DALTON, Ga. — "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, but now has nine others. And that's just the start.
"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.
"It's a true beginner's 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 never before has 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."
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. 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 "This is the first time I've seen it combined with the Bible."
Jason Denson, who is organizing the class at Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church, said 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 throw 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. . .,."
David Redmond 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."