By John McIntosh
Early on, Moses knew how it would end. The Lord made it no secret that the great leader of the Egypt-exodus would not be the one who would take the people of Israel into the Promised Land. He was made fully aware that God’s appointment for this mission would be the younger man, Joshua (Deuteronomy 1:38; 3:28). It appears that even though Moses longed to see the land of promise himself, he accepted the orders from the Lord and worked with Joshua.
Have you thought about your ministry replacement? Believe it or not, there is a good probability that the Lord’s ministry is going to continue when you are gone. Do you push thoughts like this out of your mind or do you consider it? Is it a matter you take to the Lord in prayer?
Church and para-church ministry transitions take place all the time. Some are smooth; others are not well thought out and prayed through. As a result, they are devastating to the leaders involved and to God’s people. In The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make, Hans Finzel describes a nine-member executive retreat that included a value-sharing exercise to drive home the importance of depositing in the lives of people who will be the leaders of tomorrow.
I asked them to imagine that we were shipwrecked on an island with only a radio and eighteen minutes of battery life left, at best. Each of us has two minutes to share with the home office what is most important to remember in case we never make it back. And included in that two-minute broadcast must be instructions about whom we are appointing to carry on for us should we not return… This exercise forced two important issues: What do you value most, and whom do you trust most to carry on for you. It was a lively and very revealing discussion. (p. 162).
Who would replace you? Are you making provision for it?
Moses mentored his young protege (Deuteronomy 3:21). He encouraged Joshua with the importance of staking his hope as a leader in the provision of the Lord. Moses clearly saw his role of a leader over God’s people as a divine appointment with a beginning and an end. Hans Finzel writes: To end well, we must not get too wrapped up in our own indispensability.
Pastors and Christian leaders alike sometimes hang on in their ministries because they are unwilling to let go of the power and prestige of their position.
In Deuteronomy 31, Moses publicly affirms Joshua as his successor (v. 3). It was important that God’s people understood this transition. The patriarch continued to encourage his protege (31:7). Then the Lord directs the two men to appear before Him in the tent of meeting (31:14, 23) and Joshua is officially commissioned and affirmed by God. Once again, with Joshua standing next to Moses, the great patriarch openly recognizes God’s leadership transition. It was important that the people recognized that Joshua, the leader-elect, was God’s choice and Moses, their leader, was in full agreement.
This is apparent in Deuteronomy 34.
Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; and the sons of Israel listened to him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses (v. 9).
Moses died but the void of leadership had been anticipated and filled; it was a smooth transition.
Regardless of one’s age, it is not too soon to begin thinking and praying about a successor. Look at the people that the Lord has placed around you and consider with whom you could spend time. It should be someone you can encourage and pray with as you serve together in ministry. In the future, when the Lord makes it clear it is time to move on, His choice can be presented and a smooth transition can be made. Success without a successor is failure.
The 2007-2008 moderator of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, John McIntosh is challenging the fellowship to consider the leaders of tomorrow. He has been pastor of the Simi Valley (Calif.) Grace Brethren Church since 1983.