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Way In

The good fight?

'When you look at Jesus's original crew, they were roughnecks,' says Paul Burress, a minister at Victory Church, Rochester, New York. It's one of the reasons he encourages members of his church to fight one another as part of the service.

Paul is one of a surprising number of pastors who use 'MMA' - mixed martial arts - in their churches. MMA is also known as cage fighting, a sport that combines kickboxing and wrestling. Leaders like Paul feel that the modern church is not resonating with young men anymore. For them, the Bible understands the need for fighting: for freedom, for one's beliefs, and for Jesus himself, too.

'Here's my thing,' says Paul, 'I don't think your life should be separate. I think you should be who you are. I don't think you should be "this is my Sunday me, and this is my Monday-Friday me". God made you, you for a reason. If he made you a computer guy, you be the best computer guy for God and use it for him. If he made you a basketball player, or an artist or a musician, then you be the best basketball player, artist or musician you can be for Christ. He made me a fighter so I'll fight for him.'

'I'm good at fighting and I'm good at telling people about Jesus. So I don't think God wants you to be this person on one day and another person on another day. He wants you to be the you he made you.'

Victory Church features in a new documentary about this subject, Fight Church, made by the Oscar-winning director Daniel Junge. It was expected to feature heavily, but the filmmakers discovered churches like it springing up all over the USA.

'I think for us as filmmakers we went into it thinking it was going to be a lot crazier than it ended up being,' says the producer Bryan Storkel. 'We definitely were thinking these people were going to be way out there and a little wacky, but once we started working with them and you realize they really are genuine people that care about what they're doing and helping other people. They're doing it in a way I wouldn't do it, but they're using what they have. They're doing what they can to reach the people that they want to reach. It's definitely less crazy than we thought when we got into it.

'The only reason I'm doing [this] from day one is I want people to see that you can love Christ and still be exactly who you are' says Paul Burress. See www.fightchurchfilm.bigcartel.com.