I love running. That may seem like crazy talk to some of you. I fully admit that I do not completely understand it myself. As I've mentioned a few times before, I'm training to run in the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon which takes place in about seven weeks.
I've been running for both exercise and enjoyment for the past twenty years. While doing this, I've always been somewhat envious of folks who are part of specific running clubs (like this one in Savannah). If I'm ever able to transition to a job within JCB that allows me to work a more reasonable schedule I'm going to join.
Why would I join a running club? The reason is simple: encouragement. In fact, the church could learn a great deal from running clubs for just this reason.
Running clubs unite a group of people around one thing: running. The folks in the club enjoy discussing running, challenging one another, and encouraging each other through injuries, trials, and successes. Most of the people genuinely like to help others, giving all sorts of solid advice. The more experienced runners in particular assist the newbies, whether it be in what running shoes to wear, what to eat before a run, or where to train.
Not only do the members talk about running, but they also run together. They foster a family atmosphere and truly enjoy being together. Groups of this type almost always have a good amount of diversity. What unites them is running. The people want others to join the group and often almost proselytize about it. Frankly, they think running is just the greatest.
If you take what I've just described and substitute Jesus Christ for running, you have what the church should and can look like. While I'm not encouraging the unbiblical practice of "local church membership," I am suggesting that local bodies have the capacity to be sources of great encouragement to one another as they unite around the person of Jesus Christ. According to scripture, the church meets for the purpose of edification. What does this look like? Well, it appears much like a family gathering (because churches should be families). The people like to be together, help one another, think Jesus is the greatest, and desire to share him with others. Or, at least this is how it should be.
The church can learn a lot from running clubs. Let's hope it does.