I have the wonderful privilege of helping my son learn how to ride a two-wheeled bike. The days of training-wheels are slowly coming to an end and he is itching to explore the freedom that two wheels can offer. My son mounts his bike and begins to pedal as I run beside him firmly grasping the back of his seat. As we do this, I find myself repeating three specific lessons.
Lesson 1: Stay Balanced: Riding a bike involves a lot of different elements working together. To focus only on the legs, without focusing on where you place your hands, will cause you to lose control and venture quickly off course. To ride your bike in good posture, but with your eyes closed, will do little more than bring you to catastrophic accident. One must pay appropriate attention to all parts of the endeavor, making sure they are working together harmoniously.
Sometimes I fear that we in the church set up certain dichotomies for ourselves. We choose labels for our Christian identity that do more to reference who we are NOT rather than describe who we are. We classify ourselves as Liberal or Conservative, Evangelical or Traditional. The same goes for our ministries: there is the call to social justice, and the call to devout prayer, the call to respect and honor tradition, the call to allow God to do new things amongst us; and the call to witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. All of this can seem like a tall order, especially when we try to focus on simply one or a few of these things. But are we really supposed to pick? Are we really supposed to pick and choose what types of witness we engage in? Can Christ’s call to us to work for social justice in this world be separated from his call to ‘Go and make disciples?’ That would be like riding a bike with our feet alone. And looking only to our traditions without an understanding that God may at points call us to new things is like riding a bike with our eyes closed – we are only headed for an accident. As organically as possible, the task of the church is to do all things, and hold all things in harmonious tension.
Surely this is a tall order, and one that is hard to tackle just by ourselves. But maybe that’s the point. Surely that was Paul’s point in his letter to Corinthians as he talked about the various parts of the body. Perhaps we are called to stop looking so inwardly to our own specific classifications, and see how we are called to work together for the healing of all. Perhaps, the life God wishes for us is a life where we, together, embrace all elements of Christian identity and mission in dramatic tension and harmony.
Lesson 2: Look where you want to go: My son often looks at his feet when he is riding his bike. When this happens, his balance falters and he topples over. I remind him that he must keep his vision cast ever forward – to the horizon to which he aims. We in the church need to do the same. Sometime our tendency is to look at other things, as opposed to the horizon of God’s mission. We focus on our selves, our buildings, or the bottom line of our financial pictures. These inward or downward glances may make us feel comfortable, but do little to propel us forward. In fact, doing so may eventually stop us in our tracks. Instead, we need to keep our eyes on the task to which we have been given as the Body of Christ.
Which begs the question doesn’t it? Where are we going? Without an understanding of this we will lock ourselves in to sporadic bursts of motion, with little or no consistency or direction. We must see where Christ points us, and then look only to that.
Lesson 3: Keep Pedalling: The key to riding a bike is momentum. You must keep pedalling in order to keep the momentum moving. You don’t have to pedal fast, but you do have to pedal. It is pedalling, and pedalling alone, that will cause you to conquer those hills and master those rocky paths.
Sometimes, controversies, disagreements, and infighting threaten to stop the church in our movement forward. These things cause us to stop the mission in which we move. Yet the key to our life as a church is to keep pedalling. We don’t progress in our work or ministry if remain motionless. Remember, the commission Jesus gave his disciples began with one simple two-lettered imperative: ‘Go.’
So let’s get on our bikes, stay balanced, look to where God calls us, and in Jesus’ name, keep pedalling.
When have you faced the need to just buckle down and stay balanced, look ahead, or keep pedalling?