Muslim Turned Christian Pastor on Relationship with Parents, Days as New Believer (Q&A Part 2)

Then I started experiencing some serious demonic stuff. I started getting episodes of that for three years until I really realized: This idea of being attacked, even in broad daylight, not at night, this was a serious. I didn't go to sleep. It finally broke after three days of not falling asleep at all. It was another moment of "What is going on?"

CP: What do you think caused this? Do you think anything in your childhood led to this?

Fazal: I mean nothing happened. I used to be scared as a kid. Here's my theory on it. I was not spiritual and my brother was. He was seeking. I didn't care. I just wanted to enjoy life. I was an art major. I just wanna love life. Great. Fear was a part of my life. I really struggled academically. Fear and worry was a weakness of mine and I think demonic attacks, for me, were strongholds of fear big time.

I got to a point where I stopped reading my Bible at night because I feared being attacked. It was so weird, until this Indian pastor was like, "You're not reading your Bible." And I didn't know about spiritual warfare or any of this stuff. And then I started becoming the ghost busters guy at church and experienced all sorts of crazy stuff there.

I went all the way from serious Pentecostal, everything has a demon, to nothing has a demon, and finally the middle now. I think it's just how I'm wired up; I need something serious to get my attention. I think spiritual warfare has always been around me. I've woken up at nights even now being choked.

I told my wife when we were dating, "Hey, by the way, just so you know, I get these crazy things that happen here or there." It's been quite the journey. I just don't talk about it a lot because it's confusing.

CP: What's the congregation like that you pastor at now?

Fazal: It's probably a younger, modern, contemporary group of people. Some people say we're closet Charismatics. We're not really, but we definitely believe in that stuff. It's a fun place — I don't know what you're used to.

CP: Would you classify it as Evangelical non-denominational?

Fazal: People think our congregation is all Arabs, Pakistanis or Indians. It's majority white and we have quite the diversity as well. We have a mix. So my wife is Caucasian. We have a lot of mixed couples. We have a lot of mutts in my church. I talk to Ashley, my wife, and identify someone as mixed as she says, "Well, that's everybody, so who are you talking about?"

We have a lot of Asians. A lot of second-generation Koreans.

CP: Are you still in Charleston?

Fazal: We're in Charlotte, North Carolina. So we moved from Charleston, South Carolina, because part of it was our ministry was great, but we felt that God was saying you need to reach a more diverse group of people and I knew that meant leaving Charleston.

I had become good friends with Erwin Mcmanus, and he and I were talking and he really helped me out. He was the one who articulated for the first time, "Why don't you go to Charlotte and start a church?" At that point, I wasn't even thinking that. Then we started Mosaix because Charlotte is and was going to be diverse in terms of the South. We knew we didn't want to leave and go to California or something because we wanted to be close to my mom and dad, and I had two brothers and two sisters who are all in the South, so we knew we didn't want to leave, we wanted to be driving distance away.

CP: You were involved with Fellowship of Christian Athletes for a while and you post CrossFit pictures on Instagram. Can you talk about your athletic interests?

Fazal:(Laughs.) First of all, at the time, no one was an athlete at FCA. (Laughs)

CP: What?

Fazal: It says, Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The president was on the soccer team. That was it. There were barely athletes I kid you not. The girls' volleyball team, maybe one or two. That was a joke. FCA at any campus is not athletes. Their goal is to get athletes. Their goal is, but when that happens it's like, "What! That's awesome. We're finally the group we call ourselves."

Mostly what it is another place to get a girlfriend. Honestly. Seriously. That was the thing. That's where I went, because there were cute girls there, so I attended FCA as a Muslim. There were people who liked sports.
I used to play soccer in Kuwait, again, there was no sports program. Our fields were dirt fields that had a couple of goal posts and that's it. Nothing organized. I mean, I met my wife there and she's not at all team sports, none of that. It's a joke. When I talk about it I feel bad, but it's true. No one says it, but it's true.
If they get them it's like a big deal. At the conferences, they try to get many.

CP: This is hilarious. Tell me about the CrossFit thing.

Fazal: I realized early on that I never worked out. There were no gyms or the concept of going to gyms in Kuwait but I got exposed to one, loved it, lifting weights. I like fitness, I like being in shape and sports and all that. Even as a church we talk about it because we like to eat clean and really believe that that's a value everyone should have.

My wife seriously would love to change the way America eats. We did a health conference partnering with other people and I met a guy who was the owner of a CrossFit once and it was a challenge because there's a learning community component to it. I just got hooked on it.

What I love about it the most is that because of what I do right now, my time is consumed by Christians, staff meetings and staff stuff and CrossFit allows me to work out with people who are not in that world at all. It's great relationships. A chunk of them now come to Mosaix. The owner and coaches and all that and we have this CrossFit community going.

I love it. In fact, I'm actually injured. I was doing rope climbs and landed on the rope instead of the ground when I jumped down and sprained my angle.

The biggest thing about CrossFit, and the reason it feels like a cult, is because of the community. It has nothing to do with the workouts. These workouts, it's nothing new. There's a serious sense of community. It's a group workout. The gym is kind of your own thing. You come in and you do your thing, you leave. When you got the Y, you do it yourself or enroll in classes you want to be a part of. You want to do whatever: yoga, biking, spinning. And you're there and you have a little bit of a community, but you chose to be there because you want to do spinning and once you get bored of spinning you're gone.

But with CrossFit and if you come at a certain time and whatever hour, you don't know what you're going to do. Everyday is a challenge. Everyday you lock arms with people who you're getting to know because you're doing the same challenges with them and there builds this friendship like no other because one workout is hard for one person. Everyone's cheering you on. That's what it is. It's like gym you're going to and everybody's cheering you on. It's like the nuttiest thing. No one wears headphones and works out. You're not on your own. It's crazy the amount of people. They don't go to church, they're not interested, but they know my life and they care. They're just friends.

The gyms that have that are so strong and that's why even the games, they do that. People trash or talk about the workouts themselves being dangerous and they are. If you do them incorrectly they are dangerous. The thing is you can go the gym and do the same thing to yourself.

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