I've been riding by bicycle to church a few times a week this summer. It's not a long ride compared to what I used to do for fun in high school. But it's longer than the commutes to school and work I had early in our marriage. There's time to think.
So here are a few things I'm gleaning for ministry from the 25 mile round-trip.
- Warm up beforehand. Stretch. Visualize. It becomes a habit after a while, so when you get started, your head and heart are both in sync. Pray before you engage in any ministry and it will stretch your sense of possibility and center you spiritually for all you are about to do.
- Find an even, steady pace. Find a rhythm that's not too fast, not to slow, and you'll be able to stay with it. Change gears as the terrain changes. This will keep your movement steady no matter what the road is like. Your speed will slow uphill and race going down, but if your pace is constant, your muscles will not fail. A constant spirit is faithful and reliable no matter how steep the climb.
- Follow the rules of the road. Not everyone does, but you should. Your good example ensures a safer trip for you and minimal anxiety for everyone around you. In ministry the rules aren't complicated: love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.
- The wind can be your best friend. Riding the way the Spirit blows is exhilarating. Everything happens so easily and you cover so much ground in no time at all that you can be tempted to think it's your own doing. Just be careful which wind is at your back. It could be the Holy Spirit, and if so, woo-hoo! Enjoy the ride! But it could be the prevailing winds of our me-first culture. Which suggests...
- The wind can be your worst enemy. You'll notice when you're riding against it. There are times the Spirit blows one way but our culture conspires to blow another. If you've got a strong headwind of institutional racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, or any other -ism that fans the flames of injustice, just drop into a lower gear and maintain a faithful, steady pace. You'll get there. The Spirit's still got your back.
- You go farther and faster in a group. You are never at your best when riding alone. In a group you feed off each other's energy and mutual encouragement. You draft off the slipstream the group creates, and everyone uses less energy. You share awareness of potholes and other obstacles. You trade leadership out regularly so no one gets too tired. It's hard, discouraging work to be a Christian by yourself. But together... just. Wow.
- Don't wait until you're hungry or thirsty to eat or drink. Wait till you're sucking wind and you've already starved your muscles and dehydrated your body. The regular, weekly feast of the Word in scripture, prayer, fellowship, and communion is like a steady source of energy for ministry to keep your muscles from cramping and your head from getting dizzy. Come to worship even if you don't think you need it. This Sunday would be good.
- Cool down afterward. Walk. Relax. Reflect. Check for sore spots that need attention, and take care of them. Deliberate, careful, intentional prayer heals your sore spiritual muscles, brings your servant heart back to its normal rhythm, and helps your soul catch its breath while you reflect with satisfaction on ministry accomplished. Just look what ground you covered! You can now look forward to tomorrow's ride.
What have I missed?
Blessings and Peace.