November 24, 2020

Building the Kingdom of God Through Fitness

Maryellen Fairfax, Adventist Record

For Arnold Greenfield, operating fitness classes is a way of introducing people to Jesus.

“For me, it’s like building the kingdom of God through fitness,” Arnold said. “You may have had a terrible weekend or be drained at work, but you can come to this space, and it’s encouraging and uplifting. It's building community and building God’s kingdom.”

FoxFit is a ministry coordinated by Greenfield in partnership with Fox Valley Community Church pastor and former Wahroonga Adventist School chaplain Landry Patii. Greenfield runs sessions at the school grounds in Wahroonga, New South Wales, Australia, every Monday at 6:30 p.m. Designed as a group fitness class, it attracts people from all walks of life: nursing students, young professionals, high-school students, and people from the wider community.

“It’s like circuit training but with CrossFit movements,” Greenfield said. “We’re never doing the same thing every week. It’s mostly functional movements like squatting, putting things over your head — things you would use in your daily life. And it’s done at high speed, to get your heart rate high.”

Thanks to the team-building nature of each session, the workouts are accessible to a wide range of age groups and flexible to small or large numbers. At its peak, FoxFit was attracting between 30 and 40 people each week, but following COVID-19 restrictions, the ministry is just starting to pick up again.

“With big groups, we split in half and have two different workouts going. One group would be completing reps of six different exercises — 400 air squats, 400 crunches, et cetera — and working as a team. We get them to hit the mark of all reps or rounds and set the time for other groups, like a competition,” he said.

Greenfield encourages anyone in the area to come, regardless of their fitness level, attributing people’s enjoyment to the positive community atmosphere.

“People think they’re not fit enough to come, or that people will judge; that they have to get fitter to come. But you don’t have to get fit at all. Just come as you are. The fitness level you think you’re at is usually much lower than the level you can push to. It’s an encouraging thing. We want people to come to FoxFit and, with support, believe they can do something great. It’s not just a fitness thing.”

With FoxFit being an activity where churchgoers can easily bring their friends along, the intention was always to make FoxFit more than just an exercise group.

“So often, we apply the great commission in the wrong order,” Patii explained. “We’ve been teaching people to change their behavior before we connect with them. This mindset [that] is calibrated to ‘behave in order to belong’ is not biblical at all. Jesus met [people] in their space; He had a relational conversation with them. FoxFit is exactly that. God has blessed Arnold and me with the passion for health and fitness to meet and build relationships with [people] — make them feel home and safe, foremost.”

“It was easy to bring people there and run it,” Greenfield added, “but it was always hard to make it more spiritual and to bring Jesus into it.”

“Two girls started coming from the nursing residency — Bec and Freya — who weren’t strong Adventists. They started connecting with church thanks to the ministry, and they opened it up to the residency and built a massive bridge for us,” Patii said.

“God has blessed you with passions, talents, and gifts. The question is, what are you doing about it? I suggest that you use it to serve God and build community. Trust the giver, and He will wrap your ministry with purpose and identity,” he said.

The original version of this story was posted by Adventist Record.