A few years back a friend of mine challenged me to run the Chicago Marathon with him. I’d never run a race before, but my competitive edge led me to take on the challenge, and I got to work. I never trained so hard in my life. Hours of my days were devoted to getting into shape and preparing. I ordered running magazines, researched workout plans, learned about proper diet, was schooled on shoe tech, and even discovered how important it is to think about proper clothing. I became a disciple of marathons because I was going to run one.
When I ponder the reality that most Christians have never made a disciple who has also, made a disciple, I have harkened back several times to my experience with the marathon training. I got into shape because I HAD TO – it was a matter of necessity and survival.
Not only have many in the church never made a disciple who has then gone on to make a disciple, but many Christians would say they don’t feel equipped to do so. It seems to me that we could address the matter of “spiritually unfit” Christians from one of two approaches. We could address it like we address our problem with physically unfit Americans – build more health clubs (read: buildings and events), sell more fitness products (read: curriculum), host more seminars (read: classes) and work hard to make sure everyone has a personal trainer (read: mentor). No one would argue that we are lacking any of this in America. We have plenty of access to the resources necessary to be fit. However, all of us would agree – we are not much healthier as a result (read: not making disciples).
Or, we could look at it from another angle – what if we called every believer to get ready to run a marathon? (The apostle Paul was on to something here.)
Is it possible that the reason that the church is not spiritually fit is due to the fact that many church leaders are merely calling people to sit around and observe other spiritually fit missionaries perform in front of them? Let’s ask ourselves: “What are we calling people to that requires them to be spiritually fit?”
What if we called every believer to run the race of Jesus’ mission? What if every Christian believed they were called to full-time ministry in their schools, while at work, and interacting in their neighborhoods. What if they believed that life was the program and every moment is an opportunity for gospel ministry? What if Christians started to believe that the small group they were involved in could potentially be a core group of a new church in their community. And, that they might just participate in leading?
What if the church once again called her people, young and old, male and female, to get ready to be sent out as a disciple who makes disciples; to potentially start new churches everywhere? In fact, what if they all believed in two years they were going to be sent out to another city or country to not only make disciples but raise up new ones to do the same some where else?
I wonder - would they take their spiritual fitness and training a little more seriously?
To train in the race for spiritual fitness, study the gospels and learn from Jesus, then begin to engage in what you’re already doing in everyday life with gospel intentionality:
1. Make every meal a worship service. As you eat and drink remember Jesus as God’s provision for our deepest hunger and the Spirit as the thirst quenching presence of God in our lives. If every meal became a worship service, you would be attending about 21 worship services a week! Start eating with others more often. Eat with those who love Jesus and encourage and remind each other with the truths of Jesus at the table. Eat with those who don’t yet know Jesus and ask the Spirit to grant opportunities to bless them over a meal in deed and word. Invite people to join you at your table and serve them a meal as a picture of Jesus’ service to us. Eating is just one example.
2. Consider seeing your job and vocation as a place for ministry to happen. You spend about one third of your life working. Why not work with all of your heart unto Jesus as your ultimate boss. Worship him through your work. Engage in sports and recreation as ministry.
3. Rest and play in light of the Gospel. We can truly be at rest because of Jesus’ work and be playful because God is sovereignly in control. Start seeing life as the program and every moment an event Jesus wants to work through and invite others into your play. Relax on your front porch and pray for opportunities to connect with your neighbors. Prayerfully throw a party, host a game night, or a backyard BBQ and invite those God has laid on your heart. It’s simple, Jesus isn’t calling us to do more, but instead to simply invite those who don’t yet know Jesus into the things you’re already doing.
4. You don’t have to change your church or leave your church, just start being the church wherever God puts you. And honor the leaders he has placed over you. The tendency when learning new things is to be critical. Remain humble and thank God regularly for the leaders he has given you. Pray for them. Encourage them. And share with them what you’re learning as well. I don’t know a pastor who doesn’t want the people under their care to be on mission in the everyday stuff of life. They will be encouraged to hear how God is at work in and through your life everyday.
Maybe the reason why many aren’t growing up and becoming equipped is because they don’t have to. The life we are being called to doesn’t require us being spiritually fit.
There is a race ... the mission is on. Let the training begin...