Q. A growing number of evangelical churches are embracing Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) as a way of attracting and converting young men. Pastors of these churches say that they're using MMA not only to toughen up the message of Christ, but also to combat their fear that churches have become too feminized, with too much emphasis on kindness and compassion and not enough on responsibility and strength.

Some of the churches not only hold gatherings to watch televised MMA fights and give lectures using the bouts to explain Christ's battle for his beliefs, they also host fight nights between members of their congregations and claim the mix of faith and fighting is intended to promote Christian values. Brandon Beals, the lead pastor of Canyon Creek Church near Seattle, said, “Compassion and love - we agree with all that stuff, too. But what led me to find Christ was that Jesus was a fighter.” FightPastor.com offers Warrior Camps to “to prepare mature Christians to lead fearless, courageous, and bold lives,” and lists one of its aims as “we want to make Jesus look good.”

This mix of machismo and faith has come in for some criticism, with one pastor saying, “I don’t live for the Jesus who eats red meat, drinks beer and beats on other men,” and adds, “[w]hat I have a problem with is. . . we somehow speak with great conviction that Jesus would have endorsed MMA.” Robert Brady, of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, says that the emphasis on fighting “so easily takes away from the real focus of the church, which is the Gospel.”

Is combining a violent sport with Christ's message the best way to spread the word? And does Christ really need to be “toughened up”?


As an ordained minister and spiritual leader, I can certainly understand the challenge of creating a message that is appealing to potential new congregants, both young men and young women.

However, the message that Unity interprets from Jesus' ministry has very little to do with outer, physical actions but everything to do with his inner message about the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is a spiritual message that is best taught through spiritual principles, such as inner peace, being poised and balanced and being one with divine wisdom and love.

When I think of our Elder Brother as a “warrior,” I consider his spiritual qualities of passion, courage, faith and strength. He was able to do all things through his belief in God as his source (father). He knew God as the One Power and One Presence (Our Father) and through his conscious connection with his father, he overcame every form of limitation, even physical death.

The Rev. Jeri Linn

Unity Church of the Valley

La Crescenta


For years, sports-based outreaches have been effective in reaching out to the lost and building fellowship among believers. It’s something fun and interesting to do together to build relationships and to establish credibility upon which we can share the good news about Jesus Christ. That’s assuming the activity isn’t inherently evil.

Though I wouldn’t say MMA outreaches are wrong, I’d be concerned that such fighting would create hostility among participants. Of course, that could happen with any other sport as well. Still, an MMA ministry might be the best way to reach some people, so it’s probably just as effective as any other method of ministry.

Jesus doesn’t need to be “toughened up.” The Bible is a record of his fearless faithfulness to the father. Jesus fasted for 40 days. He kept preaching publicly, even after the religious leaders plotted to kill him. He healed people on the sabbath in the presence of those he knew intended to use his kind act against him.

Jesus stood silent during three bogus trials and endured flogging, beatings and the torturous horrors of the crucifixion. He did all of these things in obedience to the father and for the salvation of all who receive him. We “make Jesus look good” by being honest about what he did for us, by living our faith out publicly in a world that is hostile to him and by obeying his commandment to love God with all of our hearts and to love others as we love ourselves. And if you think that doesn’t take guts, just try it.

Pastor Jon Barta

Valley Baptist Church