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I have long been a cycling fan, so when I visited Paris last year, I kept my eye out for a Tour de France jersey. In one shop, the merchant found one for me. Except it was black. I tried, in my pauvre (poor) high school French, to indicate that I wanted to be at the front of the pack, so only a maillot jaune (yellow jersey) would do. I may have missed the mark with my French, but the language of yellow jersey must have been universal: The merchant disappeared and returned, triumphant, with a yellow jersey, “Maintenant tu es le plus rapide!” (“Now you are the fastest!”)

Of course, the truth is that I am neither the fastest nor the best. Nowhere near. Not in cycling. Not in ministry. In ministry, as in cycling, seeing myself as part of a peloton of riders is a helpful corrective to trying to “gut out” ministry like it’s a solo timed trial. Every cyclist and every pastor benefits from being in a group. “It is estimated that in a peloton or group, the drafting cyclist does up to thirty-five percent less work than the front rider who literally has to break a hole in the air ahead.” [1]

Ministry can be lonely work.  That’s why it is crucial to intentionally connect ourselves with a team of riders, heading in the same direction. It not only can make the workload easier, it can make the work itself a beauty-filled experience: Cooperation for the sake of a common goal is a stunning reflection of kingdom values. [2]

I was preceded in my work as a Regional Pastor by a wise colleague, Rev. Henry Numan. Rev. Numan and his wife, Ailene, would travel to Northern British Columbia and visit with each of the pastoral couples over supper. Given the lengthy distance between churches in our region, the trip is not for the faint of heart: They affectionately referred to the arduous trek as their Tour de North. I did not need to reinvent the wheel (or the Tour) when I took on the role of Regional Pastor:

I work to visit with pastors and their spouses. The cycling principles are, hopefully, obvious in our prayerful conversations: We remember that we cannot do this work alone. We thank God for those that take a turn at the front — our group of leaders (in our church and among colleagues). We talk about the flat tires and blowouts of ministry. We open up about the gruelling ascents that can lead to gorgeous vistas and amazing descents. We remind ourselves of Biblical wind-of-the-Spirit stories that have fanned us and God’s church.  

Because I'm not a retired pastor, I'm grateful for the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence grants we received to facilitate meeting together as Northern Pastors. These meetings have allowed us to build foundational relationship as pastors. Certainly, in my group, I remain the Regional Pastor but I also benefit from the relationship as we bring together ideas, support each other, work and play as friends, and care for each other.

I sometimes go on a community group bike ride, led by my friend who is a pastor in the Evangelical Free Church. He posted an invitation the other day: “We are a bunch of friendly cyclists who help each other out and warmly welcome new riders. We start together, ride together, and finish together.” As a pastoral peloton, we are, to borrow a phrase, better together. Nobody wears a maillot jaune (yellow jersey). We start together. Ride together. Finish together.

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