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Lessons from a relay race

This reflection is based on: 2 Timothy 

Originally Paul was a very anti-Christian man.  He sought to bring the church down, but through a really dramatic and personal experience of God in his life he discovered that God had a particular purpose in mind for his life and his skills.

He became an influential leader in the very early days of the church, after Jesus died.

He travelled all around his area of the world (places we now call the Middle East, Italy, and parts of Europe) to help set up church groups, challenge governments about faith and justice and to teach people how to live well, like Jesus.

He also wrote lots of letters. These were mainly to church leaders, to help them deal with issues they faced in their communities, and to provoke them to grow in their faith.

Timothy received letters from Paul. He was a young man that Paul had met on his travels and identified as having real potential as a leader of others.

He took Timothy under his wing, and sought to give him opportunity and encouragement to lead.

In one of his letters to Timothy Paul provides a real challenge generally about how to encourage younger leaders. He teaches Timothy (his emerging protegy) how to make sure other younger leaders continue to grow in the church.

He uses a picture from sport – the ‘baton’ in a relay race.

“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” 2 Timothy 2:1-5, ESV

Here are four basic tips for us to consider about how we encourage others to take a lead

  1. Have a hold of your baton! There’s only ever going to be one you, so be you! You can’t pass on something you haven’t got in your hand, so it’s important to be yourself in your own leadership, know YOUR gifts and calling, and be bold enough to show these to the emerging leaders around you
  2. Run your part in the relay race well. Your life is a powerful inspiration and example to those who will take the baton from you. As daunting as that may seem, it is in fact true. This does not mean live perfectly or cover up your mistakes and weaknesses. It actually means be open and honest about your life and how you are learning to be a follower of God in the real issues of your own life.
  3. Pass the baton on! Leadership does not stop at you. You are part of God’s story, but not all of it. Spending time looking for the right people to invest in is key. So is providing them with genuine opportunities to lead. Having your radar tuned in to God’s choice of people is important in this too. Long before Jesus there was a man who God had his eye on as a potential leader – Gideon. In no way did he look like a great leader in the making (and he always had insecurities) BUT he was God’s choice, and he did good!
  4. Be a cheer leader. Watch a relay race and see how the runner who passes on the baton at the end of his leg reacts once she has done her part. She stays on the track and shouts and cheers her team mate on to do really well in her leg of the race. Her role isn’t solo. It’s not just about her. It’s about the end result, and she can influence that by believing in the girl she’s passed the baton on to, and by cheering her home!

Thanks to Matt Summerfield (Urban Saints) for reminding me about living a  ‘baton passing life’.

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