Turning the Altar into a Boxing Ring

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Jerry James took a right to the chops for Jesus the other night.

Clad in sweats, boxing gloves and headgear, the former standout amateur boxer stood inside the ropes during the homily Saturday night at New Life Church in Sioux Falls.

The church bulletin referred to it as “Saturday Night Slam.” But Pastor Alex Klimchuk’s intent in turning his altar into a boxing ring was more enticement than entertainment. “We try to reach out to those who aren’t already going, who think church is boring,” says Klimchuk, 30. “The truth is, the church is having problems getting young men inside them. So we ask, ‘What will reach the guys?’ This seems like a perfect answer.”

For three weeks last month, the church used a fight ring as a parable for the spiritual battles of mankind. New Life staged a tae kwon do bout and submission matches. James and four other pugilists went through a half-dozen two-minute rounds of sparring in front of 75 to 100 mostly young males. It is putting on a self-defense program.

Each round was followed by a message from Klimchuk.

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