God at the Gym: Seven Ways to Reach Secular and Postmodern People in Everyday Life
By: Samantha Angeles Peralta | May 2017
Jeff and Joyce Tatarchuk, owners and founders of Life Rx Fitness in Berrien Springs, Michigan, have discovered that while secular and postmodern unbelievers may never darken the door of a church, many are willing to hear the message of hope in a familiar environment—the gym. Through their ministry, unbelievers are coming to know about, believe in and love God. Read on for the Tatarchuks’ incredible story, and to learn seven things you can start doing today to reach unbelievers for Jesus.
1. Get grounded in Scripture.
Jeff, who was a pastor and full-time evangelist before doing marketplace ministry, is an alumnus of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, and has found that his education has been invaluable in his current context.
“Having a theological foundation is important,” he says. “There are so many complex ideas out there that it’s hard to navigate a conversation with people who think differently than you. However you can get it, whether through Bible college, Seminary or another avenue, do it if you can.”
2. Be yourself.
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all evangelistic method. God gave you gifts, personality characteristics and skills that are uniquely you—use them to witness!
“I consider myself a theologically trained entrepreneur,” Jeff said. “I love creating because God gave us that ability when He made us.” Jeff began his first business venture in elementary school, mixing his mom’s spices and selling them to others. He started a t-shirt business in junior high, a skimboard business in high school, and a non-profit organization in college before becoming an evangelist. Ministry callings are not only for pastors or missionaries—believers in every field are needed to invite others into relationship with Jesus.
3. Take risks.
“We have a culture that’s very afraid of failure,” said Jeff. “Shifting from doing traditional ministry to doing this kind of ministry has been one of the biggest risks and faith-journeys in my life. It was scary at times, and lonely. But to know you are where God wants you to be is very, very rewarding.”
Before coming to the Seminary to get his Master of Divinity, Jeff connected with a church that was running a community thrift store. “They’d found something that elevated the community and transcended the four walls of the church,” he said. “That’s what I wanted.” Ever the entrepreneurial evangelist, Jeff opened a similar thrift store in Berrien Springs, Michigan, before the Seminary school year began. The endeavor was profitable and allowed him to reach community members.
4. Don’t give up.
There are times that it will seem like your best efforts have produced nothing. When challenges and roadblocks appear, don’t give up—seek God about what to do next. He desires to reach the world through you; He will tell you what to do next.
One year after opening the thrift store, Jeff’s business partner had a brain aneurysm, and they were forced to close. “I felt like I had failed,” Jeff said. “I remember just sitting there in my living room, asking, ‘God, what do I do?’”
That’s when friends suggested that he turn his store into a gym. “I had gained a lot of weight and needed to do something to get healthy,” Jeff said. He prayed for confirming signs from God, and one night, all the pieces came together. “It was a divine moment,” said Jeff. “ I had such clarity and peace, realizing that God is still in this.” Jeff went to work converting the thrift store into a CrossFit facility. “I was just hoping to make enough money to pay off the two years left on my lease,” he said. Amazingly, Jeff made enough to pay off the lease the day the gym opened. Since its start in 2013, the gym has expanded from a CrossFit facility to an all-inclusive fitness center, Life Rx Fitness.
5. Offer God whatever you have.
Jesus used a child’s lunch to feed 5,000 people. You don’t need to have a lot to serve God—you just need to offer Him whatever you have. What do you have? A living room? A dorm room? A cubicle? A pulpit? Dedicate it to God for His use and let Him show you how to bless others.
Life Rx Fitness has used the gym to host community breakfasts, health expos and even an evangelistic series. These efforts have resulted not only in baptisms, but in believers who continue to grow as disciples because of their built-in community. “We’re constantly praying to God for opportunities to make an impact,” said Jeff. “If you ask God for the opportunities, they’ll definitely come.”
6. Share your story.
Do you ever struggle to talk about your faith? Your story is the perfect place to start. Your most compelling invitation for unbelievers to meet Jesus is your changed life.
Locked in a dark cloud of prescription drugs and depression, Jeff attempted suicide in junior high after declaring himself an atheist. It wasn’t until he was in a group home in Tennessee, when a friend challenged him to read the Bible, that he reconsidered his faith. “I remember feeling the relief of knowing that Jesus took all of the junk that I had been through to the cross with him. That was the big paradigm shift for me. I got baptized shortly afterward, and I said, ‘I want the world to know that there’s hope in the midst of the pain.’” This experience, and this story, is why Jeff is so passionate about sharing the hope he’s found.
7. Speak their language.
To fishermen, Jesus talked about fishing for men. To farmers, He talked about planting seeds for the Kingdom. How can you contextualize the gospel to reach people in your circles?
“We package everything using CrossFit terminology,” said Jeff. “For example, our Friday night vespers is called Faith Rx. In CrossFit, you put an hour-long ‘workout of the day’ on the board. If you’re able to do it exactly as written, you get to put an ‘Rx’ next to your name because you did it ‘as prescribed.’ Everybody can do these things, scaled accordingly, until they’re able to do it as it should be done. That’s where the idea of Faith Rx came in. None of us are where we need to be, but we can all progress. We want to live life, the whole process, as it should be.”
How do you reach out to unbelievers in your everyday life? What have you found is most effective in reaching secular and postmodern people who do not want to go to church? Visit our Facebook page and share the strategies that have worked for you!
Click here to read more of Jeff's story!
Update: Jeff & Joyce Tatarchuk sold Life Rx Fitness in late 2017 and moved their ministry to Southern California. You can find them on Instagram and Facebook for business & ministry updates!