As I travel around to conferences, meet with different churches and ministries, and chat with young Christians in my present ministry context I often meet young men, women, and couples with huge leadership potential.  They get who Jesus is and what He’s about, they have innovative ideas and know how to think outside the box, they share Jesus’ heart for the lost and the least, and they want to make a lasting impact on the world as the hands and feet of Jesus.  I like to refer to these guys as racehorses, because they’re at the starting gates restless, revving, and ready to take off.

As I’ve been reflecting on this over the past few weeks, I’m increasingly convinced that experienced ministry leaders have a responsibility to provide…

1) Permission to go. Someone needs to open the gate and release these young leaders to run.  I meet some who are caught in the bureaucratic bottleneck of a missions organization.  Others are sitting the bench in a church because they have not put in their time or they make established leaders nervous.  Still others are guilted by the responsibilities of life or by relationships with close friends and family to play it safe and hold back.  I sense an increasing burden to give these young race horses an opportunity to join the race, to get their hands dirty in ministry, and to provide opportunities to succeed and even fail.

2) Coaching and mentoring. Even the fastest race horse with the finest pedigree needs a trainer to bring out the best of its natural ability.  Even the most gifted young leaders need a coach or mentor who sees the God-given potential in them, who believes in what God has called them to do, and is willing to invest the time to help them fine-tune their God-given ability.  I can remember being a young leader and the spiritual big brothers God placed in my life who saw what God could do and challenged me to live it out.  One thing I realize now is that their investment in me required a sacrifice of time and energy.

3) Focus and direction. The fastest race horse also needs an experienced jockey to steer them to victory on the track- otherwise it seems the horse would run aimlessly around the track.  Many of these young leaders have a great deal of pent up energy and ideas oozing out of their ears.  I believe that those of us who are a little further down the track have a responsibility to give them clear directed opportunities to use their God-given abilities and to live out the ideas and dreams God has placed in their hearts.  The tough challenge for me and other leaders will be providing guidance without micromanaging, and providing encouragement without removing young leaders from the necessary struggle and tension of ministry.

All the responsibility is not on experienced pastors and ministry leaders though.  If you are a young racehorse leader, you have a responsibility too.  You must say yes to the risk. As my good friend Mike Linch from North Star Church says, put your yes on the table.  Before you even know where God is leading or what God is asking, are you willing to say yes because you love Him and trust Him?  If you look at the people God uses to make an eternal impact, they are not always the most influential, talented, or gifted.  But they are the people who have place their yes on the table.

Reality is that when you say yes you won’t know everything you’re getting into, but everything in your life must be negotiable.  You won’t have answers to all the questions- you won’t even know all the questions to ask.  You’ll be required to take risks and make sacrifices you did not anticipate.  This will require having an open hand with God concerning your family, your home, your resources, your career, your security, your plans…

OR you can play it safe.  Your God-given ideas may never be implemented.  Your divinely inspired dreams will remain dormant.  The fire inside of you will smolder instead of being fanned into flame.  And one day you may find yourself wondering what if…

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

-The Apostle Paul speaking to the leaders of the Ephesian church, Acts 20:24-

...fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

-The Apostle Paul writing to a young leader name Timothy, 2 Timothy 1:6-7-

Please pray…

Pray that I would have eyes to see the young leaders God has placed in my point of contact that I need to invest in.

Pray that God would send more racehorse type leaders to join our work in Burlington, VT.

Pray that our new church would create a culture that cultivates young leaders who impact this world.


7 thoughts on “Racehorses

  1. Inspiring words, Kevin! Have you considered what type of leadership development you’d like to pursue or what types of leaders you’d like to help develop?

    It seems for church planting and conversion a Transformational Leader is a good choice – what types of qualities are you looking for that help you determine if you have a leader or not?

    Welcome back, sincerely grateful for your safe travels and return!


  2. Yes welcome back!
    I hope I can run the race as fast as a horse or even faster. This was good encouragement, thanks Kevin.
    I’m chomping at the bit, no pun intended. To get busy doing what God wants us to do.
    As Mike Yaconeli said throw your hands in the air and enjoy the rollercoaster ride!


  3. There is a lot of glory in a full-on gallop, but it is a pace that cannot be maintained for very long. Even in training, racehorses only full-out gallop part of the time. And so many horses that could be great racehorses get burned up and injured or even killed because they are in the starting gate too many times without the proper rest and training in between. The truth is that all horses, even racehorses, aren’t really biomechanically made to gallop for long periods day after day. 1-2 mile races are MINUTES long, not hours. They are really most suited to a walk or jog, with brief beats of gallop within that jog from time to time.

    I think people get really amped up about the glory of what the race day feels like, but there is so much other effort including heartache and loss that goes on leading up to and after race day. To actually run the race, everyone has to put in that sacrifice as well. The effort is long and arduous, and the moment in the spotlight is short. That’s why people (I think) need to really be certain of who they are running for, and seek only His commendation–NOT the razzle-dazzle glory of the race, because it can be deceptive. The life of a racehorse looks flashy, but it is really a quiet, isolated existence apart from those moments out on the track. They are cooped up in a stall being fed large amounts of protein to prepare them to have energy to run, instead of being turned out in a large pasture with their other horsey friends. It’s a highly focused, but lonely life. There is not a lot of balance in that lifestyle.

    Sorry for the longish reply–that just really struck me. Not trying to be cynical either, but I actually own a young, but retired racehorse. He just wasn’t fast enough so the owners got rid of him. God has used him as a living, breathing parable on a daily basis in my life.:)


    • Allison, That was an amazing reply. As I was reading what you posted, I was reminded of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Every time Paul writes about running a race he’s referring to marathon not a windsprint. Much of what he talks about- the focus, the discipline, the training- are unseen by most people.
      Anyway, what you shared is a good reminder for me and the people I’m investing in. I don’t want to get burned out running a marathon at a sprint pace.

      BTW- I’d really like to use what you shared in future talks about leadership and ministry. Cool?

      Thank you!


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