Secret Squirrels and Marginal Gains

GB cycling has been a huge highlight of the London 2012 games, with our cyclists winning just about everything there is to win. How do they do it the other nations ask with a hint of suspicion. There is no one thing. Integral to their success is the wonderfully titled secret squirrel club and their pursuit and aggregation of the oft mentioned “marginal gains.” The R&D group, set up over a decade ago, look at every aspect of equipment and rider in an effort to put together a whole host of marginal improvements – the kinds of things that, on their own, wouldn’t make a significant difference, but all together make the all important difference between silver and gold. Psychology, conditioning, diet, sleep, suits, helmets, handlebars, wheels, frames and more get the analytical eye. This year they developed a carbon fibre crank to save a few grams and add a little stiffness – a few hundredths of a second gain.

As a church leader this stuff fascinates me. We often settle for ‘good enough’ and claim faithfulness in the small things. Yet to my mind faithfulness means stewarding gifts, resources, and opportunities to the best of our ability. I’m inspired by the idea of developing a culture where, over a decade, small improvements are made (without being unnecessarily picky or critical of others) so that over time we may not be winning Olympic medals, but we’re creating a community where visitors receive a wonderful welcome; where disciples are trained excellently; where the needy and neglected receive first-class pastoral and practical care – not for our own name or fame, but so that the name of the Lord Jesus may be lifted high in the various spheres of influence in which we live and move. As Bill Hybels says, “Excellence honours God and inspires his people.”

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