EDMOND—It’s the New Year. Many people make all kinds of resolutions, but most of these promises involve improving one’s health and fitness.
Blake Gideon would be an example of not only health improvement but also applying this personal goal with ministry and outreach. The pastor of Edmond, First has been doing CrossFit training for a few years and has expanded his involvement in the competitive fitness sport as a way to connect with the Edmond community.
“I’ve always been one who likes to work out, and I had a member of my church who has been involved in CrossFit, so he encouraged me to try it,” Gideon said. “I did it for about a year and a half, working out of my garage, but then I realized I need to interact with the community. I need to be involved in people’s lives, to be a witness.”
For the past two years, Gideon has been going to CrossFit OKC, located near 15th Street and Kelly Ave. in Edmond, and not only is he improving his physical training, he admits he has made great connections with other CrossFit participants.
“It’s cool to see a Baptist preacher would actually get out there and do this level of a workout, especially because it’s so mentally and physically demanding,” said Vince, a regular participant at CrossFit OKC. “The biggest thing about Blake is when his workout is over, and he usually finishes early becaue he’s in good shape, he’ll be back cheering everybody on and essentially helping others and encouraging them. Blake never shies away. He’s not afraid of getting after it.”
CrossFit has been a popular form of workout for a few years, even though it originated in the early 2000s. However, the assertive workout regimen has received some criticism because of severe injuries resulting. But those who have been experienced in CrossFit workouts said taking proper measures and going to safe training sites help prevent such injuries.
“It depends on your coaches and on your mentality, so if you have a coach who is looking out for your safety first and training second then you’re going to have some great experiences,” said Erica, a martial arts professional who has been doing CrossFit for four years.
Ginny who now owns CrossFit OKC agrees with Erica and encourages participants to be prepared properly and do research before getting involved in CrossFit.
“You have to be careful about where you go (to work out),” she said. “There’s a lot of fantastic gyms and fantastic coaches, and just like anything else in the world, you’re going to find places that aren’t that great, don’t have a knowledgeable staff, not well informed and possibly lead you in a bad direction. As long as you do your research about where you’re going and who you’re training with, you should be able to avoid a lot of (severe injuries).”
One attraction to doing CrossFit is the community support participants find. People in general are seeking acceptance, a place to fit in. Christians naturally find such support and fulfillment through the local church and even more so with Sunday School and small group Bible Studies. Gideon has discovered how people have found to this social acceptance through the CrossFit community.
“There’s definitely community here, a lot more than in a lot of other things,” Gideon said. “One of the best ways of seeing community is everyone pulls for one another. Everybody supports one another, and that’s the biggest thing I see is everybody is for the other person. Even though we compete and we like to win, everybody is encouraging and supporting the other person.”
Vince understood the desire of community that people doing CrossFit have, and he sees how that desire grows the more they spend time working out together.
“The big thing about CrossFit, because it is so mentally and physically demanding, it’s very much like you’re suffering with people,” he said. “When a Christian gets involved in something like CrossFit, like what Blake is doing, participants can see how supporting each other in doing CrossFit is how a Christian is relying on God on a certain level.”
Erica said she understood the comparisons of a CrossFit community and a church body.
“Not many people would find a connection with Crossfit and church, but in CrossFit, we are always improving,” she said. “We are always wanting to do better than we did, and if you look at a church community, it’s the same thing. We are all sinners; we always start out somewhere. We are always striving to be a little bit better and focus more on faith and improve in that way as well.”
With this understanding of desiring community support, it is easy to see how Gideon has been effective in connecting with CrossFit participants. Erica said she appreciates Gideon as a pastor being involved with the CrossFit community.
“When you look in the Bible, Jesus came for the sinners,” Erica said. “He came for the people who weren’t perfect. He wasn’t hanging out with the Pharisees. He wasn’t hanging with the people who were assumed to be the best of the best. He was there with the community, with the people who needed that reminder and encouragement, and so when you jump into CrossFit, the normal mentality is we’re all aggressive and harsh, and to be able to meet people at their level and to make a difference in their lives by who you are instead of what you say, Blake has made a big impact in that sense.”
Gideon said he has seen positive results with his connections since he has been going regularly to CrossFit OKC. Some have been attending Edmond, First.
“We live in a day when people need to go meet people where they are,” Gideon said. “That’s what Paul did when he went out in the marketplace, and he engaged people where they were. I think there’s a great need for pastors to get out of the office and get outside of the ‘Christian bubble’ and interact with the community, with the unchurched specifically.”
Ginny said she has appreciated Gideon being involved at CrossFit OKC, that he has been an encouragement in her life.
“For me personally, I’ve had one of the hardest years of my life this year, and he’s been a really good person to be around,” she said. “And I’ve seen that in a lot of other people too. He’s not somebody who will impose on you. Any conversation you have with him, he can easily relate it back to Scripture. He does it in a really good way.”
Gideon also said he has seen positive changes in those he has gotten to know through his time going to CrossFit.
“There have been specific people who I have prayed for on a prayer sheet every day who have a lot of ‘walls’ up,” he said. “I found as I would pray for them by name, the walls started coming down. I’ve been making a lot head way and building relationships with them. I’ve seen people who were heading in one way in life, in the pursuit of the world, and with just a few words of encouragement, a few words of affirmation, a few words of warning, and specifically one, as a result, has been coming to our church.”
Gideon offers encouragement to all Christians to find a way to incorporate ministry and evangelism in their personal interests, even hobbies and weekly activities. Finding ways to share the Gospel with those one does life with.
“I would say to someone, if you love doing something, you love working out, playing golf, fishing or bike riding, do something that you love to do and interact with people (who have similar interests) who are unchurched or just need a little bit of encouragement.”