The new year is upon us, and as sure as crisp mornings and dew drops on the grass, January means resolutions. We resolve to get closer to God, lose a few pounds and return to the physical fitness we enjoyed only a year or two ago. With the opening of The Lord’s Gym on Market Street at I-805, this could be the year we succeed at all three!
The multi-level, 24,000 sq. ft. facility is everything you’d want in a gym, and probably more than you would expect. From the spacious, well appointed locker rooms, to the state of the art treadmills (with the obligatory large screen televisions, of course), stationary bikes and weights (both free weights and pulley-style machines are available), The Lord’s Gym is just waiting for you to walk through the door.
Interested in something more challenging than bicep curls with a 100-pound dumbbell? The gym is also the new home of Billy Moore’s ABC (for AnyBodyCan – founded by Billy’s dad, the late Archie Moore) boxing program. One whole section of the facility had been given over to the program, and one boxing ring is already in place, with another to follow.
The facility also boasts a major league level batting cage, basketball court, spacious aerobic room (also being used by Adrian Ewings’ Steps of Praise), and a nutrition/juice bar for that post-workout refreshment. Childcare is part of the service, and a physical therapy program is part of the long-term plan. All this for $25 a month for adults, and only $5 a month for those 19 years old and younger, and there are no sign-up fees.
The Lord’s Gym, however — as you might suspect from the name — is more than just a place to work out. It is a safe haven, a gathering place, in a neighborhood that has had more than its share of trouble. It is a place where sweat melts away rivalries, and the sound of clanging iron provides positive focus. It is a place where there truly is muscle in the ministry.
“We want the gym to reach out to youth,” says co-founder of The Lord’s Gym, John Block. “We want to lift up the name of Jesus, and we hope this place will see lives changed.”
Block, a former NBA star who counts Pat Riley, Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar amongst his friends and former teammates, is what many think of when they talk about Christian leadership. His dream for The Lord’s Gym is as ambitious as any of the projects he has undertaken — a list that includes the development of Oakbridge Christian Camp and Conference Center in Ramona and the Olympic basketball program of the African country of Benin.
“There are a hundred churches in small radius of here,” Block said, “and we want to work with them to reach young people.”
Block is working with Lee Limperis, who has experience with the successful Lord’ Gym program in Roseville, near Sacramento, and with former professional football player, Carl Wilson. Together they are reaching out to individuals in the area who are already involved in sports leagues and youth programs, offering them the facility as a home for their programs.
In the midst of a conversation, the energetic Block springs from his chair to greet a local basketball coach who has stopped by to check out the “new” facility where a Gold’s Gym once was housed, and to meet the former San Diego Rocket. He leaves with a warm invitation from both Block and Limperis to come back, take a tour, and talk over what The Lord’s Gym can do to help.
“We want to be led by the Spirit of God,” Block says enthusiastically, as he folds his six-foot-nine frame back into one of the white plastic chairs in the gym’s lobby. His excitement for what the facility can mean to the young people of the area is infectious. His eyes almost sparkle as he talks about what he envisions for The Lord’s Gym.
“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but…” Before he can finish his sentence, Block is already describing the potential of the program. As a non-profit organization, working as a ministry versus a business, The Lord’s Gym can work with community groups and local charities to expand beyond the existing cinderblock building. The five-year lease the group has taken on the building (with an option for more) provides the stability such an outreach needs to establish credibility with the neighborhood, and could also lead to an outright purchase of the property.
Block would also like to see The Lord’s Gym become a meeting place for more than sports. Although the adjacent property is currently a single-level parking lot, he envisions an events center that could extend the influence of the program on young people.
“We want them to know that everyone here, whether it is me, Lee, Billy — anyone associated with The Lord’s Gym — there are people here that care about them in all aspects of their lives.”
The well-worn sentiment takes on a sense of strength and freshness coming from a man who interrupts himself to ask a stranger for a specific name when told of a neighborhood kid who could use a believer in his life. Block scribbles the name on a scrap of paper and says with conviction, “we’ll find him.”
Such conviction translates easily into the belief that The Lord’s Gym will be exactly what this neighborhood needs — and more.
If you would like to learn more about The Lord’s Gym, from membership to ministry support, call (619) 263-3700.
Stu Smith of San Diego is an Emmy-award winning television producer, and a member of the Evangelical Press Association.