Reflections on how Christians help each other to grow and mature in loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Discipleship is Like Riding a Bicycle

This past September I rode my bike in the FedEx ‘Rock-n-Roll’ MS 150 Bike Ride. 430 people rode 74 miles from Graceland in Memphis to Tunica, Mississippi on Saturday. On Sunday morning we rode 76 miles back to Graceland. It was a great event that raised over $410,000 to fight and treat Multiple Sclerosis.

My goal for the Sunday ride was to simply finish. As we set out in the morning I rode alone, trying to maintain a stead speed at around 15 miles per hour. After about ten miles a paceline of about 20 men and women passed me. Near the end of the line one of the guys asked, “Do you want to jump in here?” I said, “Yeah! Thanks.” With that I shifted into a bigger gear and took my place in line.

Riding with that paceline enabled me to increase my speed from 15 mph to 22 mph with relatively little effort. We rode as a group for about 25 miles and broke up when we came to “the wall,” the one big hill climb of the day.

A paceline is a small group of riders riding in single file. They try to stay as close as possible to each other. Each rider tries to keep his or her front wheel inches from the rear wheel of the rider in front of him or her. Each rider takes turns in the lead. Riding this way reduces wind resistance and saves as much as 15% in energy output. A small group of riders in a paceline will go faster with less effort than riding individually.

Riding in a group also means that each rider must communicate clearly with the group. The leader must tell the riders behind him or her when he or she is slowing down by shouting, “Slowing” before applying his or her brakes. The rider behind repeats the warning so that everyone knows what is about to happen. This is done to prevent any rider from touching the slowing rear wheel of the rider in from of him or her with his or her front wheel and causing a both riders to fall.

Paceline riders also warn one another about hazards such as potholes, gravel on the road, railroad tracks, and approaching automobiles. This is done to protect one another from harm and to preserve the integrity of the paceline.

As I reflected on my experience I realized riding in a paceline is a lot like discipleship. The journey of discipleship is best taken with others. It can be done alone, but not very well, and with great difficulty. This is why the congregation promises to surround each member with a community of love and forgiveness.

Christians who travel the journey of discipleship together listen to and watch out for each other. They warn one another about hazards and dangers along the way. They offer encouragement and watch over one another in love. Disciples share a common destination (the reign of God) and do all in their power to help one another get there. Riding in a paceline can teach us a lot about discipleship.


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