This weekend I participated with some great guys from Sun Valley Community Church in the Tough Mudder event happening next to our East Mesa campus. The experience triggered a few thoughts of comparisons to following Jesus and our leadership culture at Sun Valley.

Why would anyone do this anyway? Thousands of people paid a decent price tag to run, climb, swing, run, crawl, and fall in mud, icy water, and endure other creatively painful obstacles all under the Arizona sun. Part of the answer became apparent as we prepared to begin the event as the very energizing emcee of the event rallied the participants (aka “mudders”). A few observations from this experience made me think about the church.

One question the emcee asked stood out: “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” A big part of the appeal of the Tough Mudder was the challenge. Not so much the race, but the team work and grit needed to do push through physical and mental challenges of the course.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

It was also very clear that a great part of the appeal is the sense of team and community that you experience at the event. One of the sayings is that “There are no strangers on the course, just teammates you haven’t met yet.” The tone of the race wasn’t competition against others but accomplishment with others.

So, Jesus followers… let me ask you a couple things.

When it comes to following Jesus, when was the last time you did something for the first time? You are the hands and feet of Jesus on earth. When he wants to provide  care for someone, who does he work through? You. When he wants to defend the defenseless, who does he use? You. When he wants to create strong marriages and families, who does he use? You. What’s impossible for us is possible for God. At Sun Valley we believe that we have a big God, so we take big risks and trust him for big results.

Secondly, are you part of the team? If you’re like many in our culture, you long to belong. You want to be part of something bigger than you. You want to be part of a meaningful team. You want to see the challenging hill and take it. At Sun Valley we want to take the hill and we want to take it together. 

Are living as an isolated Christian? Stop it. You can’t be a movement alone. The church is a body. It’s a family. It’s a movement. The church is a gathering of saved people who serve people. We’re a group of forgiven people who forgive and found people who find people. You can’t follow Jesus alone because Jesus invites you into a team that he is leading to take the largest hill imaginable.

Jesus said about the church was building that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). To clarify let me ask you question: have you ever been attacked by a gate? I didn’t think so. Gates are defensive. It is the church that is to go on the offensive. We are the team that Jesus has called to take the hill and the defenses of hell are not able to stand the attack of Jesus’ church!

So who are we attacking? Let’s be really clear here: we aren’t attacking people. Instead, we are attacking the evil forces that are keeping people captive. We’re the ram that Jesus is using to break down the gates of hell to set people free. So let’s go church! Let’s take big risks for our big God! Let’s take the hill and take it together!

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