Did you stay up till midnight to watch the torch lighting at the Olympics? I didn’t want to, but I did. Over the years I have been drawn to the Olympic torch lighting like a moth to a flame. It started back in 1984 watching Rafer Johnson scale the steps at the Coliseum and was solidified when the archer from Spain shot an arrow to light in for the 1992 Barcelona games. To be honest at first I wasn’t too impressed with the British torch ceremony. They chose six teenagers to light the caldron flame. In a moving ceremony six of Britain’s greatest athletes passed off the torch to these six promising teenagers which symbolized the passing of the torch from the legends to the next generation.
At first I was upset at who Britain chose to light the caldron. Britain has some great athletes and it’s always great to see some legend, which is kept top secret, come out and light the torch. The teenagers lit these brass pots which then proceeded to spread over 205 pots (Each pot represented a country participating in the games) and all the pots then rose up to form the Olympic caldron which will keep the flame lit until the end of the games. My displeasure dissipated quickly because it was so cool. It did get me thinking about how people and organizations pass the torch and keep the flame lit.
Calvary Chapel is going through a passing of the torch. At first I was excited because it was needed, but right now I am bordering on hesitant. When Greg Laurie, Bob Coy, and Brian Brodersen held court at our pastor’s conference it signaled a new day in our movement and to be honest there was a lot of enthusiasm generated, but last week they released more information about the process and my heart sank. To me it looks like they went backwards ten years as opposed to going forward. Now this could just be my skepticism and honestly change drudges up the fear in everyone, but I was hoping for something fresh and new, not a retread of the past. We will see how this plays out.
Passing the Torch is a metaphor for any organization that is going through a leadership shift. It is a symbol of giving the power to the next generation. If you are going to pass the torch there are several things that you have to keep in mind
- You must go forward: Every organization must go forward in order to continue on. You cannot have a preservation mindset when handing the reigns to the next guy. If the intention is to memorialize how things were or how great a leader was the organization will stall and falter. When the torch is passed it must be done with a mindset of preparing for what God has in store in the years to come. This takes prayer, vision, and guts.
- You must go younger: Some people will argue with me on this point but the torch has to go to someone younger. If we hand it to someone who has one foot in retirement, or whose energy is on the downward side this will frustrate those under them. It is the organizations responsibility look for the up and coming leader who has his finger on the pulse of the current generation and is willing to take the organization in the necessary direction. This may go against the norm or founder but is needed to move forward.
- You must take a risk: Any passing of the torch involves risk. No one holds the values of the organization more closely than the founders. It is scary to hand over power to someone who thinks differently than the previous leaders. It also threatens those who have built up their networking cache and risk losing influence if new blood comes in. But for the flame of an organization to continue to burn bright into the future there must be risks taken that will get it there. If you don’t take the risks necessary then it will only fizzle.
- You must let it play itself out: The final key is the let it play out. Once the leaders make a decision it is important to give it time to work itself out. I was alarmed by some things that were happening but in reality I wasn’t in the conference room making those decisions and I don’t know what went into making them. It will take a minimum of six months for these decisions to be implemented and have an effect. That is why it is also important when tough decisions are made to give it time. It’s rarely as bad as we fear and often we are surprised by the benefits. That is my approach in this and I encourage everyone to do the same.