I came to a realization this past week. I am an athlete. Throughout my childhood I always played sports. Despite my love for all things sports I was also the slowest and shortest kid. When teams were picked I was always the last one picked. I never felt like a real athlete. I guess I came to my current conclusion about my athletic state as I completed my third half marathon. Over the course of the last 6 months I have learned a great amount from my training that I think applies well into the world of church.
1. Big events are easy. Almost all churches move from one major event to the next. Each one of these events requires hours upon hours of preparation and thought. Big events require a tremendous amount of volunteers and effort. On the day of the event, the momentum of the moment carries all of your time and preparation from beginning to end. A big event is much like a giant wave, once it gets started just hold on.
2. Recovery is the tough work. As most churches live from big moment to big moment there is always a great let down after the event. If you check attendance in churches the week after Easter or Christmas it is plain to see. I have found in running that my toughest run is not my long mileage run but instead my shortest run, the recovery run. It is the run where you have to loosen up your muscles from the wear and tear of your big runs. It follows, the bigger the run the more difficult the recovery. In church there are many major events that we ride: a conflict that drives the church, a major push over a holiday season, a building project or even a season of unprecedented growth. Often in these times all you can do is ride the wave until it mellows. The real work begins once the wave is gone. After the big event you are tired and you want to hold on to either the glory of a bygone moment or the bitterness of a difficult time. Recovery is tough because you have to get back up, forget the big moment and get back to business.
3. Endurance is not an afternoon run, its a lifelong pursuit. I always believed what made an endurance athlete was their ability to run for 2+ hours at a time. I have realized in my pursuit of 13 and then 26 miles that endurance is not on race day but instead found every day. It takes much more strength and will power to wake up daily before 4 a.m. than it does to show up for a race and run for 2+ hours. In every church we have the temptation to be defined by our big moments. The strength and will power of the church though is not found on our big days but instead found in our every days.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14