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Four Lessons for Pastors from MMA Fighters

by Mikal Keefer


Across the cage, a tattooed maniac is slamming his fists together, screaming he’ll rip your head off. The crowd is on its feet, stamping, clapping, hungry for blood.

Tension sparks, nerves sizzle, eyes narrow, and then—the bell.

Five rounds—that’s what you need to survive unless you first flatten the maniac or tap out yourself.

Welcome to mixed martial arts…a place with lessons to teach us pastors.

Not knocking maniacs flat—though occasionally that’s tempting. Board meetings come to mind.

But, if you’re a pastor, lessons successful fighters take to heart will also serve you well.

Sharpen your skills—constantly

The time fighters spend in the MMA octagon is a thin sliver of the time they spend conditioning their bodies. Toughening their resolve. Sparring.

Unless they’re constantly honing their skills, learning new strategies, tweaking new techniques, they’re dead meat…and so are we.

What have you intentionally explored and discovered lately?

Stick to the basics

The MMA cage isn’t a place for overly-complicated moves. Punches, kicks, chokes, take-downs—those are what win matches. A spinning jump kick/Golden Leopard combo is a colorful crowd-pleaser, but a distraction. And may get you thumped.

As a pastor, you can’t do it all, so make the hard call: What are the basics to master? And what are the distractions? How can you tell them apart?

Embrace discipline
Successful MMA fighters disciplines their bodies, minds, and passions. They’re all-in, and live with a single focus: winning matches.

What’s your single focus—and (be honest here) how disciplined are you in reaching it?

Build a team—and let them know they matter

Fighters may be the only ones in the cage, but did you notice their trainers hovering nearby? Their coaches? Sparring partners, supportive friends and family, even that doctor on the sidelines—they’re all there because fighters don’t fight alone.

And pastors don’t pastor alone.

Who’s your team…and have you told them lately how important they are to you?

Mikal Keefer is an ordained minister, but tapped out to work in Christian publishing. He predicts he’d last less than .75 seconds in an MMA match.

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Four Lessons for Pastors from MMA Fig...

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