Let’s take a journey together. A journey inside the crazy mind of a runner.
I am a runner. We are a weird bunch. We run to live. We run for stress relief. We run for fun. We eat to we can fuel for our next run. We sleep to recover for the next run. We chafe and hurt and sweat and run races and subject ourselves to immense pain and drudgery...all for what? A medal and a banana at the finish line? A sense of accomplishment and pride?
That’s me. I’m Andy, and I’m a runner.
I’ve run over 40 races in my adult life. Countless 5k and 10k’s. 9 half-marathons. 1 full marathon (and currently training for another one in November).
All of the races under a marathon are fairly easy. Enjoyable, even. But the marathon is a different beast. In fact, the first person to ever run it died.
So there’s that.
Contrary to popular belief, the worst thing about any marathon is not the dreaded “wall” that happens around Mile 20, when you are tired beyond belief, you’ve used up all of your carbohydrates, your feet feel like concrete blocks, and you frankly begin to question existence as a whole. There are tricks to get through the “wall” by bringing gels and food, water, Gatorade, and a killer Spotify playlist that kicks you into gear.
Mile 20 is a mile of triage.
No, the worst thing is Mile 24. Mile 24 may have been created by Satan himself.
See, you’ve gone through the pain and the agony. Your tricks are working. You’ve got enough energy in the tank. Your mind has been refreshed. You’ve read the text messages and cried the tears (yes, this happens). You’ve had that same Daft Punk song playing for the last 10 minutes. The miles start to slip away after 20.
And then Mile 24. You start to think about the finish line and food and a nap. You just know there is an end there. In some races, you can actually hear the finish line announcer. You sense the end is there.
You know the crowds are forming to watch how you’re ending the race. Head high? Falling over? Smiling? Grimacing? And there’s always the photographer there, ready to take a picture of your finish line crossing.
But you can’t really see all of it yet. And that’s the most frustrating thing of all.
Mile 24 is a mile of sheer frustration.
This season of ministry, for many, has felt like a marathon. More so than usual ministry.
We are seemingly smack dab in Mile 24 of our COVID-19 ministries, aren’t we? A season of frustration?
We can sense an end is coming. We may even notice some signs of it. Restaurants opening up. Hair salons taking clients. Retail allowing more and more percent of max capacity into their doors. Doctors starting to do elective surgeries. All wins! And all a sign that the finish line is THERE. (*picture me pointing fervently ahead*)
But churches haven’t been changing quite so rapidly. Many, if not most, are still hesitant on reopening for physical locations. That’s fine. But it means the same efforts on our parts as online guys and gals to keep the ball moving downfield.
We’ve gotten good at building margin into what has seemed to be a margin-less couple of months. We’re tired, but we’re still moving forward. Our creative minds are operating. Maybe not at 100% (or even 80%), but we’re communicating the Gospel.
But the finish to all of this seems So. Far. Away.
It seems that we’ve moved from a season of triage into a season of frustration.
Just like Mile 24.
Friends, let me Jesus Juke you a bit. You knew this was coming.
Because the writer of Hebrews has a lesson for us all:
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...” (Hebrews 12:1)
It’s our race to finish now. The world is looking at us. The crowds are starting to gather and the finish line is approaching.
Church Online has flourished under the intense pandemic pressure. And we’re now talking about “what’s next.”
But we need to finish this race first. The pandemic race.
Be encouraged today. Because Mile 24 is literally only one mile.
About 2000 average steps.
One day, the COVID-19 crisis is going to assuredly end. And your church is going to start to work with you (instead of, in certain cases, against you). They’ve all seen the benefits of what online church can do. And you will see the calling God has laid on your life, the “race” He has marked out for you to run, as one that will reach people in places that you never even imagined.
And you’re going to cross that finish line in style. Head held high, arms raised, victorious.
And then? You can go take a nap.
Stadia is getting ready to launch another round of their Phygital Learning Communities. Almost 70 churches right now are learning how to THRIVE, GROW, and MULTIPLY. We want to help your church learn how physical and digital can work together to achieve your mission and vision, meanwhile letting your Church, Online, be authentically you. Phygital Learning Communities are starting soon. Check out http://stadiachurchplanting.org/phygital for more information.