judgment) is. I don't really care enough to look it up either.

I reread my post from yesterday. I don't think I was completely clear and I think clarification might show us something that is a little more helpful.

Yesterday when I wrote about the gym I seemed to describe the gym as a completely non-judgmental place. That simply isn't true, no matter how good it sounds. Take yesterday at CrossFit for example. We were doing some back squats and I took on way too much weight. After you've done a few back squats, you're supposed to move up a bit in your weight but my legs were exhausted. I fell out of the next squat. Of course, the whole gym saw me. I couldn't help but think about what they were thinking.

And as much as I'd like to think that they didn't think to themselves, "that guy has no idea what he is doing," my guess is that several of them did. There's no doubt that people observe each other at the gym and judge what they're doing (for better or worse) against what they themselves are doing.

This CAN be good. "Oh, hey, that guy is really keeping his chest up and look how straight his back is!" might allow you to learn from the guy in front of you. can also be bad. "Man, that guy just fell out of his back squat twice," is helpful for neither party. It, perhaps, even encourages a "I'm better than him" mentality that has historically led to a bullied existence in extreme circumstances.

If one were to read my post from yesterday and assume that CrossFit is this magical place where no one judges anyone ever, one would have taken away the wrong image. I like to think that people love watching others succeed and don't consider it when they don't, but that's simply not true. If the rest of the world's people are even half as bad at being a human as I am, then they judge. I know they do because I do.

We see this in the church as well.

Perhaps you're thinking that the vision that I presented yesterday is more of an eschatological this non-judgment state of nirvana is the end goal. But I'm not quite so sure that's it either.

Judgement exists in several forms in both the church and the gym. Maybe understanding that more fully is the key.

See, in the church we do judge people. In fact, I'd argue that we are called to judge people. If that sounds shocking, it's likely that you and I are working with two different definitions of judgement. When I speak of judgement, I don't speak of someone making a judgement and then using that to make one feel like an outsider. I speak of a sense of accountability. My hope is that my judgement is more of an encouragement! The judgement I speak of attempts to spur one on toward Christian perfection, not keep one out of the walls of the church.

So perhaps what I truly mean is that neither the gym nor the church are free of judgement. The care that must be taken within these two bodies is in the type of judgement used. If I fall out of a back squat, I want someone to hold me accountable to the amount of weight I put on the bar and the poor form I executed the squat with. Will that be painful to hear? Perhaps. But if it is done in a mild and encouraging manner (as it often is at CrossFit), I can learn. better than I did last time.

So is the struggle of the church. The church, in fear that it might be forced to apologize for who it is has--in the past 200 years--created this judgement that pushed others away. The intimidation, as I said yesterday, is too much. "All these people speaking another language and judging me."

What if, though, our judgement were initially perceived as an encouragement rather than a judgement? What would it take to pull that off? What might that pastoral tone sound like?

These are all the questions we MUST ask ourselves as Christians. Judgement is something we are called to. But it's not the judgement of this world. It's not the judgement that pushes people away. It's a judgement that has its own set of standards and practices and is unapologetic about that. It's also a judgement that spurs one on toward perfection in an encouraging way. It's one that reassures the judged that a community is standing behind them.

It's not that no one judges in the gym. Neither is it that everyone judges in the church. But...both entities ought to strive for a more encouraging accountability that builds up its members so that they might do better than they did before. I'm happy to say that quite a bit of the good judgement happens at CrossFit. I'm honestly unaware how much of it is currently happening in our churches.

It's a paradigmatic shift and it's one that is needed now in our churches. Pronto.