What Assemblies Can Learn from Marathon Training

I’m running a marathon in September. I’ve never run a marathon before. I’ve never trained for a marathon before. So, how does this marathon happen? I’ve had a training plan attached to my fridge since January. It contains a week by week delineation of how many miles I need to run, and what kind of training sessions. Fast, slow, hills, HIIT, long, short. It’s all on there. It details measurable steps to take and goals to reach, in order to be (theoretically) in marathon form come September.

After all, failing to plan is tantamount to planning to fail.

Catch the vision

The local assembly is not a marathon. (though they both have Sundays in common) Yet there is much an assembly could learn from a marathon runner about having vision and setting goals.

Where there is no vision the people perish. (Proverbs 29:18)

I know, I know. That vision means revelation or prophetic vision. Strictly interpreted. And there is not much of that these days. (none?)

But, in its plainest sense, vision is the faculty or state of being able to see. It’s the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.

Where do we see our assembly in 10 years? Where do we want to be in 10 years? Where does God want us to be in 10 years? What do we want to be doing? What do we want to have accomplished?

Some might feel that vision and goals smack of worldliness. It’s too business-like and not “Spirit-led”. But, as long as our goals align with things clearly revealed in Scripture, it would be spirit-led and not worldly.

Set some goals

Here’s are some goals that your assembly might have:

  • To still be a local gathering.
  • To have seen (many) people saved. (Matthew 28:19-20)
  • To have our current Sunday School and kid’s club children be active adult participants in the assembly. Mature, growing Christians, fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10)
  • For our local body to be an earthly representative of the multi-races and ethnicities that will be in heaven. (Revelation 7:9) (Our communities in North America and Europe are very multi-ethnic. And heaven certainly will be. Our churches should reflect that.)
  • To have raised up or be raising up a new generation of elders, Sunday school teachers, pianists, evangelists, disciplers, preachers and teachers. “And what you have received from me among many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
  • To have all generations represented in our gathering. Learning from the “grey-haired”. Encouraging the middle aged and families. Winning the youngest generations for Christ.
  • To be a light in our communities-people seeing our good works and as a result glorifying God. (Matthew 5:16)

How do we reach these goals? ‘Cause like running a marathon, you don’t just decide to run a marathon, and then do it the next day. (unless you are Nate Bramsen-who in fact did do that. But, most mere mortals don’t.) Reaching goals takes hard work.

Make a plan

We know where we want to be, so how do we get there from here?

  • Pray for direction.
  • Write down goals, and regularly review. Evaluate progress, and adjust as necessary.
  • Don’t be overwhelmed or discouraged by the enormity of the task.
  • Utilize the variety of gifts in your assembly…evangelists, preachers, teachers, organizers…Many hands make light work.
  • Examine curriculum and preaching. Is it furthering the goals of evangelism, discipleship, training?
  • Be creative. Try new ideas.

Keep your eyes on the prize

As you observe runners, the ones who win aren’t the ones who are looking backwards. They use their ears to stay aware of where the other competitors are in relation to themselves. As a runner, looking back slows you down and can trip you up. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Or in the words of Paul

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)


What’s your assembly’s 10 year plan? 

Bernadette Veenstra


  1. Avatar

    What goals you would advise a church to set in order to be sufficiently multi-ethnic, and how you would evaluate their progress toward that end?


  2. Avatar

    Actually, the “vision” in your quotation means “view of the Law of God,” because “unrestrained” means “lawless.” You can also see this because of the parallel phrase in the end of the verse, which give the solution: “but happy is he who keeps the law.”

    Thus, there is no warrant at all in that verse for us seeking a human “vision.” Rather, the teaching is this: if you don’t pay attention to the law of God, you’ll be unrestrained; but you’ll be happy if you keep that law. It’s a plea for us all to spend less time getting our own “visions,” and more looking at the word of God.


    • Bernadette Veenstra

      Bernadette Veenstra

      I agree with your first paragraph, and should probably have elaborated on the “revelation” of that verse. In context it is what God has revealed about Himself in His word. I am of the camp that believes there is one interpretation of scripture, but many applications. Which is why I used the word interpretation in the statement. I believe that we can certainly apply this verse beyond the strictest interpretation. Thus asking ourselves, what do we see ourselves doing in 10 years? Where should we be? What does God want us to be doing? And those answers are certainly found in Scripture. Our vision for our assembly-the direction our assembly should take-can easily come, and should come, from commands and directives in scripture. Of which I listed several.


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