Nearly 200 men attended a midnight meeting inside a Goshen farm building as part of the 12-week spiritual program known as Fight Club. A number of local men took part in the program and are expected to take part in graduation ceremonies Sunday. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 20, 2013 6:38AM
It’s called Fight Club.
No, not that “Fight Club,” the 1999 movie starring Brad Pitt.
This Fight Club is a real-life 12-week program for men who seek something greater than themselves by challenging their minds, bodies, spirituality and even their sexual purity. “By men, for men, to reach men,” as its manly mission states.
Its name comes from a Bible verse, Nehemiah 4:14: “After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
“The idea is that with God’s help we are fighting for our families, our churches, and our communities,” explained Eric Mathisen, a Fight Club member who graduates from the program today.
Fight Club can be called a spiritual movement that’s sweeping the country. Or a disciplined reminder of what it is to be a man. I call it an intriguing journey that strips men of their comfortable facades and lazy habits while rebuilding them to be stronger, more dedicated, and more devoted.
“It is a fairly rigorous program of accountability, disciplines and camaraderie that challenges the whole person by incorporating spiritual, physical and emotional challenges,” said Mathisen, who lost 20 pounds since joining the program in February.
“It has also allowed me to develop a deep and authentic bond with the other men who have participated in the 12-week journey,” he added. “This is unique for me — and for most men — when the depth of most conversations or relationships extends to the weather or our favorite sports teams.”
Ten Fight Club members from Porter County attend Valparaiso Nazarene Church, where they met with me this past Wednesday evening — on the last day of the program — to share their feelings. (Yes ladies, men can share their feelings with each other, too.)
“I have used excuses in the past, but this program has taught me several disciplined habits,” said Todd Lazynski, another new Fight Club graduate today. “Our role in the family is to be the spiritual leader. This program helps us do that.”
Mathisen noted, “I know more about these guys just from the past 12 weeks than I know about guys I’ve known for 20 years. With 300 men in the program, there’s not one issue that other guys haven’t also dealt with.”
Fight Club addresses all of the typical “guy issues” that we struggle with, such as laziness, work-related excuses, and even watching porn. It forces its participants to fight through them to reach their true potential.
“I learned to put God first and let him guide me. It was pretty humbling,” another Fight Club graduate told me.
Fight Club was created a couple years ago by founder Jim Brown, lead pastor of Grace Community Church in Goshen, where the Northwest Indiana members travel for weekly meetings. This also is where their graduation ceremony takes place today.
Two local Fight Club chapters are in Portage and Schererville churches, with plans in the works for one based at Valparaiso Nazarene Church later this year. The graduates from that church include Darren Newberry, Vinnie Nowarita, Tim Brown, Todd Orr, and Jim Dashiell.
“Don’t take this 12-week challenge unless you are ready for real gut-checking discipline,” states the Fight Club website, FightClub414.com. “But once you do, you will be in for the ride of your life and your church will be revolutionized by it.”
Its credo is simple, if not ancient: “If you get the man, you get the family. If you get the family, you get the community. If you get the community, you get the world,” according to Nick Andjelich from Valparaiso Nazarene, who has attempted the program twice.
He “struck out” during his latest attempt, as participants get three strikes before having to voluntarily leave the program. A strike could be for not jumping rope for 15 minutes straight, or not reading enough biblical scripture, or not avoiding coffee for one week.
“Caffeine got me,” Andjelich admitted with a shrug.
The program has a 40 percent failure rate, he noted, even though it’s based on the honor system of honesty, accountability, and responsibility. Of the 350 or so men who began the program in February, only about 250 will graduate today.
The Valpo men created a private Facebook group page to share intimate feelings and confessions with each other. It’s allowed them to bond even stronger.
“Most guys live such isolated lives,” Andjelich said.
“It’s an ego thing,” another graduate said.
But through the program, they have learned to put their egos aside and come together to become an entity greater than the sum of their isolated parts. Now they want to spread the gospel by inviting other men from other churches to join Fight Club.
As the website states: “It’s no secret that the disappearance of the Man is a cultural epidemic, affecting our homes, schools, workplaces, churches, and communities.
“With increasing desperation, the Church is working to remedy this, but many of our churches, despite their best efforts, are still failing to reach men. That’s because many methods used by churches are missing these indispensible masculine ingredients: CAMARADERIE. COMPETITION. CHALLENGE.”
“These things run in our blood. From boyhood, this is our native language,” the site says.
Shane Stillman, another new graduate, sums it up best: “To stand up and be the man that God has called on us to be. To be the man their wives want them to be and that their children need them to be.”
Connect with Jerry via email, at email@example.com, voice mail, at 713-7237, or Facebook, Twitter, and his blog, at jerrydavich.wordpress.com.