Please consider church leadership in light of this challenge: “Growing old gracefully and passing the baton successfully.”
The 21st century can be a time of confusion and disorder in many social circles… but it doesn’t have to be. Society is re-defining itself from the youth to the aged. The young are determined to squeeze the nectar out of life, often failing to include God as much as they should; the middle aged are working feverishly to maximize their own gift to society; the older folks hoping to be remembered as having “served their generation well.”
We find the “graying factor” of church leadership is obvious. Of course it is this way, because a generation ago there were so many who responded to “The call” to serve. They are to be commended as they have carried the church to levels of success and growth unknown in previous generations. They have been responsible to establish the church, fill the seats, and lead the church; but here comes the challenge. Will the lights go out? Or will these leaders be able to graciously pass on the baton to the ones who should follow, and all this without having a spirit of war with the changes, which are sure to come?
The year was 1984 and the Bishop family was preparing to respond to an invitation to move to South Africa, and the city of Amanzimtoti, to take the leadership role over a Zulu Bible College. We were excited about the move and the invitation by key men of God from that nation. One of the leaders was the well known, “Mr. Pentecost”, David Duplessis. One day, as we were being interviewed I turned to Bro. Duplessis and asked: “Bro. Duplessis, with this move facing us, please tell me this. What is the one bit of advice you’d give me to help us be successful in working in missions in South Africa? He looked up at me and said, “Get the WAR out of your spirit. If there is any person, any group of people, any profession, which bothers you, then let it go.” I thought long and hard over that one. I have worked hard, over the years, to remove any “warring spirit” from my heart, and have been reasonably successful.
I ask you, Man of God, do you have any war in your spirit, as you take up the challenge to help your “replacement” make a smooth transition into assuming the posture of your current assignment. Will you help him? Will you work against his success? Will you step back and allow him to lead? Or will you be in competition with him? Will you be GRACIOUS in your “passing of the baton”? Or will he feel like you are holding onto it for an extra “split second”, just to make sure he knows you’re also significant? Is this a referendum about YOU, or is it a testimony of just how gracious you are, as a leader, in transition?
Here is my point: There will come a time, there must come a time when age or life assignment catches up and we take a bow and step off the stage. If we do it when everyone is calling for “more”, it will feel better than when they’re saying “enough”. To be gracious and “yield” is a mark of genius and wisdom. And, on the day of your passing, all will say, what a gracious man he was.
It is such a challenge to build for a lifetime and to be the CEO of something and then to step aside and take the second row. It is not easy, it is quiet frankly, difficult. It is a test of patience, and even feels like “second-guessing your own call”. This call has been sacred and for so many years. And yet, it is also a sad day to watch the thing you have built die, right before your eyes. To die on your watch is difficult, but to give “assistance to the dying process” is what so many have been guilty of, because they were at war with the changes, which had come inevitably.
I call for Grace and Graciousness to prevail. I can take you to so many men of God, pastors, and teachers, leaders who have “done it right” and passed the torch without extreme fanfare. Yes, there was honor and respect and a blessing, which came to them, but they did it because, “it was the right thing to do”. They did not require unreasonable considerations, or even a gold watch.
However, and sadly, other transitions worked out to look more like either “Power-grabs”, or “a battle of King on the Mountain”; with anxiety and guilt on both sides of the battle line, because of either an “Absalom Spirit” or a “Spirit of Saul”, being the headliner of the day.
I ask: “Is there a Grandfather in the house?” Are you willing to toss the keys to your younger disciple, yielding the control of the vehicle, ahead of time, instead of waiting until he also has gray hair? Or will you require of him to become old, set in his own ways, or impatient with you, because you made promises, which he fears you will not keep. Wisdom: Do not allow your appetite for leading prevail when God has given you your Joshua, or Timothy, or whatever you choose to call him.
Today is the first day of your future. What will you do to make sure they talk about you as “a man of peace”, with a “gentle spirit” who required nothing of anyone but to love and be kind? He gave what he expected in return, and loved everyone whom “God had put in his way.”
If this subject has spoken to you, then embrace this verse:
John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.”