Unsung Heroes

kirkby-stadiumI’m reasonably confident that you’ve never heard of John and Doreen Mallinson, Ginger Hewitt or John Geddis. Am I right? I hadn’t until I read Chris Boardman’s autobiography over Christmas. They were stalwart members of a group of volunteers at the Kirkby Stadium, a cycling velodrome near the Wirral (now closed down). It’s where Boardman learnt to compete. He went on to become very accomplished at going round in circles very quickly.

You can trace the contemporary supremacy of British Cyclists and the growing popularity of recreational cycling to this man. He won individual pursuit gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He was the first man in the Yellow Jersey at the Tour de France since Tom Simpson in the early 1960s. After him came the household names of Bradley Wiggins, Sarah Storey, Chris Froome, Laura Kenny (nee Trott), Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Jason Kenny and may others. Boardman is partly responsible for the success of British Cycling, having worked quietly behind the scenes fuelling the research and development to give cyclists a technical edge as well as implementing recruitment systems and training processes and raising up and developing coaches. He’s responsible for the affordable range of bikes that bear his name sold at high street retailer Halfords. They’re very, very good bikes evidenced by the fact that the Brownlee brothers, Alastair and Jonathan, use them in triathlon. And Boardman has become an outspoken advocate and vocal campaigner for the social benefits of cycling.

But without John, Doreen, Ginger or John none of this would have happened. And Boardman knows it. They are the unsung heroes so beloved by Sports Personality of the Year. It’s the bit in the show that makes me well up. That phenomenon causes extreme embarrassment to my children and great amusement to my wife. But for me it’s fast becoming the sole reason to sit through SPOTY. But that’s a gripe for another day. But hear what Chris Boardman has to say about these volunteers,

‘Just a handful of individuals presiding over a low key activity on the outskirts of Liverpool helping people take their firsts steps in the sport. What they didn’t realise was that they were the true pioneers of the Olympic success to come, quietly preparing the ground for Britain’s cycling revolution’.

I couldn’t help but spot some parallels with our own situation at CCB. Nearly fifteen years ago people like Gordon, Phoebe, Christian, Helen, Jenni, Rosslyn and Rufus were part of small group of twenty who were planted into Balham to start a new church. None of us imagined that we’d be where we are now. It’s a wonderful work of God’s grace. I’m not going to claim that we were quietly preparing the ground for London’s evangelical revolution. But it’s great testimony to God’s goodness that he’s caused us to grow, enabled us to plant both Streatham Central Church (SCC) and Brixton Local Church (BLoC) and participated in the training of individuals for full time gospel ministry. That’s not nothing. At my last count we’d trained twelve people as ministry apprentices. And we have three currently ‘in the system’. That’s an average of one per year. I think we can and should do more. But that’s also for another time. And we haven’t even mentioned the conversion of individuals wo’ve come to trust in Christ, people who’ve been maintained in their faith, who’ve have grown in maturity and been equipped for the works of service that God has prepared for them to carry out in their homes, among their friends, at work and in the community.

I suspect that few of us in churches think much about what our participation in our local church will produce. We’re pretty short sighted. Church is part of the routine of life. Like work on a Monday morning. But take heart. Lift your eyes to the future. It is your very great privilege to be a participant in a divinely instituted organisation through whom God is building something significant for the future. One day we will be able to trace the value of our contribution into eternity. And it’ll be amazing to see how God has sued what we’ve down as He brings all things together under the saving reign of His Son, Jesus Christ. And in all likelihood we’ll probably even now have some inkling of what He’s doing in the present. But many of us don’t feel that we’re doing anything that important. Our name might appear regularly on a rota. We might be part of a team that runs a small ministry. But what we do just keeps things ticking along and the show on the road. But presumably that’s what the Mallinsons, Ginger and John thought.

In 1 Corinthians 15:58 the Apostle Paul wrote this, ‘Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain’. None of it is wasted. It all counts. The Lord will see to that. And who knows, your church may be somewhere from where the evangelical equivalent of a Chris Boardman develops!

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