“Don’t like gyms? We’re not a gym,”
So proclaim the television ads for Planet Fitness, a national chain of fitness clubs advertised as “judgment free” zones.
Their clever ads highlight exactly the reasons that they aren’t a gym.
Each features a vignette of the worst of the worst workout behavior– cartoonish exaggerations where musclebound meatheads bully self-conscious gym clients.
They poke fun at muscle-shops and fitness boot camps where silicon-infused fitness Barbies apply makeup *before* they work out and he-men toss their weights and grunt a lot.
Planet Fitness has even coined the phrase “gymtimidation” to describe how interactions at those gyms make you feel. The perpetrators of gymtimidation even have a name, termed “lunks”.
Seeing all of these lunks in action in the ads makes gym membership seem hardly worth the trouble. Why go somewhere to work out if it only makes you feel bad about yourself and costs a ton of money?
The ads make me chuckle, but also made me think. What is the modern church doing about our lunks?
To many, the idea of going to church is just as intimidating as joining a gym. They see religious folks as judgmental, resistant to outsiders and focused solely on money and building themselves up.
Why? Because some of us are. The sad fact is that Christian lunks are driving people away.
Which is all pretty interesting, because Christ was notably anti-lunk.
The lunks of bible times were the Pharisees. Religious zealots who bossed everyone around and enforced strict (often arbitrary) rules, enriching themselves in the process. They claimed piety while missing the entire point of Judaism.
Much like a modern day bodybuilder who loves to build his body with no idea what he needs the muscles for, the Pharisees ended up devoting their lives to rules, study and power In the process they ended up worshipping their religion rather than God.
For the Pharisees it took a gutsy Rabbi with a bat phone to the almighty to show up, expose their hypocrisy and set things right. JC arrived on the scene and essentially said “you’re doing it wrong –and most of this doesn’t matter anyway”.
In the process of His brief public ministry He went state of Missouri on them by modeling a life of service with an external focus and outreach to the marginalized. It was the ultimate “show-me”.
When people still didn’t really “get it” He went WWE and kicked over a few tables in the church and made them understand. Matthew 21:12
The lesson for us to take from this is to make sure that our families and faith communities aren’t repeating the mistakes of the Pharisees. We need to follow Christ’s model by humbling ourselves, serving and becoming doers of the word, not just readers.
In short we need to stop being lunks.