Man, I love to see a good fight. At times, back when Stalone was Rocky the first time, I liked to be in a good fight. Thankfully I put those days behind me. I liked the ones where I’d win, not so much the ones where I came in “second.”There is something about Mano a Mano that gets the adrenaline flowing. These days I don’t participate in the physical brawl. I stick to the more metaphorical battles, ask my wife.
Many times my battle are with myself and my preconceived notions about how to share my faith. After learning a little diplomacy we started working more with youth and eventually became the youth pastors at our local church. We had our regular group of attendees on youth nights and everything was pretty much standard fare. Outside of this we had a group of young adults that would track us back to our house on the weekends.
These guys would show up, at times for the whole weekend, and eat and watch movies and eat and play video games and eat. Sometimes we would have a meal together. It was like an competitive eating challenge where everybody won except me, the guy toting the grocery bags.
They started renting old UFC™ fights to watch while we- you guessed it-ate. After a few such videos one of the guys mentioned that there was a Pay-per-view event coming up the following Saturday. We decided to meet up at one of the fellows houses to watch it. The night came and we all pitched in a few bucks to cover the cost and of course to buy some food.
The next month we met again. This time the guy who hosted happened to be the pastor’s son of the church where we were youth pastors. It turned out the pastor was a big fight fan as well. This happened each month for the next four months, each time growing in number as people brought their friends and word got out. By that fourth month we had a problem. There were 27 people in this poor little living room and a 20 inch TV.
The pastor and I were chatting at church the next day, along with some of the young married men fight-nighters, when I lamented “I wish we could host it here in the youth center. It’s got great sound, a digital projector and plenty of room.” The pastor’s reply, “I don’t mind just don’t rent a billboard to advertise.” To which my friend Jason said “that guy with me last night, my neighbor, is a Direct TV installer. I have a spare dish at my house he could set it up and I could bring my box.”
This was the birth Fight Night, a bizarre conglomeration of entertainment and ministry opportunity. I won’t lie to you, I didn’t plan for it to be anything other than a way to see the fights with my friends, on a big screen, at a reduced rate, and without the risk of getting caught at some unseemly viewing location like a bar and grill.
However, what happened was way cool. People came and brought their friends. They got a chance to meet some of the church staff and members in a very non-threatening environment. The whole night gave occasion for great conversation. It afforded us the chance to gain new friends and new lives to love for Him.
Over the next 2 ½ years the crowds ebbed and flowed depending on the fight card and the promotions we did. Once we had a “UFC™ on PS2™” tourney prior to the fight and offered small prizes. It was a hit. One other time we had a live “fight” prior to the main event. I know many of you are saying “What the crap, a fight in the church?” First off, it was in the youth center, “the basement.” Secondly, they were 9 and 10 year old and brothers. Thirdly, their father set it up and brought them after their Karate class. Besides the church has hosted fights for years. Can you say Crusades?
Even when the crowds swelled to 70 we always had time to share. God gave the chance for some really good bonding moments during these events that carried over to opportunities outside the events. People hungry for love, hungry for a friend, hungry for an example found it an unlikely place—a church UFC™ PPV Fight Night.