This & That

How Spin Class Is Like a Worship Service Part 2

I’m just jumping right back in with no recap from the last post, so you may want to check out Part 1.

EP-302169952The Bike/Seat

Depending on the popularity of the coach, as well as the time the class is offered, it may be necessary to get to class early to get a bike. I always try to arrive ten minutes early, so I can get a bike with pedal clips because I like to use my cycling shoes. There has been more than one occasion when people arrive after 9:30 am and there are no bikes left. This is where church and spin class differ.

For some reason, people like to straggle in after a song or two and consequently seldom connect with God in worship, because they will have missed the opening sequence. It’s like arriving to spin class late, somehow getting a bike, and missing all the warm-ups. You’re not going to push hard on anything because you haven’t warmed up and stretched properly. We try to do this in our worship services. I attempt to facilitate worship that begins “light” and proceeds to go deeper. If you arrive late, then it’s like — to mix metaphors — diving into the deep end. Some Christians can do this: mature ones who’ve walked with God and worshiped consistently many years. But it’s hard for rookies.

Where class and church can be similar is in the selection and placement of our seat/bike. We are creatures of habit and like to sit in the same spot. In class, I like to be toward the back where the fans are. We have some people in church who are intent on their regular seat but who don’t like the volume of the music. Because our sound system is merely good — as opposed to state of the art — we have hot and dead zones. Complainers do well to choose a dead zone — which could be an accurate description (!).

Choose Your Own Level

Because spin bikes are usually quite simple, featuring only a manual knob for adding and reducing resistance, no one knows how hard, or how little, you are working. Throughout the class, the coach shouts, “Add a gear” or “Take it down a turn.” We all oblige, but none of us knows how much resistance the others started with. In a sense, you can fake it then. You can look like you’re working hard. But you’ll get little out of the class, and it will have been a waste of time — and someone else could have perhaps used your bike.

Oh, how churches are infamous for their pretense! It is so easy to hide, like the hypocritical Pharisees Jesus constantly criticized. Even in the Early Church there was hypocrisy, illustrated by an account in the book of Acts about a couple who sold some property and pretended to give the entire proceeds to the church.

Sadly, those who pretend in church will reap none of the benefits of a community of faith. In  my discipleship group, we’ve reached a point where we’ve become transparent with one another, confessing our secret sins to each other and looking for healing and forgiveness, as well as accountability. These young men I work with are growing in their faith, growing deeper and faster than so many who just pretend in church.

As far as how this is similar to a worship service … my experience in a particular type of church service — one that features, shall we say, aerobic worship — led me to see how some people were putting on a show of sorts. And I don’t mean just those on the stage. (That’s another problem for another day.) Yes, people who are physically demonstrative in their worship can simply be faking it to appear righteous. But I would never discount the sincere worshiper who praises God with abandon, unconcerned about others around them.

This is very often me in our early service, when I’m not charged to lead every Sunday. I love the opportunity to raise my hands in worship, as usually they are busy on the keys or fretboard. To get the most out of spin class, I should have little regard for how others might view me. In the same way, I shouldn’t be concerned with how I appear in a worship service, but not to get the most — rather, to give the most.

Comfort Level

At the beginning of spin class, after we’ve done some light stretches and we’re peddling, Randee (the coach) will say without fail, “OK, now get into the comfort zone. It won’t feel comfortable at first but it will later.” This is where we add resistance and move from a “flat road” to a slight incline. She’s right: it isn’t comfortable. But later in the class, after we’ve climbed or done intervals and jumps, that comfort zone is comfortable.

For many people, worship services are uncomfortable. We almost never sing anywhere else. Most have never sung in choir or participated in anything musical. Yet there they are in church expected to sing. People used to sing more. Church attenders even knew how to read music a little. When we used hymnals instead of words on a screen, people could sometimes follow the melody line and rhythms. They may not have been adept at reading Bach, but they could follow along with Wesley or Crosby. Now, singing is difficult for most people. That’s not to say our songs are harder than hymns. I think most hymns are harder. Even still, without some kind of preparation, singing with others is a challenge, especially without warming up beforehand.

This is why I post links on our church’s website and Facebook page to the playlist we’re using. We trim our repertoire regularly, so we have less songs and more repetition. In addition to the Spotify playlist featuring all our songs, we also post our weekly set lists, so people can familiarize themselves with the music. Whether they do or don’t isn’t up to me. Again, I’m just the coach. I can’t force them to prepare. Although, maybe if I made them run laps around the sanctuary if they didn’t do their homework … Of course, that could resemble the church I grew up in. Not sure if that’s good or bad.

I Don’t Like the Music

I don’t select the playlists for Randee’s spin class. She does with a mind for who attends her class. Her selections aren’t my favorites. I like to think, however, that I can appreciate a lot of music for what it is — whether beautifully complicated and simply fun. It’s the same with worship music.

I don’t like all the songs we sing in church, but they serve a purpose — that is, honoring God and helping his people worship him. It took me awhile to come to appreciate hymns, since I didn’t grow up with them. They’re featured heavily in our early service and occasionally in our late service. We don’t sing everything in the hymnal, just as we don’t sing everything on K-LOVE. I have to be selective about what we use and how we use it. Whatever the case, the music is still just the soundtrack for our worship — as it is in spin class for exercise. I don’t go to class for the music, just as Christians shouldn’t attend a church for the music. We gather not for a concert but to worship.

What’s for Lunch?

About 30 minutes into spin class, or about half way through, I start thinking about what I’ll eat for lunch. I mean, I really begin to visualize the eating process and can almost taste the food. This isn’t uncommon for church goers either, whether it’s early service attenders who plan on brunch afterward or late service attenders hoping the sermon doesn’t go too long so they can get to a restaurant early.

My family has never gotten to a restaurant early. In fact, because we linger at church we usually arrive late enough for the tables to begin clearing or the buffet to be restocked. My trick on Sundays is to eat a Larabar between services. I can’t go six hours without refueling.

Why Am I Here?

The last thing I’ll draw comparison to is what Randee says at the beginning of class. She tells us to ask ourselves, “Why am I here? What am I hoping to get out of class?” I think it’d be helpful for worshipers to ask the same questions. It certainly will help us focus not on music or atmosphere or well the pastor is dressed or anything else.

Why am I here? To worship God.

What am I hoping to get? Nothing, I’m here to give.

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