Hiking Boots

When you prepare to hike a mountain what shoes do you consider wearing? Hiking boots, trail runners, sneakers, flip flops? Wait, flip flops? We all need a shoe with good traction and strong ankle protection right?

In the Phoenix metropolis we have several rough, stony mountains suitable for trekking. I often hike in my flip flops setting aside the notion I must wear protective shoes.

In observing those around me, I witness varied types of hiking boots, a large variety of trail shoes but rarely flip flops. So why do I wear them? I am from a small ski town in Colorado. We wear heavy boots for almost 9 months of the year. Flip flops symbolize for me freedom from oppression. So, it’s cultural right? Well, yes and no. Because of my revolt against repressive footwear, I have become quite adept at scrambling on and around rocky terrain in flip flops.

We are told from the powers that be: we must wear shoes that have arch support, good traction, and ankle protection. It is believed, flip flops force wearers into an “unnatural,” toe-gripping, foot-slapping gait. Or so those that don’t wear flip flops; at least not on challenging terrain, would insist.  

Scarcity of “proper” footware outside the wealthy boarders of the United States forces many to adapt with sufficient alternatives. In the United States if we don’t have proper footware, we often don’t hike. We don’t adapt, make due, or find another way. We forgo.

I believe this originates from the widely held belief that if you play basketball, you wear basketball shoes. If you play tennis you wear tennis shoes. Our wealth affords us many options. However, it can cause us to hold on to some immovable beliefs that aren’t entirely true.  

Here it is: as many as 57 million Americans don’t won’t go to church[1]. They are distant, disillusioned, and disengaged from God and church feels like oppressive footwear to them. They have worn the burden of heavy “boots” for so long they want freedom from it. Too many examples exist of church representatives horribly misrepresenting Jesus. So, instead of choosing to worship Jesus apart from the organized corporate church, they forgo it.

Spiritual famine results. There aren’t alternative venues to becoming a disciple of Jesus. The disengaged often profess to be spiritual but not “religious,” so they wander aimlessly being tossed by every wind of teaching. The distant want to learn about Jesus but don’t know how. The disillusioned think Jesus is a weak fantasy because of misguided things they have been told.

China has house churches. On a large scale, we do not. Too often, we hold on to the immovable belief that the only way to learn about Jesus is to go to a church building where a pastor speaks and everyone listens. As a former science teacher, I am certain students only remember from 5 to 10 percent of what they learn from lecture (maybe a little higher for a really good teacher) and put in to practice an even smaller percentage. So, imagine how long it would take for new adult believers to grow in the knowledge of grace to maturity? And what happens when the enemy shows up with his clever scheming to uproot the budding tree? Without community their roots are shallow for a long time susceptible to being uprooted easily. And the sad fact is most won’t come to church to find the community they need.

I am one who observed church representatives horribly misrepresenting God on many levels in many ways. As a young woman in high school biology class, I concluded if evolution were true and there was no presence of God in the church then, Jesus is not true. I wandered aimlessly for the next twenty years.

Only 9 percent of committed Christ followers come to a saving faith over the age of 18[2]. In my experience, this occurs because there is almost no alternative to the church building to learn about Jesus in America. Television and radio ministries maybe, but they fall short in providing the appropriate community one needs to carry out what they are learning.

As a result, there is an epidemic of hurting people in this country. Addiction, broken families, perverted love, body mutilation, greed, celebrity worship, and depression rage like the plague.

I have come to learn peace and joy arise from a personal, intimate relationship with the ONE that saves us from sin and death. Our creator longs to rescue us, redeem us, and restore us to perfect communion with Him. We do not have to wait for heaven to experience peaceful rest from the evil in this world. He wants us to have it on earth as it will be in heaven. He overcomes evil.

Countless Americans say they want to learn about Jesus but, from a trusted friend in a loving confidential environment where they can ask questions and interact. But, we force them to first put on “hiking boots” before they are allowed to join a small group – ouch.

I am suggesting we start small groups apart from connection to a bricks and mortar church. I am not saying we hemorrhage the church. Many people like to wear hiking boots. I have a nice pair. Rather, I’m suggesting the church GO out and make disciples meeting them where they are (Luke 10).

Build community. Be family to one another. Encourage one another. Teach one another. Love one another, intentionally.

We are free. Why don’t we live as such? Set your piggies free!

Want to learn how to start a small group in your neighborhood? Read the following books:

  • The Rabbit and the Elephant by Tony & Felicity Dale and George Barna
  • The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay
  • Off Road Disciplines by Earl Creps



[1] David Kinnaman, Gabe Lyons. UNCHRISTIAN (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 74-77.
[2] Ibid., 75.