SPRINGFIELD – Jeffrey Chavez admits his church plant, The Catalyst in Springfield, is not a traditional church.
“Many churches start with congregations and develop ministries. We started with church ministries. It was sort of an upside-down funnel approach,” he said. “Ninety percent of our people are unchurched.”
In September 2011, the church plant met in Chavez’ home, then moved to an athletic studio. It offers wrestling, track, mixed martial arts, karate, and jujitsu for youth, “Insanity” workouts for men, and Zumba workouts for women. Competitive events are on Saturdays and Sundays. Many of participants come from as far away as St. James, Rolla, Waynesville, and Nevada.
The church doesn’t just give youth physical activities. Chavez said they are trained to be “elite level competitive.”
“I believe being competitive is biblical,” he said.
The schedule is dizzying. The church is open to athletes five nights a week. On Saturday and Sunday, the pastors and coaches are at team competitions. Worship services are Saturday at 6:30 p.m., intentionally chosen between when most adults work and youth activities.
“We’re busy, but we feel young,” he said. “We continue to preach the Word of God in work and play. If we are competing at an event within two to three hours of the church, we’ll drive back Saturday for the worship service, and then return to the competition.”
Some attending activities aren’t aware it is “church” until an attendance-optional devotional is given. This option made some Muslim attendees see Christianity wouldn’t be forced on them.
There are 12 monthly goals of success which are the focus of the messages. January’s topic was commitment.
Chavez is one of four pastors in the church, all unpaid by their choice. They alternate preaching the Saturday worship services. When the opportunity to plant The Catalyst began, Chavez was ready to walk away from the ministry when Greene County Director of Missions Michael Haynes intervened.
“When God gave me this vision, I determined when I planted this church, I’d never take a salary,” Chavez said. “None of us pastors are paid. God blessed each of us with really good jobs. When I saw I could do church in a different way, I was blown away. I was amazed.”
Church “success” often involves numbers. Chavez estimates there are 500 people who come to the Catalyst each week. The track team could have 200 people this year, double what it had in 2012. Last year’s track team sent 30 to national competitions and 14 of them returned as U.S. All-Americans.
Last year 18 people – who Chavez said “never would have come to church” – accepted Christ. Because the church puts its podcast sermons on the Internet at catalystspringfield.org, one man who works on Sunday gathers his family together to hear the messages.
“The kids are excited, because their coaches are preaching,” Chavez said.
“We meet them on their court, and hopefully they’ll meet us on ours.”