It’s been a while since I’ve shared any running lessons with you. Last spring, my sister asked me to run the Iron Horse Half Marathon with her this coming September. There are about 60 million runners in the U.S. and the National Runners Survey says that about 2 million of them will finish a half marathon. That’s 3%. In recent years, the half has become the most popular event distance. Perhaps because it’s a good balance of challenging and attainable.
Now my sister is almost 20 years younger than I am and has not only run half marathons, but she has full marathon under her belt. But I’ve run a couple of ten-mile races and the race is in September which gives me plenty of time to prep.
So I signed up.
Then I made a plan. I laid out a progression of long runs so I could hit my target distance and practice it a couple of times before race day. I planned how to gradually stretch out my intervals so I can increase my stamina and improve my overall times. I got a new pair of shoes and the best socks I have ever worn. Now it’s a matter of getting out and logging the miles.
And it was on one of those runs that I started thinking … How does the percentage of runners who run half marathons compare with the percentage of believers who share their faith? (No lie. Your brain thinks of all sorts of things during a run.) Statistics on sharing your faith are all over the place because they usually ask about the last six months. From both Lifeway Research and Barna, those stats are in the 20-30% range. That sounds great until we dig down into the numbers a little more. Rather than comparing that 20-30% to the 3%, it would be like asking a subset of runners who regularly run 20 miles a week whether they had run a half marathon in the last six months. The 20-30% is from a more highly motivated subset, weekly church attenders. If we look at all Christians, the number is more like 2%, as in 2% of people who say they are Christians have ever shared their faith.
That’s the most basic instruction Jesus gave us. So as I ran, I thought of some running-related reasons why we don’t share our faith.
Motivation – I’m running the half because my sister asked. Yeah, it was out there on my long-range plans somewhere, for someday, but it wasn’t urgent. My friends, Jesus didn’t ask us to share our faith, He commissioned us to. Besides that, the salvation message of our reconciliation and redemption is an amazing message. If those don’t motivate us, perhaps we should consider whether we have a genuine faith to share.
Training – I have to put in the time to train for the half marathon. I have to be disciplined and intentional. Granted some people could just up and run 13.1 miles and survive, but that’s generally not the recommended or the most effective way to do it. Surprisingly, many followers of Jesus Christ have never considered taking any training in how to share the Gospel. I’m in a class on Wednesday evenings right now, and not only is this maybe my first ever class, but only a slim percentage of the church is participating. We can be a witness for Jesus Christ from the first moments we’re saved, but with training, we can be even more effective. The disciples, Paul, Timothy, Titus–all those guys–were trained in how to proclaim the good news.
Equipment – Good shoes, socks, compression shorts, running app on my phone. All of those things contribute to my success both in training and on race day. When we witness for Christ, we need to be prayed up both for ourselves and for those we’ll be talking to. We need to know the redemption story. We need to know our story. We need to be good, compassionate, respectful listeners, too.
Plan – I have a plan for the half marathon. That way I know I’ll be ready on race day. If I didn’t have a plan and didn’t make an effort to stick to it, I promise the race will be a flop. In the same way, we should be planning how we’re going to share the gospel and then stick to the plan. Choose someone to share with. Pray daily for that person that God will prepare them and give you the opportunity.
Once the door opens fall back on your equipment, your training, and motivation to get you across the finish line.
For we do not market the word of God for profit like so many. On the contrary, we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God. 2 Corinthians 2:17
Have you shared the gospel lately? If not, which area can you concentrate on in the coming month? Motivation, training, equipment or planning?