le tour: the specialists

Yesterday I wrote about the riders competing for the General Classification victory at the tour.  About how they have to be on deck every day, whether it’s riding safely with the bunch on the flat stages, or battling there direct opponents on the high mountains.  A GC rider has to be a jack-of-all trades – strong on the flat, exceptional in the mountains, and particularly gifted in the discipline of individual time trial – the only stages in the tour where each rider is completely alone against the clock without the support of team mates.

Elsewhere in the tour, there are a number of other competitions going on.  This is a race with more than one winner.

The first finishers on each stage of the tour and at various points along the way are awarded points for their finishing position (irrespective of time).

Where those points are awarded on a mountain, they contribute toward a competition called “King of the Mountains”.  The leader (and eventually winner) of this competition (he who has accumulated the most points) wears a polka-dot jersey (in the manner of the more well known yellow jersey for the overall (GC) leader/winner).  Those who do well in this competition are usually pure climbers – light, wiring, built for going uphill. They aren’t usually fast enough to compete in bunched sprints on flat stages, or powerful enough to compete in the individual time trial. But show them a mountain, and look out.

Where the points are awarded on flat stages, or at flat points of the race, they contribute toward an overall Points classification. The leader/winner of this competition wears a Green jersey.  Usually these are the sprinters, the guys who can power home at upwards of 70km/h leaving all in their wake.  They’ll often trail home last on a mountain stage, but when released at the front of a peleton within sight of the finish line, can attain astonishing speeds.

Where the general classification contenders (Contador, Armstrong, Evans and co) have to do everything well, riders trying to win these other awards are specialists.  On high mountain stages, sprinters just need to get over the hills in one piece, and stay within a target finishing time to avoid exclusion.  Similar on the flat stages, the pure climbers can amble along at the back of the peleton, or play the role of domestique, serving and protecting their team leaders.  On these days, the specialists don’t have to be giving everything.

A long time ago, a bloke called Paul (or one of his mates using Paul’s name) wrote about his desire to be “all things to all people”.  Paul wanted to spread the good news to everyone he encountered, and reckoned to achieve that he ought be willing to have a shot at everything to maximise his opportunities.

I reckon that’s fine, and I’m glad for Paul’s encouragement to us as the church to be willing to be contextually engaged with people in order to be able to understand, and to effectively communicate with all the different tribes and people groups in our society.

But I also reckon there are days for specialists.  Not every church should turn itself inside out trying to have a vibrant youth ministry, and feel guilty because there aren’t many kids around on Sunday mornings.  Some should be focused on engaging well with those in later stages of life, or those with mental health issues.

Even if it is true that as the body of Christ, we ought be willing to be all things to all people, not every faith community should be trying to live that out every day.  We ought remember, I reckon, that the body of Christ (the church) is a much bigger organism than our local church, in our local building down the street.  Those communities should be free to chase after their own speciality, their own heartbeat, their own particular prize.

Some should be in yellow, some in green, some in polka-dots.

vive la difference!


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