I recently came across an entry on Competitor.com's staff blogs entitled My Weekend Ritual . Given the title of this blog, I'm sure it's no surprise why it caught my attention.
The part of the article that most caught my attention was Mario's claim that "[his] Sunday routine isn’t much different from
[his] friend who attends services with his family and then heads out for coffee and pastries afterward." Before I dive into my opinion on this, let's look at Mario's reasoning:
"... for me, running long on Sunday morning, either with others or sometimes by myself, is a form of worship and a time of reflection. It’s how I choose to celebrate life and appreciate the beauty of the world around me. Like my non-running friends who do attend weekly religious services, every weekend I’m introduced to new friends, gain insight into a variety of different issues and inevitably learn something new about myself."
The running community looks at the long Sunday run and the gatherings after as the perfect opportunity to commune with fellow runners, get in some good training and escape from the general pace of life for a few miles. Next to the chance to look studly at the local 5k, it's one of the biggest selling points for recruiting new members to our crazy little hobby.
The similarities of these two happenings are many: a gathering of people, atypical clothing, and the possibility of self discovery. However, the claim that running and church-going are analogous doesn't quite work for me. Here's why:
Impetus - The act of corporate worship is something Christians (should) do out of obedience. Hebrews 10:25 encourages us to "not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another" and Acts reminds us that the early Church is a model to follow in terms of meeting together regularly. Running groups are formed, usually, out of a personal desire to have fun, acquire some motivation or just to be social. So as one event is done out of obedience and the other out of pleasure driven choice, the two are dissimilar.While I do think a group of believers could worship God while running and successfully build each other up in the faith as they click off the miles, I don't think that is what is being discussed in the article.
Purpose - The purpose of corporate worship is to give honor and glory to God. He defines the worship experience, not the worshipers. Weather we enjoy it or not, weather we feel like it or not, Christians owe it to our Creator to pay Him homage. The purpose of the Sunday run, however, is a blend of personal enjoyment and improving bodily health. God certainly wants his children to be happy and healthy, but that doesn't mean acts that lead one towards health or happiness are necessarily worship.
Presence - Matthew 18:20 points out another important distinction. Matthew tells us that, unlike worshiping the sea while swimming or nature while trail running, God is with His followers as they worship Him. One can only be in the sea or among nature. God isn't off in the distance receiving praise; He participates in worship. As the Holy Spirit moves in the heart of worshipers, He personally interacts with his followers.
Although I do see the similarities, and although I certainly enjoy both running and corporate worship, I don't think I can support the claim that running groups are anything more than seemingly similar to worship groups.