“As Christians, there are times where you take shots, that’s when the bible gives you your training,” Paul Burress says to a large congregation. “I get all the time that I don’t look like the typical pastor and that’s okay. There is a verse in the bible that says be weary if all men speak well of you.”
Meet the pastors who punch.
New York-based Paul Burress is at the forefront of Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel’s new documentary “Fight Church” which sheds light on a growing number of American pastors participating in pastor versus pastor MMA-style fights across the country.
“When we set out to make the film, we were focusing on one character – Paul,” Storkel told FOX411. “We thought that he was anomaly...surely this couldn’t be happening in other churches as well. But as [we] dove deeper into the topic, other fighting pastors started to pop up around the country.”
There is now an estimated 700 churches in the United States that have some form of Martial Arts ministry.
“Fight Church” goes on to explore such notions that “tough guys need Jesus too,” and that mainstream, modern Christianity has a tendency to “feminize” males rather than raising “our boys to men” – a message several of the film subjects seek to convey.
“Tonight we’ve got a fight, then tomorrow we’ll talk about Jesus when we go to Church,” one gloved-up up Pastor explained. Another insisted that at the end of the day, it’s about introducing people to the gospel regardless of how you go about introducing them into a relationship with the Lord.
However, the expanding religious-driven movement isn’t without staunch critics within the Christian community.
“Cage fighting isn’t about loving one another,” notes a different pastor. “But hating one another, basically.”
Ultimately, “Fight Church” leaves viewers with the lingering question: “Can you treat thy neighbor as yourself, then knee him in the face as hard as you can?
“We aren’t taking any bold stances on whether MMA fighting is right or wrong or even if pastors should do this or not,” Storkel continued. “A similarity one could draw between the Bible and fighting for sport is the comparison in the training aspects of the sport. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline and perseverance to train for a fight. You could relate that to the Christian faith, but you could also relate that to pretty much any aspect of life.”
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Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay