I was feeling flabby this evening so I went for a run. Puffing through the park, I noticed that a couple of teenagers had tied a rope between two trees, suspended a few feet above the ground. I then saw one of them run, jump, land on the rope and balance precariously. He edged forward a few paces, and then fell off. His buddy then ran, jumped, landed, walked a bit further and fell off. The first guy had another go. It turns out this is called ‘slacklining’.
From skateboarders in Exeter, break-dancers in Warsaw or footballistas in Milan I’ve always been impressed by the teenagers who practice for hours. They take risks, make mistakes, fall over, get up, advise, share ideas and get impressively good. My dad used to thrash me at table-football (that was the only corporate punishment in our house) and, after another blurry ball was flicked between strikers and whacked into my goal, he admitted it was ‘the sign of a wasted youth’.
Risk-taking, mistake-making, bone-breaking (?) but exhilarating. That’s how we get good at anything exciting. And the ‘slackliners’ or skaters do it together.
How about us? What’s the lesson for those who want to tune into the Word, listen to the World, process what’s heard in humbled grateful Gospel-hearts (see previous ‘Ideal’ article) and then speak? How do slackliners and skaters inspire us to action today, ensuring excellence tomorrow? Here are three questions we might consider.
- Do skateboarders practice in their bedrooms? Maybe, but they’re only going to get good when they get together at the park. Given that we’ll be heard in real time by fresh ears, practicing in our bedrooms is nowhere near as useful as getting heard by a discerning friend. If this adds such value, could you add this to your preparation?
- Where are the ‘skateparks’ for preachers / persuasive evangelists? I’m not saying that the forty-year-olds hand over their pulpits to fourteen year olds, but let’s give them an opportunity to take risks, practice and learn together. The Oxford students who meet with me once a week to develop persuasive evangelistic talks deliver them in their colleges and local schools. It’s fun! We take risks, laugh together, improve and I’m thrilled to be listening to the future. Is this kind of group something you could do?
- Who is your slack-lining buddy? I’m currently very blessed to have Dave McNee as my Relay worker and we’re endlessly revising and refining each other’s talks. From discussing starting points over coffee to revising the final version in the car, we find that a second pair of ears makes all the difference. A public talk isn’t a private occasion, so why should the preparation for it be? Who could you team up with?
If you want to mentor or be mentored by someone in the UCCF’s national Christian Persuader network then do get in touch.
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