Boxing, not from New Life Church. Image via Wikipedia
I got my copy of USA Today on Monday at the Davidson College campus to find inside the first pages a story about a church that transformed the altar to a boxing ring to attract new members.
Yep. Boxing for Jesus.
I know what you're thinking. This is another crazy California church. Or maybe somewhere in New York, right? Ok, the Bible Belt? Guess again.
Downtown Sioux Falls, SD. Image via Wikipedia
In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Pastor Alex Klimchuck of New Life Church transformed his altar into a boxing ring. The "Saturday night Slam" pits amateur boxers against each other in order to "reach out to those who aren't already going, who think church is boring."
Mirroring the dramatic illustrations of pastors from Amy Semple McPherson to modern day "comtemporary" preachers, pastors like Klimchuck are integrating messages with sensual "object lessons" that integrate ideas and concepts for those gathered.
Thirty year old Pastor Klimchuck is aiming for twenty-somethings, saying, "The truth is, the church is having problems getting young men inside them. So we ask, 'What will reach the guys?' This seems like a perfect answer."
In this church, fighting on the platform became a metaphor for spiritual battle (of course!). In the earlier part of the 20th Century, Amy Semple McPherson dressed like a football player to make much the same point. Churches like Willow Creek and Mosaic routinely use dramatic images through dance, drama, and design of services to make unforgettable points.
On the surface, these may seem frivolous. But the intent to create an interesting and engaging church service stimulates efforts like this. Younger church attenders are seen as requiring much more visual stimulation.
And the additional emphasis on reaching men is a theme seen in the rise of cowboy churches aimed to win very "masculine" men and the explicit emphasis of on men by contemporary church leaders like Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill, Seattle.