I had a revelation (small r) today, while running.
Now, some of you may love running. Some of you may be pros. You may have been running for a long time.
To be completely up-front, today was only my second time running. I actually hate running. I’ve always said that running is okay if there’s a physical goal – like a basket or a base or someone is chasing me.
But, now that my kids are back in school, I’ve started running. Partly because it’s a relatively cheap form of exercise, and mostly because I can do it anonymously.
Again, some of you may love exercising in pairs. Some of you might enjoy group classes. I personally don’t like to sweat, stink, suffer, or embarrass myself in public.
And this, friends, brings me to my revelation. We need to go back to church.
To be honest, I’ve thought this for some time. As a music and worship director, I never really left church. Even when others were sleeping in, drinking lattes and enjoying brunch, snuggling in pajamas with their children– I know, the experience is probably not as cozy or lazy as I envision it– I was in the house of God making music. So, yes, it is with a certain amount of judgment that I think that (at least most) people should return.
But only today was I able to articulate one of the reasons why.
I’ve heard from some who have been at home during this pandemic that they miss church. They miss the fellowship. They miss hearing the people around them sing. They miss seeing people face to face. They miss the in-person “community.” Those people are longing to go back to church, and they probably should.
Others like being anonymous. They may be social, but they enjoy being comfortable. They may prefer to not be vulnerable. They don’t like to sweat in public. But the church isn’t meant to make us comfortable; it’s meant to challenge and support us in our race.
And then there are people like me, who, unlike running for exercise, have been “running the good race” for a long time… Maybe I don’t need the accountability quite as much. Maybe I won’t be suffering or vulnerable, because I generally know what I’m doing.
Frankly, megachurches have enabled anonymity for some time (and, not to put total blame on churches, many of us choose to stay anonymous wherever we go to church). But now, small- and medium-sized churches are offering the same comfort in the form of a little screen. We can “go to church” in our living rooms, and find community (maybe even serve!) in other ways – small groups on zoom, coffee with a mentor, worship with friends.
But what if church is a place where experienced runners and newbies are meant to collide? If the gyms are open but the athletes are at home, where can a new believer, seeker, or unbeliever find encouragement, support, or even the desire to start his or her race?
We need to go to church for them.
I guess since this is my blog, I can be a little harsh, like the apostle Paul. “You were running a good race. Who (or what) cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?”