A few years ago I did the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. This is a 160 km cycle around Lake Taupo in New Zealand. This was, by far, the longest cycle I have ever done. And I did it on my mountain bike!
Now, in order to do this race you need to train and put a large amount of time and some money into it. You cannot just show up on the day and cycle 160km. Some people might, but most can't. So for my training I did two rides a week; one big one that progressed up until 120km, and one small ride, half the distance of the big one.
At the start of training the time commitment wasn't that large but as the training progressed it began to take up more and more of my week. On top of the time that I needed to put in, came the nutrition requirements of my body as I pushed it harder. Also my bike had to get a few little gadgets and spare tubes, bottle holders, etc. All this was before the actual race day.
Then the race day came and it was both hard and awesome! The weather was stunning, and the atmosphere was alive with a collective anticipation that had built up over months.
I started strong and was feeling good. The first hill is always hard, but I was pumping. I got a couple of flat tires and had my fair share of embarrassing problems. But I did it. And it was well worth the effort. Make no mistake it was a big effort (I fully enjoyed the leg and buttock massage at the end)!
It wasn't until the prize-giving that I heard of the Enduro class... My 160 km ride was one lap, but these crazy people in the Enduro class do two, four, or eight laps. That's 1280 km! It takes about four days to do the eight lap race, and if they get it wrong it can take them six days.
Now, I thought my 160 km ride was big, and it was, but what amazed me about the Enduro race was just how much time and energy people put into it because there was a clear target to hang on the wall.
The strange thing when you do something like this is that while you are doing it you are grilling yourself, “Why on earth did I decide to do this? I will never ever, ever, ever do this again!” However, when you finish the race you think, “What do I train for now?”
Why would these crazy cyclists do this you may ask? I believe that people desperately want to be captivated by a dream that demands the best out of them. For many, endurance sport provides at least a temporary fix for this desire.
The other month I had coffee with a very good friend. This friend told me that he had decided to stop going to church. He just didn't have time for it anymore. Now, this person had been involved seriously in ministries and I knew him very well. He had once been passionate about the Church. I understood why he was leaving church, but I was deeply saddened.
Funnily enough, the same day I had another friend in a similar situation tell me the same thing, and I am seeing this happen more and more to my peers as we enter into adulthood. I am currently 24. I know that these two are able to give so much more to the Kingdom, and if they don’t, who will?
This causes a deep question to well within me, “Why aren't people being captivated by the Gospel and by what the Church could be?”
I think that the answer is that they don't have a dream that captivates them. They cannot conceive what the Church could be or what the Gospel truly is. It is not that their involvement in the Church became too hard or that they burnt out.
To paraphrase Tony Compolo, “People are not walking away from church or faith because it is too hard, but because it has become too easy and demands very little of them.”
If all that Jesus demands of us is that we turn up to church and give some money, then of course we are going to get bored, apathetic and distracted. We can handle being stretched, being in pain, not having money to spare, being criticised, and the like.
But we cannot handle a seemingly meaningless life.
The sad thing is that if Jesus does not captivate us, something else will. It is then that people will turn and be consumed by other dreams, usually money, image, pleasure, power and the like.
About ten years ago, I remember having a vision of this small candle in a dark room. I could see nothing else but the small, pale flame. Then as I kept watching I saw another candle appear, also weak and pale. And then another. And another.
Slowly the room began to be filled with all these little, pale candles. But as these candles came together, they stopped being small pale candles and—together—became a blazing torch. I remember quite clearly thinking to myself, "Wow! This is what the Church could be like!"
I didn't think much of it at the time, I would only have been around fourteen, but I now think that this abstract and ambiguous little dream has hugely shaped my life and helped lead me through a theology degree, youth work, and it has given me this desire to communicate. This dream is consuming me.
The crazy thing is that all of us have these little ideas or dreams in varying levels. That vision I saw was little more than a picture. I know my two friends had them too.
We can let those dreams die if we do nothing with them and all they will become is bitterness and discouragement. We actually have to do something about the dreams that we have. We have to give time, pain, money. Seriously, I have seen people puke because they physically pushed themselves so hard. How much more should it be for the Kingdom?
Maybe this is what Jesus talks about when he says the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed—a tiny idea that goes viral in the minds and hearts and hands of the people who receive it. Because when you get a glimpse (and that’s all a dream might be—a glimpse) of what God could be doing, you will stop and say, “That is beautiful! I want to see that again!”
I pray that you who are reading this are reminded of the dreams that captivate you, and are encouraged to make those dreams the target you hang on the wall, and give it everything!
Jared Diprose is a self-employed Artisan. He has a degree in Theology, and believes that words shape worlds. He is married to Sierra. You can see some of his work at www.jareddiprose.co.nz or on instagram ‘@jareddiprose’.
Jared Diprose’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jared-diprose.html
Jared Diprose is a graduate from Carey Baptist College in New Zealand. He has been a youth pastor, and currently is working as a freelance contractor. In his spare time, he makes surfboards.
Jared Diprose’ previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jared-diprose.html