The XXX Olympiad in London has been uplifting, inspiring and a huge success for Team GB. It has been Great Britain’s most successful Olympic Games.
Finishing third in the medals table, behind the USA and China, Team GB took home 29 Gold, 17 Silver and 19 Bronze medals – more golds than in 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996 combined.
Inspirational individual performances by athletes captured the attention of millions of people. Jessica Ennis, Andy Murray, Ben Ainslee, Tom Daley, Bradley Wiggins to name a few. How many people had heard of Mo Farrah before or long jumper, Greg Rutherford?
The individuals who have had the honour to stand on the podium over the past two weeks could not have done it alone. Behind them are teams. Long before they were selected to join Team GB, they were part of a team – whether a local atheletics club or a school team.
Behind the success of Jessica Ennis in the Heptathlon is her coach who has been with her since she was 13 years old. Four years ago, they watched Beijing on TV in the UK as she was injured. She has specialist coaches for each discipline, a physio, nutritionist, psychologist, manager and also her fiancé and family.
Even the fastest and greatest sprinter of all time, Usain Bolt is part of a great Jamaican team – a nation of 3 million people where sprinting is a national past time! They won gold and silver in the 100m, gold, silver and bronze in the 200m and took the 4x100m relay in world record breaking style.
The Olympics is not the only place where the power of a team to achieve great things is found. You can see it throughout the Bible.
In the Old Testament, Moses led a nation out of slavery but needed a team to help him govern millions of people (Exodus 18:17, 21). Nehemiah, cup bearer to the King of Persia, required a team to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem which had been reduced to rubble (Nehemiah 3).
In the New Testament, Jesus selected a team of 12 to change the world. He focussed intensely on training them not the crowds who followed him around. In Church history, Methodist founder, John Wesley had a team of preachers known as circuit riders, who rode around the UK on horseback, leading small groups of Christians known in ‘class meetings.’
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says that: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Join a Team. To become better, team is required. The first step is in joining a team.
Mo Farrah had been spotted back when he was 14 years old, yet despite his potential he was training in London 18 months ago, ‘left pretty much to his own devices, with workouts supplied to him by his former coach.’ This all changed when he was invited to join the pioneering ‘Oregon Project’ in Portland, founded 11 years ago with a mission to revive American long-distance running, by coach Alberto Salazar. ‘Farah’s remarkable improvement’ n was simply down to ‘attention — a properly structured training programme with a hands-on coach to supervise him.’ Salazar taught him how to improve his ‘kick’ at the end of the race and to win in the last 100m. The rest is now history.
For the Christian, the team is the local church. Church is not a private members club but rather a family. It’s essential then that Christians belong and are committed to a local church family if there are to reach their potential. John Wesley once said, ‘There is no such thing as solitary Christianity.’
Work in Team. As any sports person knows, once you join a team, the work begins! In fact work is the evidence that you are part of a team. Ecclesiastes says there is a better return when two work together and can help each other.
In an event such as rowing, there is a huge amount of trust within a crew . When they are competing together, they know that their crew mates are working hard to help win. (Consider GB Chief Coach Jurgen Grobler who has won a gold medal with crews at every Olympics since 1972).
President Truman said:
It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.
The Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonny, who won gold and bronze in the Triathlon were actually part of a three member GB team. The third member, Stuart Hayes, was recruited specifically to assist them in the cycle, which he duly did. He led the race, aiming to tire the rest of the group before the run. His work in serving them helped the brothers become the first British family in 112 years to win medals in the same individual Olympic event.
Build a Great Team. When individuals work together as a team a great team can be built. During the Olympics this was most visibly seen in the cycling. In 2005, David Brailsford took over as British Cycling’s performance director and became the mastermind behind the phenomenal success of the British track cycling team which dominated the Beijing Olympics in 2008, winning seven gold medals.
In London, he won 8 golds, taking 12 medals in total from 18 events which included the track, road, BMX and mountain bike teams. The Olympic success arrived on the back of victory for Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France with Team Sky, created and managed by Brailsford.
One man’s vision has transformed a nation’s interest in a spork and he is close to his other goal of encouraging 1 million people to take up cycling. ‘The perception of cycling is changing – we need to be agents of change. Our job is to prove beyond doubt that it can be done.’ (Read Sky’s the Limit for the full story).
The church should be inspired by these modern day parables witnessed in London. It should also be challenged.
The apostle Paul made it clear that Christians should have even greater discipline, passion and determination in running their race (Philippians 3:12-14).
Great churches can be built and need to be built. If Christians get a clear vision of what the prize is and work together in forming great teams then a great prize and legacy awaits.