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Passing the Baton
by Tom Goodman
October 9, 2008

Long-established churches need to learn how to pass the baton from one generation to the next, and Hillcrest can set the example.

One of the most painful moments in the Summer Olympics was watching Team USA drop the baton in the 4X100 relay.  And not just the men's team; the women failed the handoff in their race, too.  What's more, the drops in both races came on the exchange to the critical anchor (story).

Props to my Jamaican friends for amazing races from their national team, but 2008 was the first time in the history of the 4x100 that the USA failed to medal when they've competed.*

The men's and women's teams didn't lose for lack of good running:  The men had earlier swept the top three medals in the 400-meter race, won silver and bronze in the 110 hurdles, and the women bagged a silver in the 200.  Both teams were on their way to gold at the last leg of the relay.

But that's where I find a lesson for Hillcrest and other churches like ours.  Those in or near retirement need to keep this in mind:  Your generation may be running the race of faith well, but no one wins if you can't make a good handoff to the next generation.

I love what David said in Psalm 71.  The whole poem is a stubborn declaration to run the race of faith well into the senior years.  But at verse 18, he looks to baton-work:

(17) Since my youth, O God, you have taught me,
        and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.

(18) Even when I am old and gray,
        do not forsake me, O God,
        till I declare your power to the next generation,
        your might to all who are to come.

Translators are divided on whether verse 18 should be translated "even when I'm old and gray," or "now that I am old and gray."

If we take the first option, David would be thinking about a soon-coming time of seniority, and his thoughts could apply to the age range of our Adult 4 Department (roughly 50-65 years of age).  If we take the second option, David would already be in his senior years, and his words would apply to the age range of our Adult 5 and Senior Adult Departments (roughly those 65 and older).

In the end, though, does it really matter how the words are translated?  The point is the same:  David wasn't just interested in a "personal best."  He wanted to run his race faithfully, but he also wanted to see the next generation embrace the faith that meant so much to him.  He said, "God, I've got one more task before I'm done, and that's to commend you to younger generations."

Across the next few editions of LeaderLines, I'll share some observations about this work, and some commitments I think Hillcrest must make.  Here are some subject titles to look for:
  • Decoding our Church's ZIP Code
  • Meat-and-Potatoes Teaching
  • Surprises in Multi-Generational Worship
  • Steps to Baton-Passing
Watch for subjects like this across the next several Thursdays.  Wherever you are in life's race, be sure you end it well by seeing the baton of faith in the hands of the next generation!


*  Team USA did not compete in the boycotted 1980 Games.

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