I could barely make out the finish line approaching in the distance. As I strained my eyes down Boylston Street, I reflected on how many runners had made a similar journey before me – how I was literally following in their footsteps. Yet as I crossed the line of Boston’s historic marathon, there was no moment of elation. No sense of accomplishment. Why? Well, I had not actually run the Boston marathon that day. I was merely running an errand. You see, the actual race had taken place weeks ago, but the finish line paint had yet to wear off!
What is the point of this story? In a word: context. Yes, I had crossed the finish line, but it had no meaning for me - nor should it! Yet the reality is that many Christians feel like that in their everyday lives, their Monday to Saturday lives. Like me at the ‘finish line’, they have little sense of joy or accomplishment in what they do, whether it is at work, at school, raising children, whatever. It’s just another day.
Yet as we read Scripture, we find a much a bigger story that God has invited us into—His Story. We understand that He has not only redeemed us, but that He has redeemed us for a purpose (Ephesians 2:8-10). Everyday we have a part to play in the unfolding of His eternal plan, even if we are not completely aware of exactly how. And we will all cross the finish line. But I wonder, will we all cross knowing the significance of the Story we have been a part of?
If you are a pastor, one great way to help Christians understand where their lives fit in God's purposes is to visit them in their everyday places. Neil Hudson pointed out in his book Imagine Church that pastors often spend most of their time with two groups of people: leaders and those in pain. However, that leaves perhaps 70% of congregants who do not receive as much attention. Find one of these people, and ask if you could visit them where they spend most of their time – their 'frontline'. The point is not to minister to them, but to help you develop an understanding of their everyday context. This will then enable you to be in a better position as their pastor to equip them when you gather on Sunday.
Similarly, if you’re a congregant, invite your pastor to where you spend most of your time. Help him or her understand the situation where you are seeking to live as a disciple of Jesus, including the opportunities and challenges you face there.
No, we won't all have a chance to run the Boston marathon. But we do all have an opportunity to help each other "run in such a way as to get the prize" (1 Co 9:24). May He help us do so with both wisdom and grace!