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A Wimbledon Parable

Another great Wimbledon (if you are a tennis fan that is).

I found myself thinking that what happened at Wimbledon this year has lessons for many organisations, including of course the church, as well as the world of sport.

Apart from the usual very high quality of play this years competition will be remembered for the fact that both the womens and mens singles finalists had players in their mid-thirties. In relation to a sport that requires very high standards of fitness that is unusual.

The long standing popularity of both the players concerned meant that a majority of the crowd were supporting them in their finals and, as we know, one lost, one won.

It is a vivid reminder that “old” (a relative term in both sport and life these days) doesn’t mean “spent” or “past the stage with anything useful to contribute”. Organisations do well to continue to both value and affirm the work and effort of long standing “players” or volunteers whose giving has influenced the lives of many others and who are often the main stay of groups and activities continuing to operate, as well as an ongoing source of inspiration and (hopefully) training.

The world of sport does however make one principle clearer than might otherwise be the case. There will come a time when physically athletes and, in this case, tennis players, will not be able to out play those who are younger and fitter. Even if they don’t want to they will inevitably “pass the baton” of championship status on.

There are many other organisations and voluntary bodies where “passing the baton on” should be both a cherished hope and deliberate choice. Herein is the parable element that very much applies to the life of the church. Those of us involved in any area of ministry are “servants” and “servant leaders” and we should be consciously and deliberately seeking to “pass the baton on” – identifying, even consciously working to create those who we can encourage, develop and train to take on the roles we have occupied.

Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples, and then those disciples go and make disciples, and then those disciples go and make disciples – and on, and on and on.

It raises a question for each one of us – “Who am I discipling?” – “Who am I passing the baton on to?”


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