If you have ever seen an archery competition, it is a wonder to see. The assortment of equipment, style of shooting, strategies to winning, and even varieties of formats is a lot to take in. But in each format there is this common goal, hit the most valuable parts of the target, so that you can win. Yet, an archer has a limited number of arrows to shoot, so they have to choose a specific part of the target to aim for. You don’t see archers haphazardly flinging arrows anywhere hoping to just hit some part of the target; you don’t win with that strategy. Instead you have to aim for the most valuable parts of the target.
The apostle Paul understood the impact of a good sports analogy, and says this in 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” Paul understood the importance of training and preparation for athletics. Lots of people participate, but only one wins, therefore prepare and compete in such a way as to win. Those who win do things differently than all the other competitors. But Paul is not seeking to give advice to runners here; he is speaking to the church in Corinth about their faith.
In archery you have a limited number of arrows, and the competitor has to make a decision about where they will aim. If they want to win, they obviously will aim for the bulls-eye on the target. As Paul writes to the church in Corinth, it is this image he has in mind. Church, there are certain ways to prepare and train that will lead to success, there are others that will not. You have a limited number of resources that you can use, so you better use them in the most effective way, you better aim your arrows at the most important items.
Paul is sending this as a warning and challenge to the church in Corinth, reminding them that there are lots of things as Christians that we could put our time and effort towards. Even though there are many good and godly ministries and causes, all are not equal. You do not find any sports, where all people are equal, some win, some lose, some are effective, and others are less effective. His challenge to them is to discern what it is that is most important to “winning” the race. What are the most important places to pour your time and resources into as a church, so that you can make the greatest impact for God? What allocation of those resources best reflects what God has called you to do and to be?
So what is it that is in Trinity’s bull’s-eye? What is it that we as a church are aiming to hit above everything else? What would “winning” look like to use Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians? Because shooting arrows blindly at a target is nice, but to win it requires laser focus, it requires that we have a common target in mind in all that we do.