Pastor's 'fight ministry' incorporates mixed martial arts; sees it as a counter to 'feminised' church

Pastor Paul Burress (top) demonstrates an MMA technique.The New York Times video screenshot

A New York pastor uses mixed martial arts (MMA) as a form of ministry to reach young men.

Paul Burress is an associate pastor at Rochester's Victory Church, and sees the combat sport as another means of teaching biblical principles.

Victory was featured prominently in "Fight Church" – a documentary film released in April about churches that incorporate MMA into their ministry. The church is also the subject of a New York Times documentary released Monday.

In the video, Burress said that the sport's large following provides an awesome opportunity for churches.

"I think that the rise of MMA – the growing popularity of it – it's a chance for us to reach out to maybe a group of people that would never show up to a normal Sunday service," the former MMA fighter said.

"But once they come in and they say, 'Wow, these are real people. They really do have a neat love here,' and they want to be part of the other things that we're doing."

Burress also said that his MMA ministry debunks the idea that Christian men are not tough.

"The thought that if you're a Christian, you have to be a sissy... When you look at Jesus' original crew, they were roughnecks," he stated.

"Some people, they would look and say, 'Oh, wasn't Jesus a pacifist?' Well, he told Peter: 'Sell your coat and buy a sword. You're going to need your sword more.'

"The Bible talks about meekness, and meekness is controlled strength," Burress continued. "It's having the ability to destroy but choosing not to. There's a fruit of the spirit in the Scripture called gentleness. And gentleness is born out of power. It's not born out of weakness. There is nowhere in Scripture where He says, 'I want you to be people's punching bag forever.'"

Burress said he will continue his ministry, and welcomes the criticism against him.

"I don't doubt what we do because I know this is the gift and the skills God has given me," the pastor said.

"There's actually a cool verse in the Bible that says, 'Be wary when all men speak well of you.' If everybody loves you, you're doing something wrong."

Watch the full New York Times documentary below. 

The New York Times