Monday, November 3, 2008

Surrendering the Baton

In the life span of any great endeavor there is a beginning, middle and an end. Some endeavors, especially those inspired by God, are so vast that those who begin them will never live to see their ultimate fulfillment. However, as with Abraham even he was able to see in faith the day that Jesus would come and fulfill all things.

As a missionary who is on such a journey I can recall times when I was convinced that I could run an outright sprint until my dying days and see all that God had promised come to fruition while I was yet in my vigor. I have seen many start this sprint only to drop dead in the process. Their focus and vision were so intense that they ignored all warnings and wisdom. With each lap they ran at full speed right past the person who was next in the relay because they were running for personal gold. Families suffered, health failed and the race ended early. Also, those who were waiting patiently for the baton grew frustrated and decided to start their own race.

Others who paced themselves a little better still had to face the reality of the end of their influence in a specific area. In short, they either embraced this or they fought it to the very end. I for one have sprinted until I dropped and also survived by God’s grace only to face a more sober reality, the reality that I will not take Ukraine for Jesus. The years of effective service in one area are finite, and this window is even narrower when I am ministering in a foreign culture.

My vision for Ukraine has in no way diminished, but I understand that I was never called to take Ukraine or any other country. The task is too great for any one man, and it will take longer than any one lifetime.

I am still ministering to young people, but I am now older than their parents so I know that another generation must take over this work. I am also not the best one suited to be a senior pastor in Ukraine. The main reason is that I am not Ukrainian. I can do the work, I speak the language but the job was simply not meant for me. It was meant for Ukrainians.

While some would see this as the end of ministry, for me it is in-fact the beginning of the greatest years. The reason being is that those whom I work with know that this is my value system. They know that I only want to equip them to do exploits in God, and they know that I do not want the glory, the individual gold. Because of this they only invite me more into what they are doing, and I have found that my effectiveness and influence are actually increasing. I am thoroughly content with this transition in life, and I can see in the next generation the second leg of the fulfillment of all that God has promised. Seeing the next generation rise up and run with greater agility is truly exciting.

Unfortunately, many leaders wait until they are on their deathbed before they pass the baton. They say, “Here my son, the responsibility is now yours. I am going to be with the Lord now.”

To this the young leader might reply, “But father, I don’t know how to do this, you never taught me. You did it all, and people will never trust anyone like they trusted you, the patriarch. Will you have email in heaven, a cell phone?”

The deathbed is not the place to pass the baton. We need to surrender it in our hearts from the moment it is put in our hand. The very nature of the baton is that it is not a scepter, and it must be passed. The race is simply too long and too important for us to run it ourselves.

So when do we start raising up the next generation to take the baton? From the moment we meet them. Do we end up sitting on the sidelines? No! We are to get as many people into the race in as many nations as possible until we see God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

Good runners become good running coaches, and good running coaches never really stop running.


Betsy Thraves said...

Wow, Mike. Clearly wisdom gained through years of living and serving well. I especially loved what you said about not running for individual gold. Wasn't it Ronald Reagan who said something to the effect that it's amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit? Good stuff you wrote.

NCmusic said...

Thanks Mike! Such Wisdom is hallowed and appreciated wherever races are long and hard won. When I was younger in ministry, I seemed to thrive on the "burnout setting"... Why, I don't know...
I never saw abusive relationsips until damage was done. I had to leave things that I had worked very hard for. I finally saw that I had been all about looking for approval from man--and I was terribly insecure. Now, I am finally in the most balanced ministry I have ever been a part of that is not a burden to me--and it came to me--I did not seek it out...That is just like the Lord...We were so glad to have you come and share with us!! May God richly bless you and your family in every work and establish you with His grace!

Daniel said...

This is a really good one, Mike. Your comment on the difference between the baton and the scepter strikes gold! There is a lot more that can be shared on the "passing" of the baton. I think you should consider continuing on this thread.

Mike Watkins said...

Thanks friends for the comments. I will try to continue this theme if some creativity comes on me.

Dave Hess said...

What a great perspective! I thank God you for having the sense of security to be able to "pass the baton" like that. WISE MOVE ... Will you remain in Ukraine for the hand off?

Mike Watkins said...


Here is the secret. The younger generation runs with us before the handoff, and we run with them after the handoff. This is the transition from equipping to empowering. The next phase is to teach leaders how to do the handoff to other leaders. 2 Tim 2:2

In short, we hope to stay in Ukraine many years, raise up many leaders and make many handoffs. This will bring in the harvest.