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Crossfit Is My Church

A 2012 Pew study tracked the rise of a new religious group: the “nones,” or the religiously unaffiliated. One-fifth of Americans—and a full third of adults under 30—say they belong to no religion at all.

Yet, argues Casper ter Kuile, a researcher at Harvard Divinity School, this group is still looking for elements of religious experience. His 2015 study explores ways modern millennials seek out meaning, community, and ritual in the absence of organized religion.

The study started by profiling organizations they deemed particularly formative in the lives of their students. One of the most striking spaces? Fitness classes. Institutions like CrossFit and SoulCycle are offering their students more than just a chance to lose weight or tone up. They function, ter Kuile argues, like religions.

“People come because they want to lose weight or gain muscle strength, but they stay for the community,” he said. “It’s really the relationships that keep them coming back.” We heard people say, “Well, Crossfit is my church,” or, “Soulcycle is like my cult,” in a good way.

“Once that religious perspective had been opened in our eyes, so many things came out. Whether it’s the flag [on display] in every CrossFit [gym]; the way that the space is set up; or how you could follow a kind of liturgy in a SoulCycle class, especially through their use of light and sound. So it’s really an emotional and spiritual experience as well as a physical one.”

Possible Preaching Angles: Church; Body of Christ; Meaning of life; Relationship - Young people are searching for self-actualization, fulfillment and a ‘spiritual’ connection. The role of the church is to show them that what they are searching for comes through a deep relationship with the living God and His people. If you want a workout, find a gym. If you want meaning, come to Jesus.


Tara Isabella Burton, “Crossfit Is My Church,” Vox (9-10-18)

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