Learning to ride a bike, backwards?

This week’s post is short on reading, but needs about 11 minutes of your time to watch an 8-minute video and 3 minutes for me to share some thoughts about church through the lens of the video. If you share the time with me, I doubt it would be wasted. 

In this video from the SmarterEveryDay YouTube Channel, host Destin Sandlin, describes what it was like for him to relearn to ride a bike that was designed to steer opposite to conventional bikes and then relearn how to ride a conventional bike again! Enjoy the video. 

When I think about our 183-year-old church, I think that the algorithm for how to be and do church is sufficiently programmed into our collective behavior and thinking. We know how to run programs; care for each other; do worship, music, and education in ways that we would consider to be tried and true. But there is one problem, the world changed and COVID accelerated the change. Our programmed algorithm for how to be and do church fits a model where nearly all of the population is Christian and there is cultural support to drive people to join in church following the conventional algorithm for church. 

But now, we find ourselves in a culture that is increasingly non-religious (21% of the population) and only 47% of the population is connected to a church. We used to belong to a mainly Christian culture and now that is flipped. The proverbial steering on the bike is switched for the church. But being and doing church as a minority in a non-Christian culture isn’t new to Christians. For the first 300 years, the early church was a minority learning to reach new people in a non-Christian culture. 

For me, the bike video is encouraging. It shows that with persistence a new algorithm can be learned. It will be much harder for us who have the existing conventional algorithm for being and doing church to learn a new way of church, but if we commit to making little changes and failed attempts, one day it will just click! We will be running a new algorithm and reaching new people and it will get fun and easy and we won’t even be able to easily go back to the old way of being and doing church. 

What I also like about the video is that it’s still a conventional bike, but takes learning a new way of operating. It’s not a completely new 5 wheeled contraption that no one would want to learn to ride anyway. We don’t need a whole new church that doesn’t look like a church to reach new people, just a new way of thinking and behaving. Shedding old biases and working hard to learn something new is the work we are engaged in right now. Tackling the ‘big rocks’ from the Church-Wide Assessment, planning for a new HVAC and other capital needs, and caring for each other while doing it all is how God can help us learn to ‘ride the bike backwards’ and make and nurture new and existing disciples of Jesus Christ who serve the community and world.