On the final day of the Fuller Center for Housing Spring BicycleAdventure, I ended up in a paceline with some pretty strong riders. We had all experienced riding with each other through the week, and so we decided on the last day to see how we would do all working together.
We started the day knowing that some of us were faster riders, and some were not quite as strong. The thing is, though, that we made this unspoken commitment that we would all work together.
The way we worked the paceline that day was for one rider to be in front for a minute or two, with the rest of us trailing behind that person enjoying the break in headwind provided by the rider in front of us. After the front rider's minute or two was done, that person would move to the left, ease up on the pedals, and drift to the back of the line.
Obviously, when the front person moves to the back, there's a new front person who spends a minute or two working harder than the rest of us ~ at which point they move to the back, and another person takes over the leadership.
That day, each of us didn't spend the same amount of time in the front of the group. The stronger riders stayed on the front for a couple minutes at a time, and those of us who weren't as strong took shorter turns in the lead.
If we'd tried to keep things equal time-wise, our group would have been slower. Taking longer turns up front and having less time to rest behind the other riders would have worn me out and slowed me down much earlier in the day, and therefore would have slowed the whole group down, especially during those times when I was up front.
We had ridden together all week, but the way we rode together earlier in the week didn't matter at all on that day. I had spent a couple hours one day earlier in the week in the slipstream of another rider, as I worked to catch up with my dad. I wasn't strong enough that day to catch my dad, and he was strong enough to help me.
He was able to help me one day, and later in the week, I didn't have to pay him back. Every day, we started fresh. Every day, we contributed to the group what we were able, and received from others what they offered.
What if, in the church, we didn't hold grudges or keep score? What if we didn't worry about who works more than others, and who seems to just be along for the ride? What if everyone felt free to contribute to the group what they're able and to receive from the group what's offered?
When I ride my bike, some days I feel stronger and some days I feel weaker. Some days I can spend a lot of time in front, and some days I can't be up there at all. But on the bike rides, what I did on Friday doesn't matter when Saturday comes around. We start fresh every day.
What if every day, and every week, and every month, and every year in the church was brand new? That's the promise of our baptism (as Lutherans understand it), that we start new every day. God's promise of grace and mercy and forgiveness is renewed every day.
When someone asks a Lutheran when they were saved, they're just as likely to say “Just again this morning” as they are to say “A little over 2000 years ago” … or that's what they ought to say, anyway.
There has to be a balance, where we can encourage those who are stronger, those who have the gifts, to take greater leadership in the church while at the same time we don't discourage those who aren't quite as strong from taking their turn up front.
Sometimes it seems like church leadership, those who spend the most time and energy on making sure the congregation is in good shape, see their job as providing a service for those who 'just show up'. How would church look different if we were to operate as if we're all in this together?