Thursday, December 15, 2016

We Go to a Fitness Center That's Also a Church (in Idaho)

Xrossway Fitness and Life Center, Twin Falls
The flyer didn’t quite make it to the trash, and that may have made all the difference. Kaishon picked the flyer up from the floor in one of his high school classes (he was a senior). The flyer was for a free ballroom dancing class at Xrossway Fitness Center, and he went the next Monday night. The class led to Kaishon becoming a member at the gym, which led him to attending Xrossway Church, and eventually to his baptism. Which also led to him teaching the ballroom dance class we attended while in Twin Falls.
I know that might sound a little confusing, but you see Xrossway is a fitness center… And a church. Both the gym and the congregation were established about a year ago, through the vision of Clint Lutz, a Lutheran pastor and church planter. I met Clint when he was pastoring a Lutheran Church in Healdsburg, California. Three years ago Clint and his family went home to Twin Falls to plant a church with support from the local Lutheran Missouri Synod district.

For the first two years after returning to the area, he served at other Lutheran churches and did fundraising for the church plant. I asked Clint how he made his fundraising pitch for a combination gym and church.

He said he would start with Mark 12:30, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.” He wanted to build a ministry that ministered to the whole person. There are gyms that say they serve to the whole person, but Xrossway hopes to actually do it.

There’s also a hope that the fitness center will, eventually, financially support the church. Clint pointed to the decline of denominations and the need for church plants to find another way to be financially viable. It is Clint’s hope that eventually the gym will support the church so that all church offerings will go to local needs and missions.

It is also part of the church’s vision to be a part of the community and to serve the community. Clint said every church should ask the question, “If we were gone tomorrow, would our community miss us?” Too many churches, Clint believes, are charity cases. They only interact with the community when asking people to come to their fundraisers.

So the Social Mondays Ballroom Dance classes are free (though there are fees for other classes from beginner ot advanced throughout the week). Every month a different health and fitness class is offered free to the community. And they have a goal of providing twenty percent of their gym memberships free to people in need (though “free” might mean a barter arrangement involving some kind of service to others).

We had great fun attending the ballroom dance class. Kaishon did a wonderful job with the class, demonstrating the moves with grace and amusing patter. He was substituting for Chris and Samantha Simmons, professional dance instructors, who usually teach on Social Mondays. Chris and Samantha have also been able to help with choreography for local schools’ musicals.

I was grateful to be able to use the stationary bike and the weight machines in the gym, because it’s getting tough to keep fit when so much of my time is spent behind a steering wheel.

Mindy and I were also go Christmas caroling around the neighborhood with the church on Sunday night. The carolers were a nice group of around 25 people who went from house to house in a new housing development near Xrossway. The people who came to their doors to listen seemed delighted. We returned to Xrossway for hot cocoa and snacks and for decorating the sanctuary/ballroom/spin center.

We were a little sad we couldn’t attend a Sunday morning worship service. Clint said he’s made an effort to make the times of teaching and prayer in the church interactive, rather than a monologue from the front. In any event, it was good to hear about the ministry that’s taking place, along with the youth ministry and the life coaching and a number of other ministries. We were glad for what we did see: God working in a fresh and new way in Twin Falls, Idaho.