XXXchurch’s porn show outreaches typically elicit a host of adjectives from onlookers. “Crazy” is often one of them, as is “outrageous.” Our porn-show model can be polarizing, with detractors on both sides of the debate telling us we shouldn’t be where we are.
But one phrase we often hear from the average person exposed to the idea of XXXchurch’s porn show outreach is this: “I could never do that.” Some people who say this mean they could never lower themselves from their lofty, self-righteous perch to mingle with “sinners,” and other people mean their struggles are so great they couldn’t handle the temptation of walking into the hub of their addiction.
Most people, though, say “I could never do that” as though doing this type of outreach is brave and unattainable, as though it requires a special type of person or some inherent set of qualities that are available only to a select few. They look at us and say “I could never do that” in the same way they would say it to Batman or the President of the United States.
However, there are those few who look at our outreach model and say unequivocally, “I can—and will—do that.”
Mikee Bridges and Josh Boyd are such people.
First, Bridges. As an unabashed iconoclast, Bridges definitely fits readily into the mold associated with XXXchurch outreaches. He owns and operates The Armory, a 5000-square-foot space dedicated entirely to video games, for both pro and amateur gamers alike.
There came a time when Bridges found himself at a marketing showcase at an evangelism conference, listening to XXXchurch’s Ryan Russell give a talk about doing outreaches as a nonprofit organization. Russell referred to a brothel using coarse, PG-13-rated terminology, and, according to Bridges, “I fell in love with him right then.”
“I like broken and dirty ministry and stuff that no one else is doing,” says Bridges. “Talking about stuff you’re not ‘supposed’ to talk about. Being honest. Brutally, almost embarrassingly honest. I love Jesus and I want people to know him and who he is, and I want to do it on the terms of culture, whether that be tattoos or music or video games or porn or whatever, I want to be able to go talk to people. I’d rather talk to people about Jesus in a bar than a church.”
And so Bridges picked Russell’s brain about the XXXchurch model of doing outreach at porn shows. The pair spent the evening talking about mission, evangelism, and Jesus—and then Bridges adapted the model to the gaming industry and GameChurch was born.
“We… tweaked the model and then spent [a year] researching the gaming industry to see if there was a need, then started doing what XXXchurch does, but at video game conventions: Jesus loves you, you can have this Bible, talking, conversations, follow-up. And last year we gave out 30,000 bibles.”
Like XXXchurch, GameChurch often finds people looking askew at them, waiting for the other shoe to drop. In fact, Bridges revels in this.
“We like when someone’s coming up to figure out what angle we’re coming from, or what we’re trying to get out of them. When they find out we’re not, they’re stunned. There are countless times when people will uncomfortably stare at you because they don’t have the words. They’re waiting for the punch line or the Christianese, and we don’t have that. We extract all that and tell them simply, ‘Jesus loves you and there’s nothing you can do about it.’”
Josh Boyd is also blessedly ignorant of punch lines, though he knows a thing or two about punches themselves—he is the Executive Director of FightChurch, an outreach to mixed martial arts fighters headquartered in Las Vegas.
A long-time supporter of XXXchurch while a youth pastor in Indiana, Boyd moved to Vegas to plant a church a few years ago; while that church didn’t take root, a love of outside-the-cage outreach did, and Boyd began seeking ways to become a chaplain within organized MMA. It wasn’t easy, Boyd says.
“I had to do a lot of convincing and have a lot of meetings with gym managers to show I was legit, that I only wanted to build relationships with these fighters and minister to them.”
But now? “Two and a half years later, we have a solid relationship in the MMA community in Vegas; they respect us and welcome us with open arms.”
That relationship wasn’t built through toothy smiles or slick marketing. According to Boyd, it was built on service—service inspired by what Boyd had seen in the XXXchurch outreach model.
“The major thing we took from XXXchurch is that they go to the porn stars, they go to the strippers. That’s what we do. We go to weigh-ins, to fight events, to training. We meet the fighters, but we also volunteer at any event to serve—we hand out water, we wind camera cords, we open the gates when fighters go out, we wipe blood off the mats.”
Wiping up fighters’ blood is only a small part of FightChurch’s impact, though. Boyd’s ministry requires the same type of single-minded, focused dedication that a successful MMAer would have.
“There aren’t scheduled practices like in a team sport,” Boyd says, “so in order to minister to these guys, you have to meet with everyone individually. A lot of them are training six days a week, eight hours a day, and they have part-time jobs. A lot of our ministry has to be done every day, all day, in the corner of a gym or meeting a guy between jobs working security at clubs to stocking groceries overnight.”
He continues: “These guys are all young—in their early twenties, mostly—they have girlfriends or wives and young kids, so they’re scraping to get by and live their dream. They don’t have a salary—they’re getting paid a couple hundred bucks to show up for a fight—if they’re a pro. The amateurs don’t get paid a cent. I’ve been working with one pro, who had his first fight, and he got paid $250. For three months of training.
“It keeps me going to know these guys really need our help with spiritual and practical needs, and they’re not being reached by anyone else. I’ve never bumped into anyone else who is out and about ministering to this community.”
Like Bridges, Boyd likes to stand outside the traditional church model of ministry to go to those who live outside the norm.
“[Many of these fighters] aren’t going to darken the door of a church, so we help them out with groceries or whatever, and we’re able to share the love of Christ with them. For some reason, [some] churches can’t get behind what we do because of the fighting—the violence. But that’s just a platform. What we do is about people.”