Pass the Baton

February 18, 2015 | Max Torkelsen

The very air in the stadium feels electric with anticipation. Fans, 100,000 of them, sit forward, awaiting the starting gun, as you and the other athletes prepare to run the race. Ahead of you, the track has been carefully leveled and compacted, the running lanes marked with chalk. 

Although you’ve rehearsed this a thousand times, the reality hits home. It’s time. You firmly set your feet in the starting blocks and place your fingers right on the line. There is a moment of intense focus, and then … the crack of the starting gun.

Your mission is to sprint just one lap, for the key to the race is the baton in your hand. This is not just YOUR race. It’s your TEAM’S race, a relay in which each athlete must run one lap with every ounce of his energy. And yet, to a large degree, the race will be won or lost at the point where the baton is passed from one runner to the other. A fumbled handoff will jeopardize any chance of victory.

As we look to the future of the church, how much attention have we given to the “baton"? The baton we have is not just formed in words or good intentions. We must have an action plan that helps us transfer the vision for our church to succeeding generations. Will our young adults be ready and willing to join the leadership of this team? Will they be passionate about and involved with the unique Adventist calling within the gospel commission? How can we be sure not to drop the baton?

Here are a few questions for which I hope we can define better answers here in the Northwest and in each of our local churches.

  1. Do we have an intentional strategy to integrate young people into the life and ministry of the church?
  2. Are youth appropriately represented in our boards and committees and constituency meetings?
  3. Do we trust them to be loyal to the church while at the same time thinking creatively beyond the status quo?
  4. Are we willing to risk failure when every new idea does not prove successful?
  5. Are we delegating real responsibility or just tokenism?
  6. Do we remember that the Adventist movement began with very young leaders?

Scripture points to a significant role for young adults in the final days. The book of Joel reminds us the work will close when our “sons and our daughters prophesy” and “young men see visions” and the Spirit “is poured out upon the handmaids” (Joel 2:28, 29).

Ellen White had some good counsel in regard to the multigenerational thrust of the Advent message. “Let not the youth be ignored,” she wrote. “Let them share in the labor and responsibility. Let them feel that they have a part to act in helping and blessing others. Let the overseers of the church devise plans whereby young men and women may be trained to put to use their entrusted talents” (Testimonies to the Church, vol. 6, p. 435).

So we are truly in a relay race. The writer of Hebrews observes that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have given their lives for this race. Jesus is coming soon. There is work to be done. We need all hands on deck. We need the wisdom and experience that come with age but also the creativity and energy of youth and young adults. 

Value them, encourage them, give them meaningful responsibilities. 

Pass the baton.