When I was in High School, athletics were a big part of my life. There are so many things you learn while competing in sports. I found my love for baseball and football early on.
One of the hazards of playing football, at least in our High School was that in the spring, whether you wanted to or not, you competed in track. Our football coach mandated it so we would stay in good condition for football. At least that was the reason he gave.
I really did not enjoy track that much because there was no ball involved. But I complied and lettered in track three times. The one and only event I truly enjoyed was the 4 X 100 Relay. The baton we carried around the track wasn’t a ball but it was close. I was always the “lead-off” man out of the blocks and it was my job to sprint full out for 100 yards and save enough strength that once I hit that area called the exchange zone, I was to overtake the outgoing runner, hand him the baton while never losing speed. This exchange happened two more times as the race progressed.
It was in this tenuous place called the exchange zone that the race was won or lost. The baton could be dropped and the team disqualified or the exchange could be made in an ineffective way so as to slow down the progress of the runners. The hand-off had to be smooth and without any loss of speed. There had to be technique, teamwork and precision.
The Relay Race is a useful metaphor for the Christian life. Not only are we to “run our race to win” (1 Corinthians 9:24) but we are also to “entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others”. (2 Timothy 2:2) In other words, there comes a time when the baton must be handed off so that the work will continue.
One of the priorities I believe God has given our church for the next 10 years is to intentionally raise up young leaders. To keep the church youthful is vitally important and is a Biblical mandate. A youthful church requires youthful leaders. Therefore, each one of us who are serving in some capacity within the church should be intentionally looking for people 10 to 20 years our junior and enlist them to come along our side and learn to serve Jesus in a leadership capacity.
Joshua was Moses attendant in the wilderness and took the lead as the nation of Israel possessed the Promised Land. Elisha was mentored by the prophet Elijah and ended up with a double portion of Elijah’s anointing. David prepared his son Solomon to carry on the work of the ministry and Solomon was able to accomplish what his father could not; he built the Temple. Paul seemed to always have a band of young men following him. It was like a traveling seminary. Paul handed a good portion of the work off to a young man he loved named Timothy. Even in prison, Paul was still instructing and encouraging Timothy.
Most importantly we see Jesus preparing His disciples. This was no easy task since this band of quirky, argumentative and immature men who often times had their own agendas were going to be handed the “keys of the Kingdom of God”.
Raising up young leaders is never easy but it is vitally important and can be the most rewarding aspect of the Christian life. And when it comes time to hand off the baton, the Kingdom of God will go forward with young leaders who have been loved, coached and envisioned to take thing beyond anything we could have imagined.