In the last 3 blogs, we have considered 3 principle works that Kingdom leaders are tasked with, if they are to be faithful under-shepherds of Christ.
Today, we look at the 4th and final task that Kingdom leaders must undertake: raise successors. It has been said, ‘A leader without a successor is not successful.’ The point of Kingdom leadership is to raise more leaders, not increase our following!
Lieutenant Colonel Harold ‘Hal’ Moore Jr. was a US officer and war hero in the Vietnam War. The book and movie, ‘We were Soldiers Once’ were based on his experiences in war. There is a scene in the movies where Moore’s character is training a squad of soldiers. The squad leader is declared ‘killed’ in the exercise. ‘You are dead,’ said Moore. ‘Now, who do you have ready to take your place?’
In battle, as well as in the Kingdom of God, if we don’t prepare others to take our place, when we do leave (suddenly or planned) the area of our influence, we will put those who have looked to us for leadership at risk, by unwittingly creating a leadership vacuum.
Strong and gifted leaders, in the midst of their success or influence, can easily – and typically gradually – lose sight of the Lord who called them. We see that happen in the Scriptures, with kings like Saul, Solomon and Joash, who all begun well but ended poorly. They ended up compromising their loyalty to God, rejecting God’s word and trying to cling on to power. They cared less about raising up godly leadership after them, then in keeping their name and fame alive.
Through the Scriptures, the lack of godly leadership succession is always a recipe for disaster. This is seen clearest in the aftermath of Joshua, who having led Israel into the conquest of the Promise Land, apparently failed to raise a successor after him, like Moses has done with him.
‘In those days, there was no king in Israel.’ The book of Judges contains this common refrain about this lack of long-term spiritual leadership after Joshua (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). In Judges 17:6 and 21:25 (which is the last line of the book), the added phrase ‘Everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ shows that the absence of godly leadership left the people divided and prone to fall away easily from loyalty to God and the guidance from the covenant He gave them through Moses.
Every time, a judge (a divinely-appointed leader) arose in Israel in the book of Judges, he then failed to raise-up a leader after him. We see in Judges that a lack of godly leadership results in all manner of spiritual dystopia and anarchy.
Jesus on the other hand, put leadership development at the core of his modus operandi for the spreading of his Kingdom rule to all nations. He called 12 disciples and designated them ‘Apostles’ – the new leaders of his Church and Kingdom movement.
Jesus was already modeling for them the need to raise and release leaders for Kingdom purposes throughout the world. Apostolic leadership was never an end in itself – it was always about preparing others for works of service (Ephesians 4:11-16). Succession of leadership and leadership development are part of our call, paving the way for many other men and women to find their kingdom assignments.
Kingdom leadership therefore will resemble the Sea of Galilee more than the Dead Sea. The Sea of Galilee is full of life because water from Mount Hermon flows into it and then out of it to become the Jordan River. Fish and people alike thrive in and around it. The Dead Sea on the other hand is aptly named for the precipitous amount of salt in its water content that is toxic to life, partly because there is no outflow of waters from it. It only receives but never gives.
If we are to please Jesus as leaders, we would be committed like him to raise-up new leaders after us who desire to find and fulfill God’s plan and call for their lives. Moses had his Joshua, Paul had his Timothy, Elijah had his Elisha.
Who do you have coming after you?