DALTON — “Lay aside everything that entangles you and run with endurance” ~ Hebrews 12:1
Mitchell Hollis said he was just trying to help a small group of people.
But it quickly spiraled into much more.
“I don’t know where this thing is headed now,” Hollis said. “It’s gotten far beyond me.”
Hollis developed a 12-week program called “Run for God,” which combines Bible study with a 5K training program. It began as a program for members of his home church, Grove Level Baptist on Cleveland Highway, who were interested in running. But he now has nine other churches in Whitfield, Murray and Catoosa counties committed to begin the program the week of July 12. He said many others across the nation are now interested in the devotional.
“It started off as something small that I was going to do with my church,” said Hollis, an avid runner for the past five years. “I was trying to do something to help others that are interested in running... The parallels between endurance while running and endurance in your faith are similar.”
Participants have a study guide to review throughout the week. Then they come together for class once a week for 12 weeks. The first half of the class each week is spent studying the Bible. The second half of the class reviews topics beginning runners need to know, such as proper nutrition and running shoes.
By the end of the 12-week class, participants should be able to run a 5K, Hollis said. The next class will begin the week of July 12 so participants will be ready to run in the 5K during the Dalton Half Marathon on Oct. 16, he said.
“It’s a true beginners runners course,” he said. “It takes people who have never run before, who can’t run from one end of their house to the other, and takes them to a 5K.
“A lot of the passages (in the Bible study) are from Paul,” Hollis said. “He used the analogy a lot in the Bible. There is verse after verse that basically talks about running. It was really an eye opener for me.”
Hollis has never taught a class or created a Bible study before, but he felt he was being called by God to develop “Run for God.”
“I ask myself why me,” he said. “Why was this not put on... a renowned author. God knows there’s no way I can take credit for this. I’m just a builder here in Dalton. It takes some people years to do this, but God made it happen in six months.”
Hollis didn’t seek out to create a new program. He’d hoped a similar one had already been created, but he wasn’t able to find a study devoted strictly to running.
“A lot of the material is stuff I borrowed from other people,” he said. “I was able to obtain copyright from everyone I asked. Not one person turned me down. About 30 percent of the Bible studies are mine. About 70 percent are other people’s, but they weren’t in a tight package for running. Other (devotionals) hit the highlights.”
Lamar Starks, who is organizing “Run for God” class at Rock Bridge Community Church in downtown Dalton, said he has never seen a Bible study quite like “Run for God.”
“I think this is a great program,” said Starks, who has been running for 12 years. “I’ve had several ask me to put programs together for them (to begin running). This is the first time I’ve seen it combined with the Bible. I think it is sound from a running standpoint and from a devotional standpoint.”
Jason Denson, who is organizing the class at Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church on Cleveland Highway, said many times people “just want to go out there and run” without preparation. And many times, church members want to “throw” a new Christian into roles in the church without guidance.
“You can’t just go out there and run a marathon,” said Denson, who says he’s been running most of his life. “It’s the same with being a Christian. You can’t just thrown them out there. We’ve got to prepare ourselves and new believers.”
He believes Run for God does a good job at tying those two concepts together.
“There’s a lot more about being a Christian than just going to church,” Denson said. “You’ve got to run the race and fight the fight... We’re looking for a bonding time between members and several non-members to come together and talk about running and how our spiritual life is so much like the preparation for a race.”
David Redmond is organizing the program for Sumach Cumberland Presbyterian Church on Ga. Highway 225 in north Murray County.
“I think this day and age people are always looking for ways to improve their health,” said Redmond, also an avid runner. “This is not only a chance to improve people’s health, but a chance to improve their spiritual lives too.”
He likes how the concept of running is tied into the Bible study.
“Life is treated like a marathon and not a sprint,” Redmond said. “This concept really applies that.... It’s a great concept trying to get people closer to God and stronger in their faith.”