Back in August I preached a series on Influence at GCC. The final message spoke on the subject of being faithful to complete the things that you have committed to. Here’s a snippet of the message:
I believe whole-heartedly that we are in a room full of people who have had a hard time finishing things in our lives because we have never fully experienced the joy of crossing a finish line in our lives. I experience this as a pastor. We are continual works in progress. The work of a pastor is never done. Until we cross the finish line of life there is always more for God to do in us. As one who has a heart to see people grow and walk in step with Jesus I acknowledge that my work will never be done. Just as I need to grow, there is more that I can do to help many of you grow. There are days when this calling feels like burden. I’d love for a day when I can close up my computer and feel as though the work is done. A day when the task is over and the project is complete; but when you deal with human beings, the work is never done.
I think that is why I have become a runner. In a race there is a definitive starting line and finishing line. There is an end to the run. There is a sense of accomplishment to the work that you have been doing. I told you all a few weeks ago that in May I ran my first half-marathon. I ran it with my good friend Jeff Cerow. He had my back the whole way through the race. We set the pace for the each other. We encouraged each other throughout the 13.1-mile run. And we finished the race together. I can still remember the rush of emotion that came over me as I crossed the finish line. It is an experience that I will cherish. I accomplished something that day and I believe I also broke a trait of not finishing things.
I’d like to make this same opportunity available to you all. On September 11 at 5:30 the Friendly Kitchen is hosting a 5K Trail Race over at NHTI. I want to challenge each and every one of you to participate in this. As of right now we have the entire staff of GCC on board for this race. I want you all to join us. It is a fundraiser and will go towards a cause that we as a church already support and volunteer at. There are registration forms at the tables by the doors as you leave later today. You have over a month to train. A 5K is just over 3 miles. You can do this. I believe that not only can you do this but also some of you NEED to do this. You need to cross a finish line and experience the feeling of accomplishment that comes along with it. I believe that for some of you there will be a spiritual breaking that takes place as you commit to training and running in this race.
That was the challenge that I posed to the congregation of Grace Capital Church. That was 6 weeks ago. Yesterday, Friday, September 11, sixty people from Grace Capital Church ran in the Friendly Kitchen 5k and FINISHED something. I truly believe that something spiritual took place for each person as they crossed the finish line. For some people it was their first ever race. For others it was just another run. For all it was a chance to finish something that they put their mind to and they did just that. I, for one, am very grateful for the showing of GCC runners and am very proud of each of them!
Great job TEAM GCC!
The day I went public with my goal to run a half marathon I had many people asking me about it. I had a few people mention to me that my goal had inspired them to do things as well. I have a few friends who have taken significant steps to improve their health by starting to live a more active lifestyle who have thanked me for challenging them with my own actions. Over the past five months I have been asked frequently how my training has been going.
Many people were aware of the date of the half marathon that I was to run and were encouraging me the week before. The day after the race and throughout this past week I have had many people ask me how the run went. The fact that they are asking me without me prompting them to by dropping hints that the run is over makes me believe that they truly care about how the run went. They are taking the steps to follow up with me and see how I am doing, how the race went, and what my next plans are.
One thing that I have observed, and been guilty of myself, is putting such and emphasis on getting people to take an action step and then leaving them all on their own after making the move. In the church at large I see a great effort in getting people in the doors of our buildings so that they can hear the Gospel. I see the desire to “get them saved” and add a number to a monthly report. I see a lot of backs being patted for the number of people who have given their lives to the Lord. These are great things and reason to celebrate – truly they are. But usually before the confetti has even been swept up we have forgotten about the person that we are celebrating over.
It seems as though follow up is a lost art. Once a person “crosses the line” in church they are just part of the crowd. As if the line they crossed is the finish line when in all actuality it is a starting line. I believe we (church leaders, church members, and Christians in general) need to place a much greater emphasis on discipleship. To actually help people along in their journey with God. We need to be ready and available to sit and answer questions. This task can seem daunting but I believe it is one of the greatest things that we can spend our time doing. To be able to help a person who is trying to figure out who God is in their life is a miracle. To stand beside a person in their doubts, fears, and questions and allow them to verbalize their true feelings – without judgement – and then direct them to what the Bible says is an incredible honor that we all need to actively participate in.
I loved being able to talk with people about how my race went. I was really encouraged by the support I received from people after the race was over. I am actually considering running another few races simply because of the feeling that I got from having people show interest in my running. I can only imagine what that feels like for others who have people who are interested in helping them along after praying a prayer. I think we need to be much more excited about doing that with people than just praying with them to accept Jesus.
Even more than that, I believe Jesus is counting on us to be the ones to reach out to those who are new in their faith and to make time with them a priority. Crossing a finish line doesn’t exist in the Christian faith. Not until death. Let’s help people continue along in their walk by following up with them. Let’s listen to the words of Jesus as He commands us to “go and make disciples”.
Who is it that you need to connect with? How are you helping someone along in their faith?
One of the greatest aspects of the Big Lake Half Marathon that I personally took note of were the people. There were so many fantastic people out on the course that were cheering us on and getting us what we need. It seemed like every other mile there were groups of people handing out water and gatorade. At every turn there was a police officer, fireman, or paramedic directing us along the correct route and clapping for us.
For me what was even more special about the crew serving to cheer us on were three individuals. Kyle & Danielle Juza, two of our incredible youth at Impact, were volunteering at a water station. As we passed mile 7 on the course I was feeling a bit tired. That when I saw Kyle & Danielle. They were yelling, cheering, and handing out gatorade to many thirsty runners. When they saw Jeff and I approaching the cheers, “Go PK! Go Jeff! You guys are awesome!” were heard by us. My legs felt lighter. The pain went away and I had what I needed to continue the run (the gatorade helped a bit too!).
Jeff and I chugged along looking forward to the end of the run and soon found ourselves near mile marker 10. Just ahead we recognized Cindy Towne. Cindy had come out to mile 10 to wait for us and cheer us on. Even more than that, she ran the last three miles of the race alongside us. Cindy has faithfully served with Kim and I at Impact for almost eight years and it saddened us a few weeks ago to send she and her husband Jeff out to move on to another church family. Her being at mile 10 to run the last portion of the race was an enormous support and yet another way that the Towne family has blessed me over the years.
In ministry we need people who will cheer us on. There may be people who don’t completely get what it is that we do but they still love us and support us. We need people like that. As I serve the teenagers at Grace Capital Church there are many adults who could never see themselves connecting with young people but they love the fact that I do. These people pray for the youth ministry, they support the ministry of youth camp with scholarship funding, they thank me for being faithful to my calling, and they speak well of the youth ministry to others.
We all need people like this that will surround us and cheer us on. Maybe they will never show up at an event that you put on but they serve in the background as support to you. Find these people, thank them for how they help you, inform them of things that they can pray for. You will find that when you have people like this around you ministry happens more effectively.
Where do you find your ministry cheerleaders? How have they helped you recently?
In January, when I registered to run the Big Lake Half Marathon, I contacted a close friend of mine. Jeff Cerow had been running for a while and had hinted at wanting to run a marathon at some point, so I knew that he was the one to connect with for a running partner. One thing I knew right from the start is that I would have a hard time completing 13.1 miles on my own. I knew that I would be able to do it but I also was keenly aware of the fact that it would be very difficult.
We all need co-laborers to join with us to get the tasks done. Jeff was more than just my running partner. Jeff served as a constant encouragement. He added a level of accountability to my running that I knew I would not have on my own. By knowing that Jeff had registered to run I knew that I had someone counting on me being able to run the whole race.
As we began the race Jeff and I laughed and made comments to each other about how we were both feeling. As the miles went on we spurred each other one to keep going. I remember very well around mile 6 when I put my hand on Jeff’s shoulder and thanked him for doing the run with me. I honestly don’t think I would have finished the run without his constant companionship on the road.
Gone are the days of solo ministry. The team approach to ministry has been tested and proven to be the most effective model for ministry. As we serve together we are encouraged, held accountable, and corrected when needed. Scripture exhorts us to “spur one another on” and that is what happens when we are connected in a healthy team environment.
The day of the race Jeff challenged me to go further than I thought I could, run faster than I thought I would be able to, and finish the race with my head held high. The pride I felt as I crossed the finish line was not due to my personal glory – I won no award that day – but knowing that I was able to accomplish what I had was largely in part to Jeff running alongside me. We all need partners who will keep us going when things get challenging, on the course of a road race or the course of life – we can’t go it alone.
Who do you have that spurs you on?
Towards the end of December I came up with a list of goals that I wanted to accomplish throughout 2009. The goals had a few key components in mind. I wanted to lose some weight so a few physical challenges were tossed into the mix. One of the physical challenges was to run a half marathon. That’s 13.1 miles of running. In order to get to the point where this would be a feasible goal I needed to train. I spent just over four months gearing up for this run. In those months I worked on building up my stamina and endurance.
We need to train in order to finish the race.
The fear that I had going into the race was that I would get swept up in the excitement of the start and take off too fast. In order to avoid this from happening I hung towards the back of the pack. I’ve been involved in many races in my younger years so I was well aware of how fast people take off and I did not want to have someone set a pace for me that I could not maintain over the course of the 13.1 miles. By hanging back I was able to establish my run and keep the speed that I needed to hold in order to have the needed energy to finish the run well. I didn’t want to get to mile 12 and have nothing left in me.
Training is essential for any athlete but I believe to translates to ministry as well. We must spend the needed time in God’s Word to grow personally before we can try and offer others help. We each need to be part of a daily feeding program where we are being equipped by the Holy Spirit through the Bible. By spending time reading the Bible each day and journaling on what we read we are able to grow in wisdom and in knowledge of who God is. Even more, we are able to allow the Holy Spirit work in our personal lives and bring about change that is needed within us. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts us as we read of how we should be living and it is the Holy Spirit that brings this correction in love.
The more time we put into our daily “training sessions” with God the more we will be able to handle all of the curves that are thrown our way. These times of training help us with endurance and stamina so that we can finish our lives well. Rather then running for a season and then losing steam and failing we are able to go for the long haul and finish strong. Pastor Peter made a great few examples this past Sunday.
“We spend more time of Facebook that we do on our faces in front of God.”
This statement resonated in me because there are many times when I can get caught up in checking my email, sending a text message, twittering to a friend, or checking my Facebook and I lose track of time. Now, I try and spend the first moments of my day with God as I journal through what I am reading in the Bible but there are days when I have done this and then just lost my pace. I have fallen victim to the time suck of the interweb. Many of us do this. It’s not too late. We can make mid course corrections that will help us stay on track. We can finish well. But we have to spend the necessary time training in order to make it.
Where do you need to regain focus in your life? What needs a bit more attention than it has gotten? What training do you need to get started on?
I’ll be posting a complete series this week called Lessons From The Run. These will be observations that I have made while reflecting on Saturday’s half-marathon that I ran. This series will begin Tuesday and go through Friday.
Check back often and feel free to comment.
My new sneakers arrived today from New Balance. Tomorrow morning I get to break them in. Stability and Shock Absorption. It’s like sweet love for my feet and I found them on clearance so it’s extra sweet love for my wallet.