NASCAR Leadership

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A couple of summers ago I drove a race car. On a track. At 150mph. By myself.

Sure, the Ricky Bobby jokes abounded as we piled in the car and drove to Charlotte Motor Speedway, but the actual experience was one of the most intense things I’ve ever done.

There was a quick training session, most of which I couldn’t listen to because all I could think in my head was 1.) please don’t let me die, 2.) please don’t let me go flying into the wall, and 3.) Ricky Bobby you are not on fire.

The inside of my head is a strange place to be sometimes.

As I put on my racing suit and got fitted for a helmet I watched as the group ahead of me went flying out of Pit Row and started racing. I noticed quickly that there were two kinds of drivers: the drivers who never could get their speed up and the ones who pushed the limits of their cars.

There was no in-between. On that track you are either all in or you’re sidelined.

As I was sitting in my own car, the engine idling and my pit crew yelling last minute instructions to me the anticipation of the entire thing was enough to make me want to bail out, put my feet back on the ground, and watch others race their guts out. I envied my 1 year old, blissfully asleep in his stroller.

But I stayed because my dad and brother were there, too and I wasn’t about to wuss out. Suddenly, a voice comes through my helmet: it’s my pit crew chief. He reminds me that as soon as that flag waves that I need to hit Pit Row and pick up speed quickly in order to hit the track correctly. Too much speed and it would be hard to take the first turn, too little and I’d never get it back in time to fully experience everything the car and the track has to offer.

Just for good measure, I asked him if he was sure that they were willing to trust me to do this.  His response?  He laughed and told me to “git ‘er done, girl.”

Gracious.

With that glittering piece of advice, I left Pit Row at the right speed, wimped out the first couple of turns but then I hit my stride. They weren’t lying in orientation, these cars were made for this. I can test its limits. My pit crew chief was my second set of eyes, keeping watch over me in the car and giving me continual feedback. He could see the road ahead while I was intensely focused on the immediate needs, like, not careening into the wall.

Sometimes our faith is like that. And our leadership. We can feel our heart race with the anticipation of what God has built us to do but we’re too scared to put on the helmet, or get in the car, or race out of Pit Row. We’d rather put on some headphones and take a nap, or watch someone else drive our car for us. Then, sometimes we race out of Pit Row and get tripped up at the first turn. Somebody criticizes the decision, a board member no longer supports you publicly, a key volunteer leaves; and yet, you’re racing.  And it’s dripping in clarity and vision that can only come from the Lord.  Faith and leadership are just like those two kinds of racers: you are either all in or you are sidelined.  There is no in-between.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)

As leaders, especially church leaders, we have a great responsibility to lead without fear. To lead without worrying about whether or not you, like the race car, were built for it. There are things that only you can do well. There are things only others can do well. Neither is better or worse because of it.  What is the weight that is slowing you down?  Is it wanting everyone to agree with your decision? (They won’t)  Is it worry that you can’t actually accomplish that big hairy dream in your heart?  (You can)  Is it a personal sin that is keeping you from experiencing all that God has for you?  (Get rid of it)

 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. (Hebrews 12:2-3 NLT)

Just as my pit crew chief was keeping his eyes on me and the track, so does Christ for you when you’re leading in His will.  It doesn’t say there won’t be haters, it doesn’t mean it will be easy, but you will always be restless until you take that first step down the road He has prepared for you.  Boogity, boogity, boogity, Amen

You are breathing air in this piece of history for a reason, leader.  What are you going to do with it?

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