Pass on the Baton
Pass on the Baton
When I left university at the age of twenty-one, I moved to London and was looking for a church to join. I visited HTB and heard Sandy Millar speak. Afterwards, I asked if I could meet with him. Soon after, I joined the church and began to learn from this extraordinary leader, friend and role model.
After several years as a member of the congregation, I went on to train for ordination in the Church of England and ten years after our first meeting I returned to HTB as Sandy Millar’s assistant minister. I continued in that role for nineteen years until 2005 when he passed on the baton to me, and I succeeded him as vicar of HTB. To this day, Sandy continues to be my role model, friend and inspiration.
There have always been people in my life from whom I am learning and others to whom I am trying to pass it on. Like runners in a relay race, we all have a responsibility to pass on the baton.
You have a story to tell. Every family has stories. Every church has its own stories of what God has done. Every Christian has a story – a testimony. All of us have access to the great story of what God has done in Christ. We have to ‘tell the stories’ (v.6, MSG).
This psalm gives us a sketch of Hebrew history leading up to King David, and stresses the importance of passing it on to the next generation. We see a contrast between the sins of Israel and the goodness of God. Jesus himself quoted this psalm (Matthew 13:35).
The psalmist says, ‘We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done… to teach their children, so that the next generation would know them… and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God’ (Psalm 78:4–7).
Juan Carlos Ortiz tells the story of meeting an old lady in his native Argentina who introduced him to a young girl, who was one of her great-grandchildren. She went on to tell that she had six children and thirty-six grandchildren. Her family was impressive in number and among her grandchildren were many well-educated and professional people. Carlos asked her, ‘How did you manage to produce such a large, well-fed, well-dressed, well-educated extended family?’ She replied, ‘I didn’t. I just took care of the six. And each of them took care of their six.’
Each generation has a responsibility to tell the next one about the goodness of God and to warn them of the mess that we make of our lives when we turn away from God’s goodness.
Lord, thank you for those who told us about ‘the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done’ (v.4). Help us to pass it on to the next generation so that they would put their trust in you.
Paul recognised he had a responsibility to train up others. He found Timothy – ‘a fine young man’ (vv.1–2, MSG). Timothy was discipled, trained and taught by Paul. Paul was a mentor to Timothy. They are a great example of what we all should be doing. Find a Paul from whom you can learn and find a Timothy to whom you can pass it on.
As with so many, I would say that every major strategic step or decision I have made has been inspired and encouraged not from a pulpit in a crowd of thousands but rather by someone within arm’s reach. There is no doubt that preaching can make a big impact, but we often overestimate the amount of truth that is assimilated between the pulpit and the pew. In my life, truth shared in proximity has been a key to my own personal growth. This seems to have been the key for Timothy.
It was through Paul that Timothy had become a Christian and they became very close friends. Paul was older than Timothy and he described their friendship as being like that of a father and son (Philippians 2:22). Paul described Timothy as ‘my son whom I love’ (1 Corinthians 4:17).
They went through a great deal together. ‘They travelled from town to town’ (Acts 16:4). They even spent time in prison together. During all this Timothy would have been watching Paul, and being trained up as his successor.
It is not enough to hope that the ‘Timothys’ are watching us. We must strategically position younger disciples to have significant opportunities to lead. Paul bestowed on Timothy real responsibility. He could trust him because he knew him so well.
Paul involved Timothy in the work right from the start. They took decisions together (v.4). Through their ministry together, ‘Day after day the congregations became stronger in faith and larger in size’ (v.5, MSG).
Timothy learnt about the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When they tried to enter Bithynia, the Holy Spirit ‘blocked that route. So they went to Mysia and tried to go north to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them go there either’ (vv.6–7, MSG). This is an important lesson in life. I can think of at least five occasions in my life where I have felt that I should go in a particular direction ‘but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow’ (v.7) the plan to succeed. As I look back now, I am so thankful the Spirit stopped plans which, in hindsight, were clearly not the right ones.
God then led Timothy and Paul in a new direction: ‘During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us”’ (v.9). Not surprisingly Paul took this as clear guidance that they were to go to Macedonia: ‘All the pieces had come together. We knew now for sure that God had called us to preach the good news to the Europeans’ (v.10, MSG).
In Philippi, Timothy would have watched Paul on the first Saturday that he was there, going down to the river where there were a group of women praying (v.13).
As Paul spoke about Jesus, Lydia, a rich merchant woman, was converted. She invited Paul and those with him to come and stay in her home. It must have been an extraordinary and wonderful experience for them both to see how the ‘Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message’ (v.14).
The final letter attributed to Paul is 2 Timothy. To the very end of his life, Paul’s priority was encouraging and releasing the next generation. Let’s make it ours too!
Lord, help every ‘Paul’ to find ‘Timothys’ who they can train up. Help every ‘Timothy’ to find a mentor like Paul who will pass on all their experience to them.
Teach1 Kings 12:25-14:20
Unless we learn the lessons of history and ‘teach… the next generation’ (Psalm 78:5–6) they will repeat the mistakes of the past. The book of Kings records the history of the people of God so that the following generations may learn from them.
Sadly, the lessons we can learn from this passage are mainly negative – the account of Jeroboam is a terrifying one. He passed on a terrible legacy to the next generation.
‘After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves’ (1 Kings 12:28). It is not enough to ‘seek advice’ if we consult the wrong people! These chapters contain the account of the sin of the house of Jeroboam that ‘led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth’ (13:34).
Jeroboam’s key sin was that he made up a form of religion and worship to suit himself. He encouraged idol worship rather than the worship of God (12:28). Jeroboam’s religion is a made-up religion, created to suit his own desires and needs.
We may not worship golden calves, but the same danger is just as evident today. As Pope Francis has said, ‘The most dangerous idol is our own selves when we want to occupy the place of God.’
This was Jeroboam’s sin, and it affected the next generation. His son Abijah became ill and died (chapter 14). He ignored the good example of the earlier generation of David who had lived with an undivided heart, pleasing God. Instead he had ‘set a new record in works of evil’ (14:9, MSG).
Jeroboam may have had many military, commercial and political achievements (see v.19), and yet it seems these successes are fairly irrelevant. As Jesus said, ‘What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul?’ (Mark 8:36). What matters most is a close relationship with the living God.
Lord, I pray that you will raise up leaders in industry, politics, creative arts, media and every sector of society, who will honour you and pass on your message and your standards to the next generation.
‘We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done… so that the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born.’
It is a challenge to pass on our faith to the next generation. I am so grateful to the children and youth workers at HTB. They have poured out their love on our children and the children of hundreds of others. Every year at Focus (our church holiday away), we have seen our children’s lives and many others transformed during the week. I am excited by what God is doing in the next generation. And the potential for ‘the children yet to be born’ is vast – keep praying for them all.
Verse of the Day
‘Tell the stories’ (Psalm 78:6, MSG).
Juan Carlos Ortiz, Disciple (Charisma House, 2001) pp.101–102.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.