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Running the race set before us

Published: 29th August 2023

Archdeacon Nikki GroarkeAn article for October editions of parish magazines, from the Archdeacon of Dudley, Nikki Groarke.

In August (as I write this) I often have the joy of several weeks of meeting-free evenings – otherwise a relative rarity for clergy! I love it when this coincides with athletics on TV, so when I am not out running, I can watch other people doing so much faster than me! This year it’s been the World Athletics Championships in Budapest. A highlight for me was Katarina Johnson-Thompson winning gold in the heptathlon. Not just because she is a brilliant all-round sportswoman, but because the journey she has been on is so inspiring.

We can learn much about the life of discipleship and growing as kingdom people from the dedication of sportsmen and women. Discipleship involves spiritual disciplines of prayer and worship, and a training regime of sorts, and in the epistles we are encouraged to ‘run the race set before us’, to persevere, to fix our eyes on the goal.

KJT, as she is known, has struggled with injuries and setbacks since her last gold medal in 2019, to the extent that she describes a loss of love for her sport, doubts and dwindling confidence, swayed by the negative comments she dwelt upon. She almost gave up. But she has spoken frankly about choosing to stand up to the doubters, and to believe there was more. She got a new coach and got back to training.  On winning she said, "I committed to the vision and committed to trying again. I committed to getting my heart broken - and this time I didn't. It's all come good and I'm so happy."

Some of us may feel from time to time like giving up on our Christian journey of discipleship. Maybe we occasionally lose hope that the church we have been part of for so long can ever become healthy and thrive again. We listen to the doubters, the negative press, and wonder if it’s really possible for our church to grow. We might find ourselves ‘forsaking our first love’ for Jesus, like the church in Ephesus as described in Revelation, not sure we can keep going.

But let’s persevere, take the risk of trying again, being vulnerable to disappointment, and see what God does. My experience is that God is faithful even when I lose heart, that when I find a vision I can commit to, my faith begins to stir again, and the race once more seems winnable.

We have a vision in this diocese to grow as Kingdom People in healthy and sustainable churches, to see a hundred new worshipping communities formed, healthy churches in our largest population areas resourcing others, and double the number of children and young people engaging with faith. That’s a vsion I can get excited about, and I hope you can too. As we commit to fulfilling that in our own way in our very different churches, I suspect new life will emerge, our first love will be restored, and there will be celebrations on earth and in heaven, even more joyous than those for athletic golds!

Page last updated: Tuesday 29th August 2023 8:17 PM

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