“I am not alone.”
Those were the words that pounded through my head as my feet pounded the track that blustery, cool afternoon in November. Anyone who would have peered through the stadium gates to look onto the track that day would have felt otherwise; there was this girl in the blue running shorts, racing down the straightaways and the curves, again and again.
It was a 5K time trial, and I was attempting to walk on to an NCAA Division 1 team who had a reputation for sending athletes to the Olympics. But it was a time trial done alone, racing the clock by myself, no competition or teammates around me. Anyone watching would have seen one man standing at the starting line—the coach of the distance team– holding a stopwatch, glimpsing down at it each of the twelve times I looped that track.
“But what if?”
Those were the words my old coach from the Club team I had been a part of had spoken to me after I had placed as an “unattached” runner in a college race. “What if you went out for Varsity?” I remember looking into his eyes and seeing a reflection of myself in them that I hadn’t seen. I had heard the stories of my male teammates who had tried out before, gotten frustrated with the coach who did not like walk-ons, and decided to stick to running Club. But Coach Jonas, who pushed me in practice, saw something in me, something more I was made for. Yes, in my freshman year of college, I had become a rising distance runner after only running sprints in high school, who had discovered a new gift—perhaps a calling—to do something more, to run with the “big dogs,” or so they say. But to get there, I’d have to enter a world where I would feel alone.
But I would never actually be.
Alone? Or Just Feeling Lonely?
Seven years forward from that time trial, I found myself entering another world where it would be easy to feel alone– God called me to take a step into the stadium of ministry. As with my distance running experience, I hadn’t known it was even possible for me to enter ministry, let alone the world of church planting, until I put one foot in front of the other.
My naiivite preceded me: I didn’t know people planted churches. I was the first woman I heard preach. As a newbie to ministry who still felt unchurched herself, I attended a meeting with seasoned male church planters twenty years my senior who spoke sadly about the troubles their churches were facing, how they were thinking of quitting, how they felt so alone. I remember speaking with my senior pastor and mentor, Frank, on the drive back, asking questions, secretly fearing if once I left my home church launchpad that I, too, would be alone in this crazy Kingdom calling.
Aloneness can be paralyzing. I had already encountered verbal opposition from strangers, from friends, even from family. I was afraid of running alone, of becoming one of the statistics of burnout and friendlessness I had read in my crisp new church planting books, afraid of becoming like some of the planters I had met who seemed to have a lot of things going for them but who were on the edge of quitting the team altogether.
Was there a reason I didn’t know any other women who were called to church planting? If I was really called to do this, would I be alone?Was there a reason I didn’t know any other women who were called to church planting? Click To Tweet
But What If?
“But what if?”
As I wrestled with taking steps in my call to ministry, I was reminded of that blustery day on the track when I was fighting an internal battle of insecurity, fear, and doubt. I was churning the questions of why I was doing this, having thoughts that I could quit running at any lap, praying to God for this race to be the end of this ongoing tryout of the last two months that the coach had been using to weed me out. The wind was against me. And feeling alone in it almost made me stop running.
But then I saw him. He was in his work clothes. He vaulted over the fence at the 300-meter mark and onto the track.
And he cheered.
Seeing my Club Coach there, cheering from the sidelines, the gears in my brain shifted. “I am not alone—and I will do this.” I didn’t feel the wind I was running against, I didn’t see the Varsity coach with his stopwatch, I didn’t see the vacancy of the track or the impossibility of the task I was up against.
I only saw what I was called to do. And I did it.
Knowing that you’re not alone can be enough. It was enough to thrust the disciples forward from their comfy Upper Room and into the streets and surrounding nations. It was enough for me as I entered the strange track of being a female church planter, with a whole cheering section of men and women of God named Frank, Ken, Todd, Bud, Mark, Chris, Janelle, and Gaye on my sideline.
It can be enough to sideline opposition and put enough gas in your tank to fuel a God-sized vision. It can be enough to encourage a young woman or man to pursue a difficult calling, to inspire a disciple to reach an unreachable neighborhood, to break the barriers of gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status that threaten to quench the Spirit. It can be enough to propel you forward when the winds change, the crowds leave, your legs get heavy, and you begin to look around and start to wonder what the heck you’re doing. I’ve found that the places I’ve felt most alone are the places where I need to look up and see who God has strategically placed in my life and in whose life God had strategically placed me.
It’s in those places, with those people from the sidelines where God strengthens me to take another step when I’d rather take a seat, where I become the cheering section, jumping over the fence for a newbie. It’s why I go to conferences and ask questions and engage in conversation with leaders, old and young—in search of the old, familiar exclamation “me too!”
Who is cheering you? Who do you need to cheer?
Ministry can be an empty stadium—but it doesn’t have to be.Ministry can be an empty stadium—but it doesn’t have to be. Click To Tweet
**Kris Beckert will be at the Exponential East Conference in Orlando, FL April 25-28, 2016 and would love to meet up with fellow female and male church planters from Missio for a bunch of “me too!” moments. You can shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.