PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE

There has never been a time in history when technology has developed as rapidly as it is now.In 2002, I gave the eulogy at the funeral for my 85-year-old grandmother and I shared some of the changes she had seen in her life – cars became commonplace, computers, man on the moon, people flying commercially, telephones in homes, etc.But, consider what’s happened even since then – the explosion of the internet, Facebook, iPhones, and so on.

One of the outcomes of our increasingly rapid technology development is that things become obsolete much quicker than they once did.Often times, when we walk out of a store with something, it is already old technology by the time we get home.This means that we now are planning for things to be obsolete – we plan for change much better now than we once did.If I buy a computer now, it does the job I need now but it probably won’t in 5 years.So, we have “planned obsolescence.”We don’t expect things to stay the same.

As leaders, we need to be prepared for “Planned Obsolescence” – that circumstances will change, people will change, needs will change, technology will change – but the message of Christ’s grace is unchanging and eternal. It means that we need to be looking ahead and ensuring that we plan for this eternal message to be carried on even when we can’t carry it on anymore.

I knew a missionary who had worked with a remote people group for decades.He and his family lived with them, served them, loved them, shared the Gospel with them and embodied the Great Commission.However, over the course of many decades of faithful service, he had made one critical error – he had not planned for his own obsolescence.He had not planned for when he could no longer do the role.So, when it became apparent it was time for him to step out, there was a vacuum.It was a potential tragedy.

The Bible is clear is presenting these 2 truths:1. God’s plan is eternal, but 2. We are not. “The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass.The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:7-8)

So, if we take the great Gospel imperative seriously, we need to plan for our own obsolence.When we don’t plan for it, we are assuming we will do the role forever but none of us will do what we are doing now forever.Indeed, the history of the Church is of one generation discipling, mentoring and preparing the next one.

But, when we do plan for our own obsolescence, we are doing a few important things:

  • We are recognising this ministry and the Gospel are more important than me;
  • We are giving other people a go and raising new people up;
  • We find a great sense of relief and rest in acknowledging that it’s not all dependant on me;
  • We learn to pray and trust God to raise people up through us.
  • We set things up to continue on after us and, even more than that, to go better under the next person than they did under our leadership.

So, here are some questions for you:

  • How easy is it for you to acknowledge it doesn’t all depend on you?
  • What are the areas of leadership you find hard to let go?
  • Who have you been able to identify as the next leader?
  • Can you embrace your responsibility to prepare for who follows you?
  • Do you pray for God to be raising up people?
  • Where can you be letting go of aspects of leadership now so you can be equipping up-and-coming leaders now?

We believe God has called us to be a planting, sending, multiplying, equipping Church – one that raises up people to serve God both in the Church and on their frontline.Planning for our obsolescence is an important step in equipping the next leader and seeing ministry multiply.It’s an important prelude to playing our part in preparing for a glorious future of the Gospel multiplying.

“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)

Father, only You are truly eternal and I am here for but a moment.But I realise that my moment matters.Help me to live in such a way that I prepare for who and what comes next.Amen.”