What the Church Can Learn From Spinning

There is something about stretching yourself physically, going beyond what you think you are capable of, that is invigorating. Spinning allows me to access a power inside—this sense that I can conquer the world if I put my mind to it. I know that endorphins have something to do with this, but there is more to it.

I tap into this power deep within, and I am motivated in a way that I have never felt. And I feel this power spilling over into my life. As I live into this newfound power, I am more courageous, I speak truth more easily, I step out in more authentic ways. As I enter class, I try to let spinning be a posture of prayer.

Worship services, on the other hand, function more along the lines of watching TV than working out.

It’s early Wednesday morning, and I have managed to successfully drag myself out of bed, get dressed, and head to the gym. I am at my weekly spinning class. Don, our instructor, enters the room. He is a short, wiry, middle-aged man who has more energy than one room can contain. As is his usual routine, he asks (or one could says yells): “Are you ready to burn some calories today? Are you ready to release those endorphins?” And my response (inside my head is): “You know it, Don!” The first 10 minutes of the class are agonizing, as my muscles warm up and my heart rate increases. I feel like there is no way I will make it through the entire 60 minutes! And then, halfway through the class, as the endorphins are starting to release, Don always looks at us with amazement and pride and yells: “You look wonderful! Look at how great you are doing! You are powerful! You are strong!” And once again, inside my head, I say “I am powerful! I am strong! I can do this!” By the end of the class, I feel exhausted, energized and proud that I took on the challenge.

So, what do worship and spinning have to do with each other?

Unfortunately, not much.

There is something about stretching yourself physically, going beyond what you think you are capable of, that is invigorating. Spinning allows me to access a power inside—this sense that I can conquer the world if I put my mind to it, that I am capable of anything. Now, I know that endorphins have something to do with this—but there is more to it than this.

I tap into this power deep within, and I am motivated in a way that I have never felt. And I feel this power spilling over into my life. As I live into this newfound power, I am more courageous, I speak truth more easily, I step out in more authentic ways. As I enter class, I try to let spinning be a posture of prayer.

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Worship services, on the other hand, function more along the lines of watching TV than working out. We pull up a chair and sit back, waiting to be entertained. There isn’t a lot required of us in worship in many churches. We sometimes measure the worth of a worship service by how easy it was to swallow. Did the sermon entertain us? Was the music upbeat enough? Did the time go by really fast? I know this sounds cynical, but the truth is most of our worship falls under the “couch potato” category.

But liturgy actually means “the work of the people.” We have somehow moved away from that and begun to define worship as “the work for the people”—a few do the work for the many who come to watch. Where did we get the notion that worship shouldn’t require much of us? When did we begin to believe that we can just sit back and be formed? Not that I think we need to bring people through the ringer every week, leaving them sore the day after, but I do think that congregations need to become a little more like a spinning class—accomplishing something together, stretching ourselves, tapping into an unknown power—than a packed movie theater, tuning out for an hour together.

How do we move worship back to the work of the people? What does it look like for worship to incorporate some challenging aspects? How has passivity found its way into your worship services?

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