Posts Tagged ‘Friendly’

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“CYCLING CLUB vs. CHURCH” – Oct 24

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.

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