Leaders raise up leaders. That’s one of the clearest messages about leadership so far in this series. If we truly understand Biblical leadership, then we will embrace the idea that we will be replaced. Sooner of later, we will be replaced – none of us will stay in the same situation forever and none of us will live forever. It’s the principle of planned obsolescence.
But more than that, it’s not just about being replaced – it’s about seeing that the Kingdom of God is much bigger than us and when we have an attitude of raising up others, we can contribute to the wider Kingdom.
If we invest in others, we can have an impact far beyond ourselves and our sphere.
Many of the Old Testament kings never looked beyond their own reign. We see that even in the wisest king, Solomon. When his son, Rehoboam rose to the throne, he was clearly unprepared to be king. As opposed to when David handed over the throne to Solomon with great words of advice (1 Kings 2:1-9), Solomon appears to have just left Rehoboam to himself, as we see when Rehoboam decides to ignore his father’s legacy (1 Kings 12:11). If we fail to prepare for the future, we cannot be surprised when the future goes bad.
However, planning for the future is not just about preventing disaster. There is a far more positive aspect to raising up the next generation of leaders.
As we look at the example of Jesus and the disciples, we see an attitude of discipleship and raising up leaders that reflects an understanding that the mission of the Church will outlive our earthly lives and go beyond our immediate situation. Jesus understood the power of investment in others and raising up others. Consider the background of His disciples – poor, uneducated fishermen, a guy sitting under a tree and a tax collector. And yet, with the investment of Christ in their lives, they became people who turned the world upside down.
Further, Paul trained up others like Timothy and Titus in Churches so that they could train up others. It’s an attitude of seeing beyond ourselves and seeing the potential of raising up others.
One of my favourite characters in the Bible is Elijah. He was a rugged, strong man of God and yet, the things about him that I admire most was the transformation in his life from becoming a lone ranger to seeing the impact of discipling and training someone else. At the start of 1 Kings 19, Elijah was working alone and almost died in the process. By the end that chapter, God has directed Elijah to Elisha and Elijah begins the process of discipling Elisha. The outcome of that process comes after Elijah is taken to Heaven and we see the effect of God working through Elijah into Elisha’s lie – Elisha does greater things than Elijah (2 Kings 4). When we truly understand the power of investing in others, it goes just replacing ourselves. We start to see the potential of investing in someone else so that they go on to surpass anything we will ever do – we make ourselves obsolete because we have passed the mantle on to others.
The true leader doesn’t see the people they lead as just tools to fulfil a task. The true leader sees people as God sees them – as full of potential to do great things for God. The true leader wants to see the people they lead surpass them and do greater things for God than the leader will ever do.
An unwillingness to raise up others may indicate deeper issues:
- An unwillingness to let go. Sometimes we become too enmeshed in the activity we lead and it becomes too much a part of our identity. In that case, we won’t actively be looking to raise up others because we really don’t want to ever cease being the leader.
- Laziness: Raising up other leaders is hard work. It takes time and effort and a willingness keep investing in people even when some will let you down and walk away. So, sometimes it’s just too hard for us to try – we get lazy.
- Too busy in the urgent but unimportant stuff. Sometimes we get so busy in “getting stuff done” that we miss the more important, Kingdom-building parts of a leaders role. If we find ourselves too busy to invest into others, we have our priorities out of whack – we have become victims to the “tyranny of the urgent.”
- An inability to trust. Is it easier just to do it yourself because others won’t do it as well as you? Then you may have an inability or unwillingness to trust others. But if we look at Christ’s example, He trusted His 12 Disciples even though He knew one would betray Him and another would deny Him. He didn’t let failure stop Him from investing in others.
- An unpreparedness to disciple. Raising up leaders is part of the bigger picture of discipleship. We are all called to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) and that involves being in real, honest, accountable, vulnerable relationships with others. The leaders who are best at raising up others are also good at discipling people in true Christian fellowship.
- A lack of seeing the bigger picture. Sometimes, we just don’t see the bigger picture. “I have a term to plan.” “I have an event to run.” “I have a service to lead.” But all these statements are really about moments in time compared to the bigger picture of God’s Kingdom. Christ will be building His Church after I’m gone. And Christ will be building your ministry, group, team, after your gone. And Christ is working in much more of the World than just your little part. When we understand that we are part of a much bigger, grander, more glorious narrative, we see the need to invest into the next person.
- A lack of heart for the ministry you lead. If you’re level of commitment is “I’ll serve my turn and then it will be time for someone else.” If you’re attitude when it comes time to step down is “It’s someone else’s job to find my replacement.” Then you have a bad attitude to ministry. God has given you a great opportunity to lead and invest into a ministry in HIS CHURCH. We dare not treat it as a trivial thing. We should have such a strong desire to see God’s Church go well that we are constantly planning for the ministry beyond us.
So, as FLBC leaders, how can we be good at raising up more leaders? Here are some thoughts:
- Ask the Great Geader to actually raise them up. Take the pressure off yourself by realising that Christ is building His Church and He orders the body the way He sees fit. If we understand that, we can rest in the knowledge that it’s not all down to us. You and I don’t need to do all the raising up – Jesus is doing that work all the time. So, begin by asking God.
- Look for character before skills. It’s easier to teach people skills than it is to teach them character. If they’ve got the right attitude, the right heart for God, the right desire to make disciples, you can usually teach them the rest. An old Youth Pastor of mine used to say he looked for “FAT people” – Faithful. Available. Teachable.
- Give them a go in small areas before throwing them into the deep end. Jesus followed the principle of seeing if people were “faithful in small things” before He gave them charge over big things. Use the “small things” as opportunities for feedback, training and growth.
- Invest in the person, not just the role. If God has shown you someone into whom you can invest, invest in them as people. They are someone for whom Christ died, a child of the King. So don’t just see them as means to your succession plan. Invest in them as people.
- Impart culture, not just skills. It’s not enough just to show someone how to do a job. We want them to engage in the culture of who we are as a Church. If leaders set the culture (and they do) then we must be investing into our leaders a desire to be the builders of a good culture and vision for what God is doing.
- Be ready to get out of the way. The time will come when it’s time for you to let go and get out the way – to let someone surpass you. Don’t be a barrier to them becoming the person God has created and gifted them to be. Have the humility and vision for the bigger picture to be able to step aside and let them through when the time comes. Perhaps they will be called to another area of God’s Kingdom – don’t be possessive. Get out of the way and let them serve where God puts them – send them with your blessing!
“Everyone really does win when a leader gets better.” (Bill Hybels)
God said to the Israelites, “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15) Part of being a great under-shepherd is realising that more shepherds will come after us and go into other parts of God’s flock. We have an opportunity to train them, raise them up and release them into fruitful ministry that will bring glory to Almighty God.