The Christian Pace Line (Part One)

Several years ago, after a rough breakup, I found healing in an unexpected place. Riding my bike along The American River bike trail near my family’s house. Since that time I have been an avid cyclist. Eventually I bought my first road bike so I could “get serious” about riding. Unfortunately, I was never serious about security and my bike was stolen outside my local bank. So much for trusting humanity. That was three years ago.

Fast forward to December 2014, I finally saved up enough money to buy a new bike. I couldn’t wait to get on and ride again. Truth be told I may have romanticized bike riding in my time away. Words like “Freedom,” “Joy,” and “Flying” come to mind when I think of winding down the American River trail. Selective memory blocked out words like “sweat,” “soreness,” and “exhaustion.” But alas, I have a bike again and as of last month I’m up to riding 216 miles a month; a number I’m looking to blow past next week!

I know that sounds like a lot, but when you love something, you push yourself to be better at it. It doesn’t hurt that I’d like to not be as squeezable as I currently am. I’m not looking to win any races, though I would like to complete a few. I just love to ride.

I’m not a sports guy. I don’t mind playing sports but watching them on television is often a bore to me. Cycling is no different. There are only so many angles you can see before saying “Yep, still riding…” I will say however, seeing a cluster of bikers riding in a peloton (the main field or group of cyclists in a race) or even smaller groups riding wheel-to-wheel in a pace line is an amazing sight, and requires much precision and skill. If you are like me you might have wondered why they do this. It seemed to me like a recipe for disaster. Though it can be dangerous, there is a lot to the pace line. Let me break it down for you.

Drafting: Drafting occurs when the following riders follow close behind the lead rider, taking advantage of the pocket of calmer air behind him. Doing so allows them to match his speed and expend 20 – 40% less energy.

Warning: Within a group of riders riding so closely, communication is important. Pointing and communicating potholes, broken glass, bumps, and nails can mean the difference between a safe ride and a hospital visit.

Strengthening: Maintaining speeds within this tight-knit group is much easier, and allows the following riders to conserve energy and build up muscle strength and endurance.

Opportunity: The pace line gives everyone an opportunity to lead and follow. When the leader gets tired it is common for him to drop to the back to conserve and build while a follower takes his place as leader.

When riding long distances the pace line is your most powerful tool to get you through. Most people would agree that the Christian life is much more like a cross country trek than sprinting. To take that analogy further I think there is a huge parallel between the pace line and Christian Discipleship.

A disciple can be defined as “Someone who follows another person and who submits himself to the discipline of that leader.” In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul makes this statement “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” The NIV translates it this way “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Christian Discipleship then is following a leader who is following Jesus.

1 Corinthians 11:1 is tied to Paul’s statements in the closing of Chapter 10 where Paul is using his example of self sacrifice in not eating food sacrificed to idols as following Christ’s example. He encourages others to imitate him because he is imitating Christ. Without stating it implicitly here, Paul is pointing out the process of discipleship. A process that, though I struggle at in practice, I hold in high regard.

In the past month I have been challenged by my struggle in this regard to the concept I will refer to as “The Christian Pace Line”.  I know the importance of being mentored by or “drafting” off those further in life than I, but I haven’t made the effort to do so. It’s not that I don’t have anyone to turn to, it’s just that I haven’t tried. I want to challenge you today to not fail where I have.

A month ago I sat down in my friends office and asked him if we could start this process. This is a man that I look up to in regards to faith, marriage, and life and would be glad to get strong Biblical guidance from as life throws me it’s inevitable curve balls. How does it work? We’re not sure. We’re still feeling it out. Currently it’s just sitting down and checking in once a week for twenty minutes. In the end, it’s nice to know I can get a second unbiased opinion from a brother in Christ to help get me through.

There is so much to The Christian Pace Line and I’m going to discuss that in three more follow up posts. Like most things, it starts with the decision to not be satisfied with your struggles, and the action to do something about it. Are you ready?

Bryce Cooley
I've been doing some form of ministry since 2000. For 13 years I was involved in the youth ministry at Cordova Neighborhood Church as everything from youth intern to youth pastor. God has led me and my lovely wife Bethany to Church of the Foothills where I currently reside as the Digital Publishing Coordinator. I'm excited to see where God leads my wife and I.