Originally, I thought I'd title the post "Why I Run" because a lot of people think I'm crazy for running multiple miles 5 days a week. But running is not crazy. It's good for you! (just do a quick search and you'll find stuff like: http://www.runnersworld.com/health/nine-surprising-ways-running-helps-your-body). It's not for everybody, but it is beneficial. So running itself is not crazy. In fact, I like to quote Eric Liddel's character in the movie Chariots of Fire as to why I run:
I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure
Now, I'm not really fast, but I've always been slightly taller than others because I have long legs. Ever since I was a little kid I thought that God gave me long legs so I could run without taking as many steps as everybody else! Since I'm not very fast, I just run long distances. I'm currently training for my second marathon which has me up to 40+ miles per week that I run. Now that sounds crazy! So why do I KEEP running?
I've asked myself that a lot lately. I've hit the marathon training blues. A lot of mornings I don't want to get out of bed so early (which isn't even that early) just so I can start my day with a run before it gets too hot. But I go out running anyway. And as I run I'll cuss at myself a few times until I get warmed up or when I want to quit. But I keep going, and going. Why?
Because I'm growing, and getting stronger. It's not just physically, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I keep running because I'm training myself, disciplining myself. I keep running even when I don't want to because I have to. I have to because I have a goal in mind, but also because I'm becoming a disciplined person, a tough person.
We live in a culture that often says, "do what you want! do what feels good!" and "if it's not what you want or it doesn't make you feel good, then don't do it." We let the fulfillment of our preferences and pleasures dictate our psyche and our general demeanor and approach to life. I don't think that's healthy.
I keep running because it's preparing me for times in my job, in my family life, and in life in general when I have to do what's right even though I don't want to or I don't feel like it. Because I have a greater goal in mind. It's actually not my goal, it's God's goal: new creation, peace, love, joy, God's presence for everyone.
Running is a spiritual discipline. It is communion with God. It is developing me into someone who won't stop or give up, someone who will know to do what's right even if I don't want to or it doesn't feel good. I keep running because I want, I have to, I must. It may look crazy to train so many miles per week, but I want to be ready when the time comes. I want to persevere and have courage. Running trains me for that. So I keep running.
So a few weeks back, I wondered if there were any other pastors who fret over whether or not they're "selling out." After spending a week at church camp, and trying to get ready for ministry this fall, I'm ready to answer. First, let me say a little more about what I mean by "selling out."
Obviously, I don't mean getting paid a huge amount of money because pastors don't really get paid much (more than some, but not a lot). What I mean is: do I stray from my ideals in order to please pew-sitters or denominational authority? My ideal is this: ultimately, my life is to please God. If others happen to be pleased as well, then that's great, but my number one priority is pleasing God.
Honestly and unfortunately, the answer is "yes." I have from time to time tried to keep people happy simply so they would keep filling a pew on a regular basis and give their money. Yes, I have done things simply because the denominational higher-ups expect something a certain way. Just confessing that is freeing.
Here's what really concerns me though: I feel like I have to give my attention to a lot of things that aren't really making an impact. So often, I feel like there are competing expectations. The congregation expects me to take care of the people who are already Christian-Church-Attenders, and the "membership," but I feel God calling me to reach people in the community who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Now if I can mobilize the "membership" to join me in reaching the community, that would be awesome. That seems so difficult. Even impossible. In fact, I think Mark Love captures a bit of what I'm saying here:
Our [pastors] greatest fear is irrelevance...that what we say and do is making zero difference in your life.
So part of me is always wondering if I get too tied up in inward-focused churchy stuff instead of the God stuff. I ask myself: "Am I settling for less than what God intended?" Have I become okay with just allowing the status quo to continue because it keeps the "church people" happy?
The truth is, if keeping people happy is the goal, then I'll never reach it. I have to stay focused on pleasing God, even if it means questioning the status quo, changing things, rocking the boat...or leaving the boat...and even if it means some people are unhappy.
There's another voice that is speaking to me from Scripture right now. It's Matthew 25:21:
You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much
I think that's a reminder to me that little things can make a big difference. It's also a reminder to be patient and realize that the best results usually aren't immediate. That's encouraging because some of thing things that I think aren't making a difference...offered to God, who knows what He can do...maybe they're doing more than I realize. "With God, all things are possible."
I am a Software Developer, a career shift made in 2018. So far, I have experience with C# .Net and Angular. I continue to let curiosity lead me into learning new technologies. I plan to share what I learn along the way about technology and personal/career life. Previously, my vocation was United Methodist pastor. So in addition to coding, I'll share about theology, the Church and The Bible. I also enjoy running, music, and I'm a deeply committed father and husband. Maybe my experiences will help you. I know it helps me to share.