Arsenal Interview: Matt Carder, a CrossFit Evangelist


Matt Carder knows a thing or two about community. As the head pastor at Commonway Church, he leads a community of 600 members. But when he joined the Arsenal, he was all alone. That’s right, Matt was member #1.

Matt and his wife Liz, the parents of a four-year-old daughter and a five-year-old son who just started kindergarten, are both members of The Arsenal. They met at Indiana Wesleyan a few months after Matt had already bought the plane tickets that would take him to more than 30 countries on a seven-month around-the-world trip. 

Matt is a big believer in CrossFit. He said that it has changed his life in some unexpected ways. For example, he’s always been a night owl who liked to sleep in, which frustrated Liz at times.  Now he’s the first one up at his house, attending the 7:00 AM WOD, and not staying up until midnight. 

I sat down with Matt in his office to discuss his athletic journey and how to be a good CrossFit evangelist.

Here’s what Matt had to say…

What every community builder can learn from CrossFit

CrossFit creates some pretty rabid fans.

Any community or church can have people that are all about it. But what is it about CrossFit that that happens often? Why CrossFit? People don’t rave and rave and rave about other forms of workouts. Why is that people rave about CrossFit until people get annoyed? I want to identify what those things are because if there is anything reproducible or carryover, I want to know that.

Shared suffering or shared misery bonds people together. It’s the same thing in the church world when people go on a mission to a place like Guatemala. They have to eat food they aren’t used to and sleep on the floor on a mat, and have to do these things that are really different from our world. That kind of stuff makes them way closer because they’ve had this shared experience. You walk out of there and you’re like, ‘We did that.’

Also, the fact that it is focused helps. The clarity of the message. We know what we’re doing. We all agree what we’re doing there and everyone is doing the same thing.

On his Fitness Journey before CrossFit

I have a lot of bad memories associated with sports.

I had a friend in 7th grade that said, “Hey come to this cross country meeting. I had literally no idea what it was. After the meeting I was like this is it….it’s just running?”

The ironic thing is that I’m super competitive.

On again off again for five or 6 years. Got into running for a bit.”

Matt ran the Indy Mini-marathon and even though at the time he couldn’t imagine having to turn around and run back to the starting line, some friends talked him into running the Chicago marathon. His wife Liz, also a member at the Arsenal, passed him at mile 20. Matt said he was too tired to even acknowledge her.

With lifting…I always got to the place where I was like ‘What’s the point? To lift things?’”

I’m not going on spring break. I don’t need to workout real hard to look good. There’s the adult in me with responsibilities and a family that’s like…and then what? That was the beginning of every time I quit.

I would quit and I really didn’t want to run and I had lost the motivation to lift. I would do something for a while and then I spend two years talking about how eventually one day I would start up again until I get fed up and then do something.

I started another routine in February. At that time I knew CrossFit was coming.

Why CrossFit?

I wanted the challenge of the variety of it each day and the accountability. I like that it is about fitness and not just beach muscles.

Liz would rather me focus on fitness and health and not just lifting.

I do feel like by far I’m in the best shape of my life and I’m 33. I have more energy.

I really like it because there haven’t been very many workouts in the last two months that a) I would’ve completed if I was doing it by myself… The vast majority of them I would’ve gotten a third or half way done and been like, “I’m sweating, my heart rate is up, I’m really pushing it. Let’s call that a day.” There are times I still look for a way out when I’m doing a WOD at the Arsenal. There’s something like a flight mechanism: am I hurt, no I’m not hurt. My brain scrambles for a way to stop doing them, which is weird because I’m not horrible at it, but it’s relative that everyone is pushed to your limit. I leave every single day and say, “I would’ve never done that on my own.”

It’s mentally challenging. A lot of the things I’ve done before really have mentally challenged me. Whether it’s running or lifting I just kind of get on autopilot. With CrossFit whether it’s challenging because you have to think about how you’re pacing yourself.”

You build up this repertoire of success…you have this daily accomplishment.

I think a lot of people do things for a living that aren’t concrete. With CrossFit you either did or did not do it.

On the guns

If you’ve met, you’ve noticed he has rather large biceps. I had to ask about their origin.

I did pull-ups. Check out

Advice to new CrossFitters

Here’s the thing. Number one. I think it’s a mistake to do any kind of self-reflection or analysis or evaluation on your progress until you’ve done it for like maybe even 3 months. It’s a mistake to go in your first time or maybe your third time and say ‘I’m terrible at this.’

Just do the program and worry about the results later. You have to commit judgement free for a good amount of time.

On how to be a good CrossFit Evangelist

Just recognizing that for whatever reasons not everyone is going to be interested in the church. The church answer is that you are genuinely friends with people for who they are. It’s the same thing with CrossFit. I think there are plenty of people that get it, and get the bug.

If you haven’t experienced it, and then I can’t blame you for not being crazy about it. There’s a little overlap between church and CrossFit. If you don’t have a reference point for it then I can’t fault you for not “getting it.” If I were an outsider to CrossFit I would be doing the same thing.

I referenced Cross Fit one time. in a sermon. I do want to be sensitive so I don’t drive people crazy.

I think there are some similarities between CrossFit and church, but we’re being somewhat facetious in this comparison. They aren’t exactly parallels.

Final Thought on CrossFit

I love it! We’ve gotta get some more people.

If you want to suffer alongside Matt, schedule a workout with a coach today. The first WODs free! Warning: May cause intense levels of fanhood.