This weekend I had the pleasure (pain) of taking part (limping through) the beautiful (why on earth would you put so many hills on this) course for Pedal Pittsburgh. 62.5 miles of riding, sweating, climbing, struggling, and overcoming our fair city from just about every angle. It's a miracle I can still walk.
At a few points along the route, there were the official rest stops. This was a place for riders to stop, refill their bottles with Gatorade or water, pick up some food, and then head back out on the course. The folks at Bike Pittsburgh really outdid themselves with this event, as the rest stops were so well stocked and maintained that I am certain I would not have finished without them.
But what impressed me even more were the supporters of the ride who took it upon themselves to create their own rest stops. Some folks just camped out in their front yards along the route with water, cookies, and cowbells. They cheered us on even when we didn't feel like stopping to refuel, just happy to be supportive of cyclists. It was a little like having fans. People were for us.
I started reading Rachel Held Evan's book Searching For Sunday, in which she correctly notes that "Millennials want to be known by what we're for, not just what we're against." As I've been thinking about the church, and it's kind of looming failure to reach people of my generation, this notion struck a chord with me. What are we for? What do we pursue? Who are the people we would set up an aid station for in the world? Who are the people we would encourage with cowbells?
I think we as a Church need to wrestle with this. We need to decide what living in the Kingdom actually looks like, rather than telling the rest of the world how outside the bounds they are. We need the love of Christ to be poured into others, rather than trying to beat the devil out of people. We need to show how God relentlessly pursues those on the outside looking in, the poor, the broken, the needy, the hungry. And the only way to show people we are for them is to be with them. To be in community with them. To be in relationship with them. To show them love.
And if we have a few of those little cowbells lying around, that wouldn't hurt either.