I’ve never been that fond of running. And yet when people come together for running events, it becomes a powerful, magical experience. While I certainly can’t say for all of them, for those I have been involved in– as a runner, as a supporter, or just experiencing a glimpse of them in passing– it’s almost like I’m seeing a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. Even though such events may not be faith-related at all, and many involved wouldn’t want anything to do with “the Kingdom of God,” many still consider their running to be spiritual experiences. I’ve never been in a more supportive environment, where it’s common, even in a competitive “race,” to see those who finish early to go back and run alongside and encourage those who are lagging and struggling to make it.
What can we as a church, eager to show God’s hospitality and encouragement to others, learn from running events that too often seem more like a taste of the Kingdom of God than church gatherings do? Maybe you’ve had some experience with such events you could reflect on to help explore this question. While I certainly don’t have all the answers, some observations I’ve made might include:
– It’s a judgement-free zone—those who are there are eager and happy to help others of all levels of skill and experience come and join the fun.
– Themes of encouragement and building each other up—essential to our calling as Jesus people according to I Thes. 5: 11, are lived out more than anything else
– The community is built by shared purpose, accomplishment (and suffering?) is a community of support
– The community recognizes that essential to encouragement is accountability, and helping each other “run the race with endurance”
– ALL of any skill level, capacity or disability are welcomed, embraced, encouraged and have a place of belonging!
– The culture of encouragement empowers even the reluctant (like me!) to embrace the opportunity, the community, the experience
– They’re not afraid to talk about money, an essential tool for making it all happen
I’m eager to hear more insights, and how we might be able to put them to good use in our own hospitality! Perhaps we might even consider sponsoring our own run?
“let’s rid ourselves of every obstacle… and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12: 1)—Rev. Jim
Money raised by pledges for runners for the Annual Conference Run for Missions on June 9 will go to the Conference Board of Missions grants for community engagement. I will be one of the runners, and pledges or donations could be made through the church or through the website. The run will be out and back at Canal Park in Akron, and even if you’re not involved nor a part of the Conference, they’re encouraging our church folk to come out and cheer along those of us who will be running. The event is slated to start at 6, so folks will start gathering by 5:30, and most people will complete the run in about 30 minutes, so it won’t make for a long evening, but a good one to practice coming out and cheering people on!