One of the great miracles of the life and ministry of Jesus is that He chose to entrust His followers with sharing His great message of hope. What a high privilege and honor! As we consider this commission, I want to touch on two imperatives of discipleship: trust and passing the baton.
While in academy, I was convinced that my life’s work would center around music for the church. I didn’t know what that might look like—only that the Lord had given me a special interest in music.
My choir director, Max Qualley, approached me one day when I was a sophomore and handed me an octavo of “Spanish Eyes,” a popular song in those days. He said, “I like the song but not the arrangement. Would you be willing to make an arrangement that our Chorale can sing on tour?”
I didn’t think I could do it, but he thought I could. So I took the assignment very seriously and spent several days working on it. I even added a guitar part (that was my instrument) and he let me play it in our concerts. It was a huge thrill for me as a young student to hear Mr. Qualley introduce the song as my arrangement!
Two years later my band teacher, Gordon de Leon, asked if I’d like to be student conductor of the band. Would I! He even let me choose the piece, with no restrictions. I made my selection a bit selfishly, choosing what I thought was the best piece in our repertoire that year. Without hesitating or even raising his eyebrows, my teacher agreed.
Looking back, I realize I should have left him with the showcase piece. I’m sure he would have done much more with it musically than I did, but the lesson of trust he placed in me was not lost. He gave me adequate time in rehearsal to prepare it, and was willing to give me suggestions when I asked. Both my music teachers extended significant trust in me, trust which paved the way for me to develop the confidence to do meaningful things in music and Christian ministry.
Something about being trusted brings out the best in people. Which brings me to the baton. Learning to handle our baton in a trustworthy manner is not easy. We get attached to our ministries and want to hold on to them, sometimes longer than we should. But if we are to be faithful disciples for Jesus, our task is not only to disciple others but also to teach them how to be disciplers.
Remember the US track teams in the 2008 Olympics? Both the men and women were disqualified early in the 100-meter relay race because both teams dropped the baton. Perhaps it will be easier for us to appropriately pass the baton if we build into our thinking that we need to always be training others to carry forward the work of the church.
Consider the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, Spain. It was started by Antoni Gaudi in 1882 and is still being worked on today. “The people who worked to build the cathedrals in the Middle Ages never saw them completed. It took 200 years and more to build them. Some stonecutter somewhere sculpted a beautiful rose; it was his life’s work, and it was all he ever saw. But he never entered into the completed cathedral.” 1
We are all called to sculpt something beautiful for Christ with our lives and the opportunities He gives us. But we are only a part of building His church. We must be content to actively make our contribution while at the same time teaching others to be ready to take our place—and then trust them when it’s time.
Mic Thurber is ministerial director for the Mid-America Union.
1 Dorothee Soelle, Against the Wind (Augsburg Fortress, 1995).