Photos used by permission of Sony BMG Music Entertainment and the band's MySpace site.
F&F: So when I first heard of your band’s name the visual of a “pillar of fire” at night to guide Moses and his people out of Egypt is what came to mind. Tell me about your band’s name.
RB: It actually comes from a Bible verse where the church is described as a pillar of truth. We wanted a band name that was one word and sounded strong. It was definitely on the “this doesn’t stink” side of the list, so we went with it.
F&F: Maybe another “pillar” visual from the Bible are the pillars that Sampson pressed against to kill the Roman’s. Thoughts on that one?
RB: Yeah, that is one too. I don’t know how many times the word pillar is mentioned in the Bible.
F&F: Whenever you’re working out do you visualize yourself as the strong Sampson kind of character?
RB: I don’t. A couple of the guys in the band would look at themselves more that way. Our base player and drummer are pretty big. They are dedicated. They go to the gym almost every day. Mike is really focused on his diet. We use these rubber-band type cords when we can’t get to the gym. I see myself as just tone. My wife and I have a gym membership at home. She is very dedicated too.
F&F: Share a bit about your workouts?
RB: Normally when I’m working out with my wife we do about 20 minutes of cardio first – we use the elliptical machines. My wife is now getting into the social part of the gym like the classes. I don’t know the names of those classes but I know she is soar after them. When I’m with the guys we usually do our workout first then do cardio. Depending on the day we break it down into five categories: arms, legs, back, chest and shoulders. We spend anywhere from forty-five minutes to an hour or so. I can’t claim 100% dedication like the rest of them.
F&F: How did you get started?
RB: I was in the Army. So, I didn’t have to pay for a personal trainer. I got paid to get worked out!
Different members of the band started in different ways. For example our guitar player, he was always the friendly pudgy kid. During our Fireproof album, while we were recording, our producer challenged him to just stop eating sugar. He started doing that and from there he progressed to working out. During that album I was still in the Army Reserves. We would get up every day, run a couple of miles, go to the gym and lift weights and then go record. That was the first time he really had ever exercised. I think he lost around sixty-five pounds.
His excitement spread through the band. Our base player from an early age had always wanted to be a bodybuilder. He really takes his weightlifting seriously. He is very dedicated with it. They even have a deal with a supplement company.
F&F: So some Christians have a fear of going to the gym lest they be tempted and sin. Lets get this straight, you and the guys go to the gym to fulfill all you lustful desires before you hit the stage and share about Jesus.
RB: Hah – Exactly, you nailed it! You know, you can be tempted in your own home just by turning on the television. When I’m at home I always go to the gym with my wife. That is the ultimate accountability partner right there. Usually the times when we go there aren’t many people there anyway. It is a matter of finding a way to make it work. For that matter you don’t even have to go to a gym. There is plenty of inexpensive home exercise equipment now being manufactured.
We come across this all the time. The way I see it is that most people who feel guilty about not being in shape or not working out are the ones that have some kind of excuse or find a way to say they shouldn’t be in the gym. They may say, “ You shouldn’t go to the gym because there are too many germs and you’ll get sick.” They say, “You shouldn’t go to the gym because there is too much temptation.” There is temptation everywhere.
Avoiding temptation is not what Jesus did. He went into the desert for forty days. He knew he was going to be tempted by the devil. He didn’t run from it. He combated it with scripture and prayer.
F&F: We’ll let me take that a step further. You guys are all relatively young and in good shape, traveling around and going to gyms. I imagine there has been an incident when you encountered a woman at the gym in tight clothes that has caught your eye.
RB: We are going to the gym for a reason other than to hook-up with someone. If you go to the gym for that reason, you’re not going to avoid it because that is what you are looking for. If going to the gym is going to cause you to stumble in your faith then you aren’t where you are supposed to be with God anyway. The truth is, and this is for anything, if going somewhere causes you to want to sin you haven’t really beaten the temptation. Beating the temptation is one thing, giving your life over to Christ is something totally different. The passion to follow Christ is what drives [all of] us and drives the sin out of our lives.
F&F: Have you had opportunities on the road at a gym where God said now is the time – talk to that person.
RB: We may invite them to the show. However, we’re not really in a gym for very long. It is hard to develop a relationship with them in that amount of time. We feel you have to have a relationship with somebody before you can throw a tract at him or her.
F&F: Is the gym an appropriate place for people to live out their faith?
RB: Absolutely. My wife loves to go to the gym. That is her opportunity to interact with other adults. The relationship she has built with other women over the last six months has enabled her to now share her faith. Here in Tulsa, it is definitely one of the buckles of the Bible belt. Everybody here has heard about Christianity and has a personal opinion. So, it is good to be able to build a relationship with people to where they trust you and ask you about YOUR faith. That is so much better than offering someone a spot while they are bench-pressing and then while the weights are over their chest you say, “Hey let me tell you about Jesus.” Relationships in the gym are more of a loving and open way for people to come and see Jesus. They can see that Jesus is a very real part of your life. It is a very relevant place to live out your faith.
My pastor plays racquetball every Friday. He just cleans house. Nobody can beat him. Some guys may come in cursing like drunken sailors. They obviously know he is a pastor. That is his time to spend time with them and develop relationships with them. He’s not there to condemn them. He is just there to kick their butts at racquetball.
F&F: Seems to me that the people living in our popular American culture are totally sick of what they see as “Christian”. Do you think that poses particular challenges or opportunities for Christians going to a gym?
RB: Yes, both. The challenge is to be a true follower of Christ – to be fully devoted followers of Christ. That means for us not to wear a Christian shirt into the gym and think that wearing the shirt will witness to people. The Pharisees wore the clothes. It is about having a relationship with God and living it in such a way that other people see it and need it in their lives. The challenge is to reflect Christ and honor him. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going to the gym and working out and that being a worshipful moment for you. People may think that sounds ridiculous. But that can be a holy moment for you. It can be a very spiritual moment for you. Be who God has called you to be – reflect his love.
The average Joe, when asked about his motivation for working out might say, “Man, I just want to look good for the honeys.” If your response is, “This is a moment for me to connect with God,” they may think you’re psycho. That is your opportunity. -----The challenge is to question your commitment. The opportunity is to express your commitment.
F&F: How should a Christian relate to that person who wants to look good for the other sex? They’re not being mean about that; they’re just being honest.
RB: That is what they believe. That really is why they are there. Your first thought may be, “This guy is so vain and arrogant.” But, He doesn’t know God. You can’t disrespect him or not treat him like a friend. If you filter every thought through God and put it into His perspective, you have to ask yourself, “Would God really say something condemning to that person?”
I don’t know what His answer would be but I know that He would love that person. It is the hardest thing for a Christian to do. Christians can instantly judge people. Perhaps it is because they want people to know about God so much that they forget about loving them and instead try to correct them.
F&F: What are the weights you lift in your ministry?
RB: My core list is going to church, reading my Bible and praying. My supplemental exercises are small group fellowship and family time. I think men need time with other men to strengthen each other. Devotional time with your spouse is really important. I’ll be perfectly honest; I used to hate the idea of “devotions”. However, we found things to study that we both liked.
F&F: Your primary audience I understand is teens through college-aged. What are the biggest challenges facing young men and women these days?
RB: I think the challenges are the same they have always been. However, the access to those challenges is a lot easier. Communications like text messaging, the Internet and mobile phones. The accessibility is much greater.
Pornography is probably one of the top challenges all the way down to soft pornography like you see in health and fitness magazines.
F&F: Are churches addressing the pornography issue as well as they should be?
RB: Some are. Some like my church support the triple X church.com The people in that organization go to adult expos to talk with people.
F&F: I hear mosh pits are not an uncommon thing at your concerts?
RB: That usually doesn’t happen at our church shows. At the clubs and overseas shows you’ll see that. But, it never gets out of control.
F&F: Describe the environment at one of your concerts?
RB: People usually stand all the way down to the stage. We get the whole crowd jumping. We joke around that people spend money to go to the gym and workout. We give them both – a workout and a concert. We’re like the aerobics leaders. We tell them when to jump.
F&F: Do you ever ask them if they feel the burn?
RB: I know some of them do. After some of the shows some of our audience are totally sweaty and worn out.
F&F: The thing about physical exercise is that even though there is pain after the workout you still want more. After your concerts, do you see you audience wanting to be further challenged spiritually?
RB: You can’t let a concert or Sunday morning service be the extent of your spiritual well being. If you are waiting for someone to talk about God then you are going to be out of shape. I know there are days after I do an arm workout that it hurts to brush my teeth. However, the more I exercise the quicker I recover and the less I hurt. Spiritually it is the same. Satan will still attack you but you are able to fend him off. You know what to do and how to respond. With Jesus and the Holy Spirit it is easier to use the power God has given us. People rely too much on others to get them in shape.
It is why infomercials have had big success. It is a quick way to get in shape. We all know they don’t work without additional exercise and diet. That alone will not make you look like the person in the commercial. A concert alone will not make you strong spiritually. You have to work at it and build your spiritual journey with training.
F&F: You’ve been doing concerts at lots of sports events. Lots of “game” analogies. Briefly tell me about that.
RB: It is a lot of what we are talking about. We have a new album titled FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME. It is an extension of what we are talking about here. We are talking about the pursuit of Christ. Paul in the Bible talks about “running the race”. That is a metaphor for pursuing God. When we say “the game”, that is our metaphor for fighting for Christ – the competition. It is winning or losing – heaven or hell. When we say “the love of the game” were talking about the passion to pursue Christ. In the same ways an athlete rigorously trains to perform, Christians need to instill those same kinds of disciplines. Those disciplines come from passion.
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Want your own FREE copy of For The Love Of The Game? Go to our forum and post a comment about this article. At least four readers who post a forum comment about this article will be contacted by email in March 2008 announcing that they have won a free CD from Pillar and Faith & Fitness Magazine.