This morning I got out early for a run, heading to Prospect Park. Suddenly, I came face to face with the Brooklyn Half Marathon, and 25,000 runners of all shapes, age, ethnicity, and condition. I meandered to the starting area, and noticed that runners were passing, and so I turned and ran down a sidewalk, parallel to this human mass of strain and effort, a stampede really, but with a kind of rhythm and cadence. Every runner running his or her own race, yet all headed for the same destination. When I left the sidewalk and entered this human stream, something happened that nearly took my breath away. I felt a force of energy lift me and carry me along. I had entered the race, albeit illegally, but nonetheless I became a participant. I looked around me, and noticed that every runner’s face was locked in front of them, side by side, behind and around each other, this human energized herd of purposed athletes, forming a vortex of force that carried me in it’s arms.
At one point, I stopped and snapped a picture, and then resumed, but suddenly noticed I had dropped my keys. At that instant, several runners went into action. Two or three shouted that keys had hit the ground, one runner picked them up, waved them, saw they were mine, and handed them to another who placed them in my hands. This team effort struck me as odd, but then I realized that these individuals were not alone in their pursuit, but had become a movement, a force so dynamic and energized, that nothing would stop it’s progress, until each had crossed the finish line. Their pain and agony had welded them together with purposed solder.
The parallel to spiritual Movement is not hard to draw. Typically, churches and organizations defend lonely outposts for the Gospel’s proclamation. They are each an individual runner, training for the big day. What we fail to do, however, is enter the race. By that I mean, we do not cross invisible lines of orthodoxy, or doctrine, race and ethnicity, in order to find ourselves side by side with others heading for the same destination. We don’t step across the sidewalk. If we are culturally astute, we watch the race while we run parallel, but do not enter the raging current of human effort to find by any means a better, more relevant and more unified way of reaching an ever secularized culture. We are missing the best part of the mission! When we step across the sidewalk, and into the race, we are lifted beyond the efforts of our own, and are carried in the arms of a spiritual force, which cannot be found in our lonely outposts. I think if Jesus were here, He’d be first on the line with his Asics laced, stretching, laughing and willing those around him to join hands and get into the race—together!
When my keys fell from my pocket, I didn’t hear them drop, until after someone had sprung into action. All around me, that unique group of perfect strangers had organized a loose strategy to return keys to whoever had dropped them. But that just happens in a movement. We do not reach the world by committee, but do so as we align our hearts with others; “that” church down the block, or this organization, to serve one another, to acknowledge the journey is difficult, to smile in the face of pain, and to join hands with perfect strangers because something invisible wills us to. That invisible Presence Who sits on the throne of every believing heart. He is the only Person that matters, and He will help us join hands to bring a united face to a world watching what we’re truly made of.
After a mile of running, I was ready to peel off. But I first had to run through a gauntlet of spectators. This is what surprised me to the most. When the sea of individuals I had run with crossed the threshold of grandstands, and heard the roar of the crowd, that moment we literally sprung forward. It’s hard to describe, except from every heart adrenaline surged because of the support and love coming from those watching our effort. We in the church also have a great crowd watching us, yet too often we forget. We need that spiritual adrenaline, found in the moments we unite our hands and hit our knees, asking God for the impossible. Asking God to lift our eyes to see that great cloud of witnesses. Prayer is the safest first step to take across the chasm of our fears. When this happens we can better use our lonely outpost to not just defend the ground He bought with His blood, but take ground our enemy has wrongfully stolen.
We must keep our mission Christ, and Christ alone. Do we preach the cross, such foolishness to the world, but the power of God? Do we ask for hearts so in love with God, that prayer is not intention, so much as a natural response to invitation? Do we reach across the chasm of fear, hatred, and lonely outpost mindedness, to join the race with fellow soldiers and trust God for a movement that would change the world? I think a lot of us will spend a lot of time in heaven shaking our heads over how silly we were to think that defending a lonely outpost was good enough, and how easy it could have been to join hands across the sidewalk.