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Spiritual Training Cycle: Perspective (wk. 9/13)

What draws people to CrossFit? First, there’s the name and brand itself. With over 14,000 gyms globally and an estimated 2 million athletes in the program, it’s become harder to avoid CrossFit or one of us talking about it. CrossFit also has the games, part of which was televised on CBS. Even a few couch potatoes flipping channels now know about CrossFit. Then you have the style of exercise. Because CrossFit is constantly varied and performed at high intensity, it creates both a sense of mystery as well as accomplishment. Many of the gyms wait to post the next day’s workouts until the night before, adding to the anticipation of what’s to come. But what keeps people in CrossFit? While some of these might apply, I think it has more to do with the outcomes. As athletes achieve new levels of fitness and build new skills, it creates a desire to see how much further they can go. All this notwithstanding, I believe the number one thing CrossFit brings to the table is community.

Community is an essential part of the CrossFit culture. In a 2011 interview with Fast Company, the former CEO highlighted the importance of group dynamics in CrossFit, calling special attention to the community aspect. And every gym develops their own unique culture and distinct community. As those athletes suffer together, encourage one another, and share their personal stories taking place outside the gym, something happens that can’t be replicated by training on your own. Community is key.

Community is vitally important to each of us because it is an essential piece of humanity’s design. We were designed to be in community. In the opening chapter of the book of Genesis, God says, “Let us make humanity in our image, in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Notice the plural language. God the Father exists eternally in community with the Son and the Spirit. It’s a community thing. And then a chapter later, God tells us it’s not good for man to be alone, and He creates a soul mate for Adam. Marriage is a community thing. It is healthy and natural for all of us to seek community because we were created for it.

That’s why it’s important for part of our worship to be done in community. Worship is the giving of our entire self, our thoughts, and our emotions to God’s use. It’s a state of our heart. The word itself means, “the quality of being worthy.” When we worship, we are saying that God is worthy. He is worthy of our praise. Praise from both our bodies and our souls. The result, or effect, of worship is a renewal of the mind, transforming us more and more into the image of Christ.

In today’s Bible reading, Ezra the priest calls the people to gather for the public reading of Scripture, a core component of community worship. As Ezra reads the Book of the Law of Moses, the people, “lifted their hands and responded, ‘Amen! Amen!’ Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:6). Here, we see an example of what it looks like to worship in community. The renewal of our mind as a result of worship is incomplete without community.

The renewal of our mind as a result of worship is incomplete without community.

Community worship helps us experience the presence of God more completely. We each worship God as the Holy Spirit leads us to. Yet there are distinctives in the way we worship. Some may choose to raise their hands, while others open their palms to Heaven signifying submission to God. As more people gather and worship God in their own way, the presence of God is experienced more fully, deepening our intimacy with Jesus. Community worship also allows us to experience the praise of God more powerfully. When all the people responded in agreement with Ezra, there was power in their praise. One voice crying out to God is strong, but 20 or 200 or 2000 is exponentially more powerful. It gives us a taste of Heaven while here on the Earth.

So don’t just train in community, worship with them. The path to spiritual fitness passes right through community worship. There you will find deep friendships and a richer sense of purpose in life. There you will find Shalom.

Questions for Reflection:

What has been your experience with community worship?

Where does community worship fit within your spiritual exercise program?

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