From the publisher | February 16, 2024

Like riding a bike

Two children bike on a path through the woods toward a shining sun

In my early years I lived in a house on a cul-de-sac, which was a nice safe place to learn to ride a bike. The narrow, winding road beyond was not at all safe for children, but the little bubble of Emma Lane was.

I had little interest in riding a bike, however—I was too afraid of falling. Finally, my father offered me $10 if I would learn. So I did. (Now that I realize how much $10 is worth in today’s dollars, I can imagine how long he tried to teach me before resorting to bribery.)

I accepted the money, and then quickly abandoned the bicycle. I did pick it back up later, when I lived in a neighborhood where you could actually go somewhere on a bike. But I stopped altogether when my family moved across the country to another place where the roads weren’t made for amateur bicyclists. So the idea “it’s just like riding a bike” never resonated with me. The phrase refers to something that you don’t forget how to do. Even if it’s been a long time, you’ll remember how to pedal, balance on two wheels, and lean into the curve. It’s second nature. It’s effortless and fun.

It may seem that doing church used to be like riding a bike: Activities hummed along like wheels on a bike path, and there were committees and volunteers to keep them turning. People showed up every Sunday for the weekly ride.

But it turns out that church is not like riding a bike. It is possible to do it well for a long time and then discover that one’s center of gravity has shifted and balance is harder. Traffic is faster and closer. A smooth road has become gravel. When everything is changing, who wants to start over with learning to ride? Who wants to risk falling?

A few years ago, the Church of the Brethren committed to being “innovative, adaptable, and fearless.” Of those three aspirational adjectives, surely the most difficult is “fearless.” This is certainly a time that induces fear. But we will not move forward if we are afraid of falling.

“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,” says the apostle Paul, “but you received a spirit of adoption” (Romans 8:15). When we practice being fearless, we will have the freedom to be innovative and adaptable.

Wendy McFadden is publisher of Brethren Press and executive director of communications for the Church of the Brethren.