Church pastor teaches Christian Karate to youth, community
A pastor in New London, WI, is transforming the lives of young people, their families and a community by combining karate lessons with scripture.
Pastor Bill Stiebs, founder of Cornerstone Christian Church, opened up a successful karate school in the 1980s, but one decade later, when he and his wife Lynn were born again, they transformed it into a Christian Karate school, according to Appleton Post Crescent.
Stiebs has been studying karate since 1975 when he was 15 years old. Karate was a good outlet for his aggressive personality because it is an individual sport rather than a team activity, Appleton Post Crescent reported.
In the early 80s he started his own karate school and by 1985 taught traditional classes in kickboxing karate to 50 students. He became successful, working out with world champions such as Jeff Smith, Joe Lewis and Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, who acted in movies starring Chuck Norris, according to Appleton Post Crescent.
But in 1991 he and wife Lynn were on the brink of a divorce. This led others to share their faith with the couple, and as they focused on the love of Jesus, it filtered into the details of their lives, including their marriage, Appleton Post Crescent said.
It also led Stiebs to introduce Christian karate in his school. Stiebs told Appleton Post Crescent, “Well, at that time we went from 40 or 50 students up to 80 students. So it actually increased in size. People wanted that. They were looking and searching for something in life that was more solid, that they could count on and God was part of that whole process.”
A video of Stiebs’ class helps one to understand why it works so well. One remembers an old movie, Dead Poets Society, starring Robin Williams who inspires his students to love literature by embedding it in their experience, for example, kicking a football while saying a line of a poem.
Stiebs’ class runs in similar fashion, only the tool for teaching is karate. As children do certain movements, they memorize applicable bible verses. Because there is such a spirit of love and encouragement the children learn happily. Eventually they also enjoy mentoring other new students in both the sport and bible.
Stiebs also made sure that the children didn’t bow to each other, a normal practice in karate sessions. He told Appleton Post Crescent, “We believe the only master that we have is Jesus and we would bow to Jesus. To each other, we do high-fives and handshakes. We just encourage each other in our lives.”
Stiebs also told Appleton Post Crescent that meditating had to change too. “[I]nstead of meditating upon how we could clear our minds and think of the power within ourselves, we begin to think about the power of Jesus in our lives. We begin to pray instead of meditate upon other things. And so prayer was an integral part of the karate along with learning and teaching scriptures from the Bible that would help and enable people to get through their lives in hard times.”
Karate also became a venue by which Stiebs came to know the children in the neighborhood. Young people would stop by for lessons at his karate school and as trust was built, he could share the bible with them, Appleton Post Crescent said.
Stiebs has degrees in Biblical studies, theology and Christian counseling, according to the Cornerstone Christian Church website. He is a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor and a certified Life Coach.
Stiebs is also a fourth degree black belter who has trained with many world champions of karate. He has taught a “Dangers of Strangers” program in schools throughout Wisconsin, and “Women’s Assault Awareness” in colleges and for corporate clients. He has also helped in the training of police officers and prison guards in WI, the Cornerstone Christian Karate website said.