By: Jon Sutton (DelMarVa Spoke)
In the fall of 2013 I had the privilege of visiting friends who are seeking to share the Gospel and plant churches in Portugal. They were employing three strategies to attempt to connect with people to build relationships of trust that would bear the weight of truth. One of my friends started a book club, another was coaching an American football team, and the third, Danelo, was hoping to spend his time cycling. This last friend’s ministry caused many in the group I was traveling with to question, “Why Cycling?” How can riding your bike be a ministry?
Danelo shared that cycling is second only to soccer in terms of popularity in Portugal. I can attest that there were cyclists everywhere of every stripe. From his time there, he believed the motivation for most of the cyclists could be summed up this way, “We ride all week so that we can live together on the weekends.” The idea is that if you want to be able to live with the other cyclists on the weekend, you will need to be prepared to hang with them on the bike. You had better be riding and training throughout the week so you don’t get dropped. One of Danelo’s main tasks in ministry was to be on his bike throughout the week so that he could find a place among the cyclists of his region of Portugal on the weekends when they were together.
By now it may be obvious how this philosophy is applicable to those of us who are ChristianCyclists. Many of us ride all week so that we can live together on the weekends and share not only a common experience in cycling and fellowship, but also to encourage a growing faith among our members and to do ministry together.
Some of us know the feeling of being “dropped” or simply left behind because we are not as strong or prepared as other riders. In many places, being a member of a club or a cycling group is about proving how much stronger you are than all the other cyclists, so if you are not riding through the week, you can expect no sympathy from the rest of the group. On a recent ride I was a part of (not with ChristianCycling), one cyclist shared a story about a “casual group ride” that he was on, and a member of the group was a strong cyclist but was not able to endure the pace of the leaders. The faster members of the group were asked to be considerate of the other members whom they were “redlining” by their pace. Their response? “Well, then you don’t have to ride with us. In fact, maybe you shouldn’t ride with us.”
I am thankful that is not the attitude of ChristianCycling members. We do ride throughout the week to be strong riders and so that we can live together on the weekends, but my experience is that we are generally concerned for others who are riding with us even if they are not part of our “club”. We have a large number of very strong and very accomplished riders, but they are generally very willing to put their desires or pace aside to “live together” with the group. We have many riders who, in order to be a witness, ride at the highest levels so that they can “live with” cyclists and be an influence for Christ where speed and strength may be what it takes to earn respect and a hearing. The point is, we ride all week so that we can live together on the weekends not just for us, but for Christ.
We re-present Him, and cycling is one avenue we have to do that, but there is something more we want to remember. We cannot fulfill our mission as a ministry, together, if we are not prepared to do so; not just on the bike, but also spiritually. I think about this phrase often in regard to our spiritual lives. So many come to church expecting to be able to “live with” those gathered in worship at church, but have done little to nothing spiritually throughout the week and feel “dropped” by the service. They expect to be set at the top of the hill by the worship and or message so that they can coast through the week. But I find that those who spend regular time with God throughout the week in His word and prayer, in living out His precepts, in serving others, in fellowshipping with other believers for building each other up, are indeed best prepared to “live together” as the church on the weekends.
ChristianCycling is not a church, but as Christians we are the Church whenever we come together (Matthew 18:20). We represent Christ to each other and to the world, but we cannot do that very well if we are not pursuing Him throughout the week. We are cyclists, but first and foremost we are to be His representatives who just happen to ride bikes. We ride and pursue Christ through the week so that we can “live together” with all those whom we come in contact with not just on the weekends, but for eternity.