A postmodern journey of faith...


People are jerks.

Matthew 13:54-55

It is the nature of people to be inconsistent jerks. Expect no less. And don't be one yourself.


Training Wheels for Faith?

My youngest son is incredibly spunky. This week, he decided that it was time for him to transition from training wheels to a "two-wheeler." He pestered me a few times about removing the training wheels, but my tools always seemed to be in the back of Mom's van when he asked. Finally, the little twirp took matters into his own hands. I found him out in the lawn, plastic wrench and toy drill in hand, and he'd actually gotten one of the wheels off! I was incredulous! Admittedly, I was a little proud of him...pretty industrious for a four-year-old. Still, one of the biggest reasons I'd stalled was because I knew he wasn't ready to have the wheels taken off. Raised up, maybe. But not taken off entirely.

Later that day, I ran to the grocery store and had a conversation with the neighbor lady, who had been enjoying watching me teach my son to ride on his sister's bike. I told her about the training wheels incident, to which she promptly replied, "Our kids didn't use training wheels." Come to think of it, neither did I. So, why did we give our kids training wheels? As I thought about it, I came up with a one-word conclusion: acceptance. Quite simply, we didn't want our little guy to feel left out of the world of bike-riding, and we didn't want to make the time to teach him...so we slapped on some training wheels and let him go.

My question: Is this a good thing? I'm not sure.

Are kids who learn without training wheels better bike riders? Not necessarily...theyjust learn faster, and probably with a few more skinned knees to show off as trophies. But from the other perspective, is it good for a child to "coddle" him along just so he feels like he fits in? Would he be better off if he'd had the "rite of passage" of bike-riding, sans training wheels? Is it OK to allow people to feel left behind if it motivates them to move forward? After all, that's what made me learn to ride bike. I was tired of feeling left out, so one day I just got on the dang thing and pedaled and it worked.

So, here we are in the "new church," and we're working very hard to find ways to make faith accessible for those to whom it has seemed alien and distant. In essence, we're providing spiritual "training wheels," so we can help folks avoid some of the skinned knees in their faith walk. But is it good and right to do this? How does a person end up better off in the long-run: if he is allowed to fall off a few times, or if he's given the tools to prevent crashes? I know from my bike-riding experiences that if I'd had training wheels, I would have become dependent upon them and probably not have gone without them until they were taken away--at which time I may have simply stopped riding my bike.

Herein lies our problem, and I think it's a question of balance (again, as usual). My son did miserably without training wheels, so I put them back on. The reason he did poorly, however, is because I've neglected to raise them up gradually so that he will learn to balance himself. My daughter ended up bending her wheels up by accident, and thus taught herself how to ride. My son has stronger wheels on his bike--so they need some assistance from dear ol' dad. When I put the wheels back on, I raised them up--and he continues to do better and better.

Spiritually, I think the reason we see crashes is because we tend to start people out with training wheels--which is good--but then decide one day to take them away. Heck, sometimes just seeing them there provides the security we need to keep going--like a safety net below a tightrope walker. Once we take them away, they try to ride again, crash, and many end up getting off the bike for good.

Today's question: How do we "raise up the wheels" for people in the emerging church?

UPDATE (2 months later): Yesterday my wife and I were laying down for our Sunday afternoon nap when my son came running in, "DADDY! I have something to show you!" So, I followed him outside--where he proceeded to get on his sister's two-wheeled bike and ride like the wind...no training wheels! Today, the kids and I gallavanted all over town together on bikes. The older two each crashed once--but my youngest didn't even falter.

The ultimate answer here is that I guess the use of traiining wheels depends on the person. Sometimes we need to allow folks their own time and space to adjust. Forcing my boy to ride without training wheels would've caused him to give up in bike-riding altogether. But allowing him his own space and time to mature and grow--well, it worked perfectly.

Tomorrow, I will be taking off his training wheels.