In reading Hebrews 13 this morning, that excellent passage about being "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run the race that is set before us", I was struck by the uncomfortable idea that I might be running the wrong race. Lily Tomlin was once quoted as saying that "the problem with the rat race is that if you win you are still a rat." What race am I running? The race Hebrews 13 tells me I am supposed to be running is a race to perfection -- that is a race to becoming as much like Jesus Christ as possible. This race requires that I walk as close to God as is possible.
John Eldridge's book "Walking with God" tells about this journey. His assumption is that what our progenitors, Adam and Eve, had -- walking with God in the coolness of the evening breeze -- is what we are supposed to have. Learning to walk with God (let alone run the race) is the goal and meaning of life. Learning is the key, like anything else worth having and doing we have to practice (practice the presence of God, Brother Lawrence used to call it) and we need to be coached, encouraged and we need to persevere.
Which brings me back to "what race am I running?" Well, I want to succeed. But whose definition of success will I follow? Will I take the US corporate model -- bigger is better and its all about the numbers? In the case of the church this would be buildings, dollars and people in the pews. Will I take the typical human prideful competitive model which says that so long as I am ahead of you I am being successful? Will I take the therapeutic model that says that so long as I am comfortable and adjusted to where I am I will succeed? Whose model? What would a biblical model of success look like? What would a successful church look like?
I am becoming increasing convinced that success for the church cannot be measured by normal human measurements. Yes, growth will be a normal byproduct of a healthy church -- but it needs to be healthy -- cancer also grows. But the church was not created to count noses it was created to make disciples. The church did not begin with the mission of making everyone feel better, the church began with the mission of transforming the world. I believe that mission of transformation happens one person at a time.
So, the bigger question for me is how do I run this race with faithfulness? How do I live my life walking with God and in integrity? How do I lose the trappings of corporate America and lead a church into being an authentic community of Christ followers?
pray, grow, and walk with God