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Going the Distance

Posted by David Manske , 22 September 2012 · 1221 views

I'll confess - I like to run, especially in the mornings. Running clears my head, long runs give me lots of time to see God's hand all around me, to meditate and to pray sans earbuds. Allow me to use running as a metaphor to bridge to an aspect of Christian ministry.

Running long runs I've seen people sprint, jump, gimp and walk across the marathon's finish line. Throughout the 26.2 miles, the temptation to quit is ever-present, especially as you watch people drop out along the way. Once I saw a man struggling for a couple miles around marker #21. A while later he dropped his shoulders, lowered his head, turned to the left and walked off the course telling spectators he was done...at mile 23. There are lots of elements to running a good marathon, and a zillion things that can go 'wrong.' But, everyone runs it with the goal of finishing, and hopefully finishing well.


Last week I was at a meeting about missions, involving lots of local churches and ministries. Three international workers formed a panel. Two were long term in Thailand. One, a 20-something child of international workers himself, ministers today in Amsterdam (the same city in which he was raised). The participants were offered a chance to ask questions. A few did. Then a 20-something asked if there was any way she and her friends (they meet on Thursday nights, have a FB group, and are really interested in missions)...she asked if there was a way they could be 'incarnational missionaries' without the need to be involved in it long term. The young man from Amsterdam jumped at the chance to answer her sincere question. Very eloquently, he explained that to follow Christ into vocational ministry overseas is a calling, and often involves (out of necessity) long term service and commitment.

[Segue...still with me?]

People run long distances for different reasons. Why do people follow Christ to different cultures? Why go "long term" to different contexts to represent Christ to the people living there? Why do people go "long distance" in vocational, cross-cultural ministry?

Join me for a run...and together we can talk about themes like:

- is there a vocational calling (for me)?

- how do we live resilient Christian lives?

- is there still a place for "the perseverance of the saints" (using an old theological term)?

- what about cultural adaptation and contextualization as part of the incarnational model of mission?

- how does 'going the distance' look for you and me?

...and during the whole run our conversation would be full of joyful interjections of God's greatness and His Church as seen in that great choir cited in John's book of Revelation!

I look forward to the conversation -- let's run together for (quite) a few hours!

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace.

...the inspired words of Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles

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