America is full of Planet Fitness facilities and it’s no mystery why. Planet Fitness has a genius business model; a three-fold approach that is paying big dividends for its stockholders.
- Step 1 – Get a lot of people to sign up with a minimal monthly commitment.
- Step 2 – Create an environment of low expectations and mock anyone who is really serious about physical fitness.
- Step 3 – Don’t allow a culture of one-on-one or group training to dominate the scene.
Last year, I met a man who runs seven Planet Fitness franchises in the southeast United States. He has done very well for himself under the company’s motto of a “Judgement-Free Zone.” I don’t fault him for making a handsome profit. Unfortunately, this entrepreneur’s approach to business is an all too accurate depiction of modern Christianity in America.
Planet Fitness Christians
America is full of Planet Fitness Christians and it’s no mystery why. They have learned from church leadership that commitment requires nothing more than showing up once a week and tipping the offering plate when it passes.
These Planet Fitness Christians are catered to with a comfortable non-intimidating church environment with minimal expectations for real spiritual growth. These members aren’t challenged to become a completely new person. They’re coddled to become a slightly better version of themselves.
They show up once a week for a quick 30-minute emotional boost but are never challenged to do the grueling faith-fueled work of shedding sinful attitudes and actions. These judgement-free Christians have learned from their church peers that being serious about spiritual growth is reserved for those self-righteous lunkhead Christians who flex their spiritual muscles in front of a mirror.
Worst of all, these Planet Fitness Christians have long ago decided that one-on-one and small group discipleship is just too intimidating. They’ve determined that they aren’t radical Christians looking to reshape their entire being. They’re casual members looking to check a box. They just want a weekly spiritual experience in a judgement-free zone where no one will question their decisions or their lifestyle.
The Answer to Planet Fitness Christianity
Jesus didn’t abandon his throne in heaven, wrap himself in human flesh, then allow that flesh to be beaten and torn just so we could become a slightly better version of ourselves. Jesus offers us a completely new life through faith in Him. But He has determined that He will accomplish much of the work in us through His church with the muscle power of the Holy Spirit.
To that end, church leaders need to offer a new three-fold approach to encourage Christians to experience real spiritual growth and the new life that Jesus has offered.
- Step 1 – Daily challenge people to give up their entire lives. Jesus never demanded less than everything.
- Step 2 – Create an environment of high expectations where grace is the foundation and holiness is the goal. Failure is to be expected but not celebrated.
- Step 3 – Create a culture of small group discipleship where spiritual growth can happen in the context of relationships.
For what its worth, my wife and I are members of a Planet Fitness gym. Its a great place to get a cheap workout. But every time I walk in and see that Judgement-Free Zone, I can’t help but cringe at the thought of churches who have adopted the Planet Fitness model. Thanks to Jesus, Christians are free from judgment for sure. But rather than allow our freedom in Christ to become a free pass into spiritual apathy, we are called to work out our salvation. It will require a lot of sweat and a lot of tears, but we are promised that its worth it.