One issue that has vexed me a little over the years is that cyclists* are quite a hard bunch to tell the gospel, particularly those that race. Here’s why.
- Most cyclists are men. Many men think that any sort of faith is for wusses. Hence many cyclists think any sort of faith is for wusses.
- Most cycling races are held on Sunday mornings. Most church services are held on Sunday mornings.
- Some cyclists are Time Triallists. Time Trialling is not known as ‘the Dark Side’ for nothing; the typical Time Triallist is a slightly introverted and brooding type, often poring over gear tables and HED wheels catalogue before he turns in for bed at 7.30pm. You’ll then find him metronomically impelling himself up and down Britain’s dual carriageways at 6am on a Sunday morning. Not easy people to get alongside and have a chat about Jesus.
- In a road race, any cyclist that even wants to stay in the pack/gruppetto/peleton normally has to train for 10 hours a week. That’s 10 hours a week, every week, just so that you don’t come last. Not even a thought about having a sniff of winning. It’s hard to sustain that and spend much time with God and other Christians, who themselves probably ought to be spending 10 hours a week ‘training’ (2 Tim 3:16), but don’t and end up with a cosmic guilt trip as a result.
- Trying to explain the intricacies of the importance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, whilst riding on the flat is hard enough. Once hills, and therefore, gravity kicks in, it’s hard to string three words together without feeling as though your lungs are about to prolapse. I have noticed though, that non-believing blokes that I ride with will often give me their take on Christianity as we’re riding uphill. This is for two reasons (a) they are fitter than me, and (b) due to the aforementioned risk of prolapse issue, I can’t answer back. They know this, too.
So what to do if you are a Christian and you want to tell your cycling mates just how extraordinary Jesus is?
(1) Go to an afternoon church. There’s at least two in Sheffield: Christ Church Endcliffe and Christ Church Central. Churches in many other places are doing the same. Why afternoon and not morning or evening? Well if you’re a christian and a cyclist yourself you’ll have the same issue – wanting to cycle and go to church on a Sunday, so it’s unlikely you’ll want to go in the mornings. Given that many competitive cyclists are over 30, then there’s also a good chance that many have kids. Evening services rarely have provision for children’s work, whereas afternoon services do. If you can’t find an afternoon service, then an evening service will do.
(2) Organise a curry night to which to take your Christian and non-Christian mates along. No sane, rational bloke ever refuses a curry. A bloke might think football is a ridiculous game (as I do), and might be the only bloke you know to list and enjoy every Verdi opera (which I can’t), but he’ll still enjoy a curry. After a few of these, your non-Christian mates will see that faith isn’t for wusses, or blokes that only wear sandals, socks and beards together, and actually see a little bit of who Jesus is (see John 17:20-21 to see what I mean).
(3) Eat less and get fit – you’ll be able to drop your mates on the climbs, which is pleasing enough (although with Christian humility please) but you’ll also be able to talk all the way around your ride. Your mates will then also realise that it’s possible to be quick enough and have time for church. Of course then there’s the aforementioned 10 hours of training. Unless you are racing, it doesn’t need to be this much. If you are, you just need to put the time in. I find the best way is to use your commute to go the long way home.
(4) Be a good mate as well as someone who invites people to evangelistic events. If all you do is the latter, it’s hard to see how you’re the former.
(5) Cycling can be very sociable. As long as someone isn’t caning it on the front of the pack, you can have long conversations as you ride along. The cafe stop can be a good place for a serious discussion, as well as a chance to rib the one rider who is wearing some unfathomably awful piece of cycling apparel. Given that most pieces of cycling clothing are dreadful to start with, you’ll see the enormity of this fashion faux pas.
*When I write ‘cyclists’ I mean those that see cycling as more than either a commute, or a gentle ride in the country only to be taken when it hasn’t rained for a week, there’s no risk of raining, and the weather forecast predicts dry weather for at least another week. In other words, those of us that truly get the beauty of cycling. (Notice the slight sense of superiority here? Four lines into a footnote and I already need to repent. Doh.)