October 24, 2013

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:24-30

English: Cycling Club A Cycling club out on a ...

English: Cycling Club A Cycling club out on a training ride, here heading toward Dufftown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have known about a local cycling club for some time but never joined them until yesterday.

My first introduction came during a ride with a friend.  We were at the tail end of a ride through the countryside.  As we followed a narrow, rural, road through fields of hay and wheat, a blue Jeep Cherokee crept past us, while the driver eye-balled us.

The glare of a perturbed driver thrown toward a spandex clad cyclist has been known to occasionally occur.  This incident was memorable because this driver proceeded past us to the next intersection, stopped and got out of the car.

This was disconcerting.

I really didn’t want to bump chests with a guy whose chest was a good six inches higher and appeared to be larger than my own.  As we slowed in our approach to the intersection, I started to think through what we might have done to instigate an altercation.  I had no ideas as to what we might have done other than trying to coexist on the same road.

My concerns began to deflate when we got close enough to the Jeep to see a cycling bumper.  This guy might be a member of the cycling tribe; that’s good.  They were completely diminished when the driver rounded the end of the vehicle with body language that did not indicate a pending throw-down.  He quickly explained that he was looking for riders to join his riding club and just wanted to introduce himself and welcome us to join them in the future.  I took his card and subsequently signed up for their Google group email.  I never did join them for a ride that season.  However, I continued to watch their community through the group emails.  I was intrigued by how active they were.

The following season I continually bumped into cub members.  I rode with many them at several of the events that I have blogged about ( PACK RIDING, CLIMBING METHODS).  The conversations at these interactions always ended with the same exhortation, “you should come join us”.

I always had an excuse for why I could not make it.  Most excuses were time related.  However, that was never the main reason.  You might remember my introvert issues that I have blogged about.  The whole idea of showing up, imposing myself upon a group of strangers was a high barrier that kept me riding alone or with my friends for most of the summer.

I am not sure what happened on Tuesday.  No one at work could go riding with me and I really did not feel like riding alone.  So, I sucked it up and headed over to the group ride meeting place.

I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.

The bicycle in the back of my pick-up clearly revealed my intentions as I pulled into the parking lot.  I had barely gotten out of my vehicle before someone from the group was walking over to introduce himself and welcome me.  By the time I had my kit on and the group was ready to roll-out, I had met every member of the group on that ride, had exchanged pleasantries and names.

ludovic / Foter / CC BY-SA

Throughout the ride, several members pulled along to chat with me.  They included me throughout the ride.  I felt completely accepted and welcomed.  They invited me to future rides as we said our farewells and seemed genuinely excited for a new cyclist to join their group.

It was clear that this group simply loves to ride bicycles.  Their enthusiasm for cycling was evident in their acceptance of someone of a kindred spirit.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I will probably join them for another ride; today, in fact.

Ministerios Cash Luna / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

As I drove home after such an encouraging experience, I reflected on my experience of joining a church.  A year and a half ago, the church plant, that we had attended, closed and we started the search for a new church home.  From my experience, this cycling club was more welcoming than many churches  we visited.

I realize that many will initially not relate to an unfriendly church.  However, those who have attended their church for years need to careful about too quickly dismissing the possibility that they might not be as friendly as they think because the concept of being a newcomer can easily become mere theory.

I have sat through several services hearing the pastor talk about the closeness of their congregation.  I have listened to testimonies of the love people feel for their church family.  They talked at length about the warm and friendliness of their fellowship.  I listened to these words with skepticism as I sat in a pew that only the usher had welcomed me to.  I have risen after these services to have no one engage me in conversation.  I have walked from the building without being invited to Sunday school, the prayer group, or even someone’s home for lunch.  The conversations that I have had rarely seem to end with the exhortation, “you should come join us”.

SalFalko / Foter / CC BY-NC

It is good for us all to remember that the friendliness of a church is not defined by the feelings of the long-time members.  The degree to which a church is welcoming has to be gauged from the perspective of those being welcomed.  I would hope that someone who has been involved in a group for decades would feel familial emotions for that body.  The body feels friendly to them because they actually have friends there.

What about the person who knows no one?  What do they feel when their shadow crosses your church’s threshold?  That is what defines the friendliness of your church.

There is a lot that can be learned from the friendliness of this local cycling club.

When was the last time you invited someone with clear spiritual interests to your church?
Are you genuinely excited when someone new visits you church?
Are you eager to introduce yourself to the stranger walking through the church door?
Do you persistently invite newcomers to Bible studies, Sunday school, prayer groups, and other activities the long-time members frequent?
Do you end conversations with newcomers in exhorting them to “come join us”?

Consider that if we were to consistently be doing these acts that the church would not be better than a cycling club.

How can you encourage a person if they do not first feel welcome?

Where is the motivation to continue to meet with a group that is not inclusive of them?

The enthusiasm of our faith is often evident in our acceptance and inclusion of those we don’t know but who share the same Spirit.  The church should exceed any sort of secular cycling club in being welcoming and accepting.  We have so much more to be enthusiastic about than pedaling molded carbon across asphalt.

May the enthusiasm in our faith surpass all the other joys of our lives to make us joyfully welcome and encourage those who are seeking true fellowship.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for giving me a faith that stirs enthusiasm within me.  Thank you for giving me a desire to fellowship with those who have the same hope.  Forgive me for allowing a bunch of cyclists to out-do me in demonstrating my enthusiasm.  Forgive me for making excuses for being reserved.  I want to be a part of making my church a friendly and welcoming experience to all those whom you send through the doors.  I want those in my community to be drawn to you by the joy of my salvation overflowing into all aspects of my life .    I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.


  1. […] “CYCLING CLUB vs. CHURCH” – Oct 24. […]

  2. Good one! I understand how that feels when attending a new church and no one makes you feel welcome. I’m happy to say that I now attend a church that is more like that cycling club. There is one man who came to mind as I read your post. He greets people as they come out of the parking lot. I’ve seen him out in the hot AZ sun, welcoming people, no matter which of the services I’ve attended. I’ve never introduced myself or gotten his name, but I’m going to this week. I’m going to print your post for him and tell him thank you, too. I’ve also been cycling for this past year and have heard that, “you should ride with us”, many times. I’ve always made excuses. Maybe it’s time to join them. 🙂

    • Hey Bobbi – I am always so glad to hear of Churches that are friendly and getting what hospitality is all about. I am glad that you plan to encourage your Church parking lot greeter. He probably does not even know the impact that he has. Regarding the cycling, you should give it a try. I have had a great time going out with my local group. I have joining them for about 5 more rides and have enjoyed them all. You have the advantage of heading into good riding weather. I think I will get one more evening ride in before it gets too cold.
      God Bless!

  3. Another good one JD. For whatever reason, I am being kept from “liking” your posts, so I will leave a comment. It is too easy for us to look at our needs, our comfort, and miss those around us. God fills us and blesses us to be a blessing to others. And in the end it comes down to the question of whether our focus is on Jesus or ourselves. Thanks for the challenge.

  4. When my wife and I first searched for a neighborhood church, we visited nearly a dozen, with responses ranging from being ignored (much as you described) to open hostility when we asked questions during a Sunday school class (we discerned that we were expected to sit quietly and listen to the teacher as he read the lesson to us – because of our commentary and questions he was unable to finish, the scandal!)

    We finally found a church that welcomed us as your cycle club did, and called it “home” for almost 8 years. Then our pastor moved to a new church in another city; a terrible political battle occurred over the election for a new pastor, which failed; and finally a merger with the Hispanic church that rented space from us – and has now subsumed the ministry to the point that I no longer recognize it. So we are in need of a new church, and are dreading the whole process so much we have not begun…and I don’t know when we will. Pray for us, because if we don’t find something, I may give in to the urge to start our own with some like-minded friends – now THAT is scary.

    • Nick – I am very sorry to hear about the difficulties that you have experienced with your Church. It is sad how common your experience can be. I have been down the road of start a new Church and that is a scary route. I will be praying for you.
      God Bless!

  5. A lot of food for thought in your post! I attend a church that is known for its friendliness, but there are some who are shyer than others who perhaps are not as outgoing as others. It makes me stop and think, what can I do to be more outgoing and more friendly and welcoming to others. Do I tend to hang back rather than invite someone to join me for lunch or dinner. Definitely room for improvement. Thanks for the wakeup call!

  6. This is beautiful. So true, I think of every church. We have a pastor at our church who started a church plant in a movie theater. They meet with other believers on Sunday mornings in the theater and have church. It is a different way to get the community to church to fellowship and bond with one another and hear God’s word, without going “to church”. May we all be kind and loving to one another no matter what. Great post!

  7. Unfortunately, this is not an infrequent thing in the body of Christ. I guess what I have difficulty understanding is why all are so quick to say, “that ain’t so”! Without recognition,admission of quilt, and plan and determination to change….nothing will. I have a lady in my church I want to take my lead from…she never says lets get together for coffee sometime…she says are you free Tues. Let’s meet for coffee so I can get to know you. Or not we need to get together for dinner sometime but “can you and your husband come for dinner Wed. Night so I can get to know a little about you and often she’ll invite another couple. It’s never an open ended sometime…that never happens. Lord I pray as John prays that I will be a welcoming person. Help me to learn from others how to make others feel included and valued.

  8. Now if the Church had a cycling fellowship, that would make the circle perfect. You could ride to the next town, encourage each other as you get to know each other over the weeks, have lunch, do chores for seniors, widows, etc. This could become a mighty arm of God!

    • I love that idea!

    • Daryl – that is a great idea. I don’t know about a mighty arm but definitely a mighty leg:)
      God Bless!

      • Lol 🙂 OK,then, a mighty leg it is. If this happens, I will help you raise money for the first meal you have together!

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