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 (Manna 68: Succession: Generation Next)
Succession and Passing the Baton
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Succession and Passing the Baton

Simon Chin—Singapore

The preacher Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes wrote, “One generation passes away, and another generation comes but the earth abides forever.”[1] He was speaking of the vanity of things done by man in his life on earth. Every man will die and disappear. The human life span is short in contrast with the earth’s existence, which seems to abide forever.

Realizing the mortality of man and the cyclical nature of each passing generation, it is important for the present workers of God to give thought to the matter of succession and passing the baton. This ensures continuity and enables church work to prosper when the next generation takes over the helm to drive the ministry.

Passing the baton of the ministry at the right time with godly reverence is a duty of faithful workers of God. This should be done with the fear of the Lord and love for the church, undertaken out of concern for both the successors and future progress of the ministry of the truth. If the passing of the baton is done reluctantly and poorly, the church’s future ministry will be impeded. Succeeding workers who are ill-equipped to serve the church may affect the faith of the congregation. In short, if we do not undertake succession or do it inadequately, we are unfaithful to the Master Jesus Christ.


Identify potential successors while serving in the ministry

Moses identified Joshua as a potential successor to the work of leading the Israelite nation. He took Joshua under his wing to serve the LORD.[2] Apostle Paul brought Timothy into the ministry at Lystra during his second missionary journey, after he saw that Timothy had faith, being taught the word from childhood by his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice, and was well spoken of by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium.[3]ApostlePeter considered Mark his son[4], and he shared with Mark the experience of his three–year discipleship under the Lord Jesus Christ: the miracles of Jesus he had witnessed and the teachings he had heard. Mark subsequently recorded these in the second Gospel.[5] Mark was also deemed by Apostle Paul as useful to him for the ministry.[6]

Joshua, Timothy and Mark were identified for their spiritual qualities which later enabled them to become exemplary leaders and faithful stewards in the house of God.

Joshua feared the LORD and was a man of truth who hated covetousness. He was faithful, waiting for Moses to descend from Mount Sinai even after forty days and nights. He did not depart from the tabernacle to return to the camp of the Israelites.[7]

Timothy shared Apostle Paul’s sincere concern for the state of the brethren. Unlike others who sought their own, Timothy sought the things of Christ Jesus. With a proven character, he served with Paul in the gospel as a son with his father.[8]

AlthoughMark left Paul and Barnabas in Perga, Pamphylia during the first missionary journey and returned to Jerusalem, he later traveled with Barnabas to Cyprus to minister the word. Paul subsequently found him to be a useful worker in the ministry. He had the quality of persistence, and his earlier failure did not discourage him but strengthened his determination to serve the Lord.[9]

Hence, effective succession planning requires preachers, elders, deacons and workers to keep a lookout for believers with the potential to serve the Lord. They need to identify those with spiritual qualities of faith, good reputation, holiness, spiritual wisdom, patience and endurance, and who are filled with the Holy Spirit, fear the Lord and hate covetousness.[10]

Equip potential successors
with knowledge of the faith, spiritual character,
skills of administering church work and the ability to serve the Lord with humility

Purity of faith in the word of God, obedience to the commandments and submissiveness to the church of the Lord are essential qualities for every church worker. Besides being filled with the Holy Spirit, these successors must be pure in their devotion to Jesus Christ and to the word of truth according to the teachings of the Bible.[11] They ought to hold fast to the pattern of the sound words, which they have heard from their predecessors.[12]They ought to be humble and ready to be taught,[13] willing to endure hardships, and determined to imitate those who live as examples for them[14]. Moreover, they have to undergo training, formally through seminars and informally by observing workers in the field. Such training must be given over a period of many years before the baton can be passed to them.

Such a training approach can be seen in the Bible. Timothy followed Paul to foreign lands, enduring hardship and suffering when the apostle ministered the word of truth to the Jews and the Gentiles in Macedonia, Achaia and Asia.[15] He heard the sound words from Paul and was nourished in the word.[16].

After his conversion, Paul went to the desert in Arabia[17] where the Holy Spirit taught him the mystery of Christ and the word[18]. He then returned to Damascus where he confounded the Jews proving that Jesus is the Christ[19].He exhorted Timothy to fight the good fight of the faith and guard what had been committed to his trust; he urged Timothy to avoid profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what was falsely called knowledge.[20]

Moses was trained in the wisdom of Egypt until the age of forty[21]; this was followed by forty years of molding in the wilderness of Midian by the hardship of life as a shepherd looking after the flock of his father-in-law, before God used him.[22] In fact, Moses’ training started from childhood when his mother Jochebed nursed him and taught him the faith in the LORD. At forty, he fled from the fleeting pleasures of sin in Egypt.[23] After killing an Egyptian, Moses escaped to the wilderness in Midian. Though safe, he led a life of self-denial and indignity, for he was known as the Egyptian who had fled from his land and the refugee married to Zipporah. The flock he was tending belonged to his father-in-law, and his sons were known as the sons of Zipporah.[24] Consequently, at the age of eighty, the LORD called him and commanded him to return to Egypt to bring His people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt. Moses said, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt.”[25] Still, Moses went. In the last forty years of his life, he served the LORD as a faithful servant in His house.[26]Moses underwent eighty years of training to serve for only forty years. At the point of his death, he was 120 years old, but his eyes were not dimmed nor his natural vigor diminished.[27]

In the same way, successors ought to be trained in the knowledge of the word and in spiritual character, nurtured in the spirit to love the Lord and His church with a pure heart. They have to be molded into faithful servants of God who are able to endure sufferings and hardships, filled with humility to serve Him. They must imitate Christ who came to serve, not to be served. The length of such training should not be too short, so that when these successors take over the work, they are spiritually equipped to serve.

Implement succession
with reverence for the sovereignty of God
and absolute loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Although Moses had identified Joshua as his potential successor, when the time to hand over the baton had come, Moses acknowledged the sovereignty of God and spoke to the Lord, saying, “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.”[28]

And the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him, set him before Eleazar the priest and before the congregation, and inaugurate him in their sight. And you shall give some of your authority to him that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. He shall stand before Eleazar the priest who shall inquire before the LORD for him by the judgment of the Urim. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, he and all the children of Israel with him--all the congregation.” Moses obeyed, as the LORD commanded him. He took Joshua and set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation. And he laid hands on him and inaugurated him, just as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.[29]

From the inauguration of Joshua, the man who succeeded Moses to lead the Israelites across the Jordan and take possession of the promised land of Canaan, we learn that succession and passing the baton is carried out in full submission to the sovereignty of God. There should be no nepotism or favoritism when identifying potential workers and appointing successors. Spiritual conditions and factors of faith as well as suitability of the persons according to God’s will should be the only considerations when successors are appointed, trained and inaugurated.

Nadab and Abihu, the two sons of Aaron, were consumed in fire when they offered profane fire.[30]They didnotsucceed their father in the priesthood. Joel andAbijah, the sons of Samuel, were judges in Beersheba, but they did not walk in their father’s way. They sought after dishonest gain, took bribes and perverted justice. They did not continue to be judges over the people.[31] The LORD permitted the Israelites to choose a king for themselves instead.

Nepotism in appointing potential workers and successors to church leadership, with little consideration given to their spirituality, faith and character, is tantamount to dishonoring God and defying His sovereignty. Such an approach will impede the spiritual growth of the church and greatly disrupt the work of the ministry. It may even weaken the faith of the church.[32]

In conclusion, for continuity in spreading the gospel of salvation and tending the sheep of the Lord, succession and passing the baton ought to be given priority. Critically, succession planning and implementation must be undertaken with fear of God, love for the church and consideration for the faith of the brethren.


[1] Eccl 1:4

[2] Ex 17:9–13; 24:13; 32:17; 33:11; Num 27:18–23

[3] Acts 16:1–3; 1 Tim 1:5; 3:15

[4] 1 Pet 5:13

[5] Peter was Mark’s primary informant when the latter wrote the Gospel of Mark. Most scholars agree that Mark wrote his gospel in Rome under Peter’s supervision, for Mark was with Peter in Rome around AD 60-62 and may have returned around AD 65 at Paul’s request.

[6] 2 Tim 4:11

[7] Ex 18:21; 32:17; 33:11

[8] Phil 2:19–22

[9] Acts 13:4–5, 13; 15:37–40; 2 Tim 4:11

[10] Ex 18:21; Acts 6:3, 5; 1 Cor 4:2; 2 Tim 2:22

[11] 2 Cor 6:4–6; 1 Tim 1:5

[12] 2 Tim 1:13

[13] Isa 50:4

[14] 2 Tim 1:8–9; 2: 3; 3:10–12

[15] Acts 16:4–12; 17:1; 18:5, 22–23; 20; 5–6, 13–16; 21:1–8,17

[16] 1 Tim 4:6, 12, 15–16; 2 Tim 1:13

[17] Gal 1:17

[18] 1 Cor 11:23; Eph 3:2-6, 8-11

[19] Acts 9:18–22

[20] 1 Tim 6:12, 20

[21] Acts 7:22

[22] Acts 7:29–30; Num 12:3

[23] Heb 11:24–26

[24] Ex 2:19–22; 3:1; 18:2

[25] Ex 3:11

[26] Heb 3:3, 5

[27] Deut 34:7

[28] Num 27:15–17

[29] Num 27:18–21

[30] Lev 10:1–2

[31] 1 Sam 8:1–5

[32] 1 Sam 8:1–5

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Author: Simon Chin