Thursday, May 24, 2007

power in group drafting

Last night I joined my first big cyclist group (about 30 people) for a 30 mile trek. 15 of these guys were absolute animals! I started off with that fast lead group as we left from the MSU campus and headed south. I figured, "I'll start out with the big dogs. And if I can't keep up, I can drop back with the slower groups."

Well the first 10 miles were awesome! It was such a rush. We're doing about 20 miles an hour on country roads in a draft line 2 cyclists wide...tire to tire, front to back. You start to think, "I'm rolling. Look at how fast we're going. I feel so strong and powerful. I can run with the big dogs!!!"

All of a sudden a cramp started to set in around my right ribs. I tried to keep pushing, but I knew that I might be fading fast. At this point I was at the front of the line, running 2 by 2. I thought, "Maybe I can slow my peddling pace a little, to catch my breath and try to relieve the cramp in my side." I pulled over to the right a little bit to let the guy behind me take my spot.

But if you've ever watched NASCAR at Daytona, you know what happens when someone breaks out of the draft line. Within about 5 seconds, I found myself at the very end of the line. I tried to keep pace. I didn't want to be left behind. But within literally 3 minutes, the group was disappearing from sight over the horizon.

Now instead of running at 20+ mph up hill, I was back to my old usual pace of about 15 mph the rest of the ride. And I was all alone.

So here's the point. It made me think of how often people decide to "fall back" from being involved in Christian community.

You get involved in a church that's moving fast. It's exciting. You're running with the big dogs! You're fast and furious. You're covering lots of ground. You begin to think, "I feel so stong and powerful in the Lord. Look at all that we're accomplishing."

But sometimes we fail to remember that much of our speed and progress is due to the synergy of the group dynamic. Just like the cyclists riding in tight formation, spiritually you've been drafting at a faster rate than you could ever accomplish on your own. We so often forget that our spiritual progress tends to be directly corrolated to the group of peers who surround us.

And then it happens. I've seen it over and over again. The person decides to fall back for a little while. They decide to take a little break and drop to the back of the pack just to catch a little rest. They drop out of their ministry involvement. They stop hanging out with their HomeGroup friends. They spend more time doing "other stuff".

And before you know it, their spiritual progress is stalled. They're getting left behind. And it just seems like too much effort to try to catch up. So they pull out of church and wonder, "What went wrong?"

Last night as I watched that fast-moving group disappear over the horizon, I suddenly realized how I had overestimated my ability. Riding with the draft, I failed to remember that the speed and progress I had experienced was due to the energy of the group. On my own, I am much slower and the work is much harder.

I guess God's word is true. We really are much better together and Christianity is definitely not a solo sport.