I joined a gym this past week. I have never attempted to work out at a gym by myself for any extended period of time, but I felt like it was time to get in better shape so that I can walk my girls down the aisle instead of being carried by them.
I decided to join Planet Fitness, which is close to my house and fairly inexpensive. Although they don’t have any of the structured classes that I was looking for, they have a good variety of equipment and it’s a very non-threatening environment. After all, no one wants to go to a gym where everyone looks like they’re about to beat you up, right?
Planet Fitness is pretty neat. They have a bank of televisions (probably at least ten wide-screen TV’s) for you to watch as you walk/run on the treadmills. They have the biggest ceiling fans I’ve ever seen in my life. They have massage chairs, tanning beds, aqua massage, and showers. It’s a pretty great place, with a lot of really cool amenities that make it more fun to go work out.
And then I saw the Tootsie Rolls.
They actually have a JAR of Tootsie Rolls on the desk at the welcome desk.
What is going on here? I also noticed that they have free PIZZA night the first Monday night of every month, and free BAGELS on the second Tuesday!! What in the world is happening at this place?? Don’t they realize that Tootsie Rolls, pizza, and bagels are the REASON why I need to go to the gym? I just don’t understand.
It seems to me that this is the equivalent of offering free liquor at an AA meeting.
They are also very big on being a “Judgment-Free Zone,” which evidently means that you aren’t allowed to make fun of other people who are working out around you, no matter how funny they look. There is even a “Lunk Alarm” on the wall that will supposedly go off if anyone works out TOO hard or makes anyone else feel bad about watching too much TV while they munch on bagels.
There is also literally NO ONE walking around to help you with the machines, encourage you during your workout, or hold you accountable. If you want that, you’ll need to join another gym or bring a friend with you.
The young lady who worked at the welcome desk even told me that there are LOTS of people who NEVER work out. They simply come to tan, get massages, and grab a handful of junk food.
To sum up, I’m not sure WHY a place that was designed to help people get physically fit makes it so easy to NOT get physically fit. I’m not sure why a place that exists for one simple reason has gone to such great lengths to make sure that no one thinks that they’re TOO serious about their purpose.
Then again, maybe I do understand this mentality.
Have churches done this same thing, in some ways? Have churches begun to think like Planet Fitness? The thinking in many places seems to be, “We have to offer the things that people NEED, but we don’t want them to feel too overwhelmed, so we also need to offer them the things that they WANT.” This approach is obviously a reaction to the fact that almost all of us have allowed ourselves to become spiritual “consumers” who will “quit the gym” if someone pushes us too hard.
Of course, we will point our finger first (justifiably) at the “mega churches,” who will literally do ANYTHING to get someone in the door, including having a Starbucks built into their building or letting their teens play video games on Wednesday nights. These are the blatant examples of the “Planet Fitness” approach to church, but are there more subtle – and dangerous - examples?
Have we forgotten the accountability that Scripture commands in places like James 5:16, I Thessalonians 5:11, and Luke 17:3-4, and replaced it with a “Judgment-Free Zone?” Have we been conditioned by our culture to “tolerate” literally everything to the point that we are no longer willing to “purge the evil person from among [us]?” Have we replaced the mandatory mission that Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:18-20 with “massage chairs,” “free pizza,” and “Tootsie Rolls?”
I certainly hope not. I certainly hope that when each of us comes into a church building (and into the Lord’s Church, period, for that matter), that we realize WHY we are there, and that we will allow God, His Word, and His people to do what they are supposed to do in our lives instead of taking the lazy way out.
So far, I have not taken a Tootsie Roll out of the jar. I haven’t had a bagel or a piece of pizza either. So I thank Planet Fitness for providing everything I need for a great workout; and I also thank them for unwittingly helping me with my self-control.
May we all have the same approach towards building our faith, and may we not let anything stop us from doing what we know we should be doing (James 4:17)!