Succession and Passing the Baton
The preacher Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes wrote, “One generation
passes away, and another generation comes but the earth abides
forever.” 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.
HOW SHOULD SUCCESSION BE DONE?
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.
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.ApostlePeter considered Mark his son, 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. Mark was
also deemed by Apostle Paul as useful to him for the ministry.
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.
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.
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.
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
Equip potential successors
with knowledge of the faith, spiritual character,
skills of administering church work and the ability to serve the Lord
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.
They ought to hold fast to the pattern of the sound words, which they
have heard from their predecessors.They ought to be humble and ready to be taught,
willing to endure hardships, and determined to imitate those who live as
examples for them.
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
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. He
heard the sound words from Paul and was nourished in the word..
After his conversion, Paul went to the desert in Arabia
where the Holy Spirit taught him the mystery of Christ and the word. He then returned to Damascus where he confounded the Jews proving
that Jesus is the Christ.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
Moses was trained in the wisdom of Egypt until the age of forty; 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.
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.
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.
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.”
Still, Moses went. In the last forty years of his life, he served the
LORD as a faithful servant in His house.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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.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.
The LORD permitted the Israelites to choose a king for themselves
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.
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.