Did you see the news coverage of Diana Nyad’s amazing 110-mile swim from Cuba to Key West, Florida? She finally completed that 53-hour swim on her fifth try – the first time she tried was 35 years ago. When she finally finished the journey, she offered these words of wisdom: (1) never give up, (2) you’re never too old, and (3) it takes a team.

I found myself fascinated by her story, perhaps because she accomplished this longest-ever swimming feat at age 64, just a few days before I also turned 64. Mostly, I was impressed by her words of wisdom, which I am calling “Three Simple Lessons” about life. Much like the “Three Simple Rules” of our Wesleyan heritage, as written in modern language by Bishop Rueben Job in the book by that same name, her simple lessons speak loudly to me about life and ministry. To keep going in ministry (or in a marriage, or a career, or sport or any endeavor), it means we must be PERSISTENT – “never give up.” To keep trying new things in life, it requires an attitude which says, “I am never too old.” And just about every accomplishment in life is really about the “team” effort, not just individual accomplishment.

Good lessons – lessons that are true for many things in life – lessons that are true for our ministry as United Methodists.

Do you believe those Three Simple Lessons? Do you believe that it is never too late for any person to discover God’s love and turn their life around? Do you believe that any local congregation can find new life, even when many of the statistics and indicators say there is no hope? Do you believe that God so loves the world that God is working to bring a New Creation into being through Jesus Christ? Do you believe that it is never too late for our United Methodist Church to become a more faithful, more vital and more gracious denomination? Do you believe that it is never too late for our Indiana Conference to fulfill the dreams of “Imagine Indiana?” I do. I believe it is never too late for any of us, because God is a God of second chances and amazing grace.

Do you believe you are never too old? In the midst of a culture which seems to worship youth and young-looking actors and actresses, do you believe you are never too old? In the midst of a culture when many older persons seem to “settle” for less and abandon their dreams, do you believe you are never too old to try something new, to learn some new ways and to discover God’s Spirit at work in your life? Do you believe that after harboring hate and hurt for many years, that it is never too late to forgive? I do. I believe I am never too old to learn, grow, try and forgive – not because of who I am but because of who God is. I believe God called Abraham and Sarah in their older years to start a whole new life, and so I believe God will keep calling me into my senior years.

Do you believe it takes a team? In the midst of a world which honors Lone-Ranger heroes and self-absorbed athletes who pound their chests and take all the glory for themselves, do you believe teamwork is what really empowers people to lead and to accomplish great things? I do. I believe it takes a team, because everything I have ever accomplished in life and ministry has been the result of the teamwork and the support of others. I believe God calls us to live in communities of faith, to work together as teams, and to encourage one another (see Hebrews 10:25).

Three Simple Lessons. Good lessons from a long-distance swimmer who can teach us about life and ministry.

Bishop Michael J. Coyner,
Indiana Area of
The United Methodist Church
“Leading vibrant congregations
to make disciples of Jesus Christ.”