MEMPHIS In the back room of a theater on Beale Street, John Renken, 42, a pastor, recently led a group of young men in prayer. Father, we thank you for tonight, he said. We pray that we will be a representation of you. An hour later, a member of his flock who had bowed his head was now unleashing a torrent of blows on an opponent, and Mr. Renken was offering guidance that was not exactly prayerful. Hard punches! he shouted from the sidelines of a martial arts event called Cage Assault. Finish the fight! To the head! To the head! The young man was a member of a fight team at Xtreme Ministries, a small church near Nashville that doubles as a mixed martial arts academy. Mr. Renken, who founded the church and academy, doubles as the teams coach. The schools motto is Where Feet, Fist and Faith Collide.
The article suggests that this literal blending of faith and fighting is a trend catching on in evangelical circles with about 700 such ministries in existence, and "the sport is seen as a legitimate outreach tool by the youth ministry affiliate of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 45,000 churches." Anything to get 'em in the door...right?