Three years ago, during one of our elder’s meetings, I
shared my intention of retiring from my pastoral office
into some other leadership role within the church. In the
same meeting, my fellow elder also shared that he had
been thinking of changing his career life which would
mean changing towns. Immediately, it dawned on me that we were both
planning to move on but we had no one to pass the leadership baton to. At that
time, we had served together close to 18 years—just the two of us as elders. The
question we asked and wrestled with was, “Where have we been all these years?
Why have we failed to identify, develop and mentor younger men to whom we
should pass the leadership baton to?” It was from that moment I put in motion
focused prayer and an intentional plan to work on my transition route, which is
currently under way. My fellow elder has since moved to another town.
There comes a time in the life of leaders when they seriously start to
think and plan for retirement or move into some different leadership roles. In
Zambia, within the Reformed Baptist churches and other evangelical Biblebelieving
churches, a number of the men answered the call to pastoral ministry
in the mid or late 1980s. The majority of these men are in their mid-50s and
some have already clocked 60. It is a fact of life that the physical energy and
health they enjoyed in their earlier years of ministry is not with them today. For
sure, they have gained a lot of experience and wisdom, and this gives them
unprecedented opportunities now to invest in the next generation of leaders.
Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. There may be a feeling and a selfdeception
that they are still alive and strong for some time to come.
This edition of Reformation Zambia is meant to inspire leaders to think,
plan and biblically execute leadership transition in a manner that honours God
and helps the churches to flourish beyond their tenure of leadership. If leaders
are to be honest with themselves, and face reality, they know that it is just a
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question of time; some day they will have to leave their current office. The real
question is, “How will you leave office?” Leaving with honour and dignity
should be a leader’s goal. What is even more important is how you pass on the
leadership baton to the next leadership. Someone has said, “What is important
in leaders is not so much your current success. It is bigger than your experience,
bigger than the vision you have for the church or organisation, bigger than your
lifetime; it is all about your legacy! And this can only be achieved by passing
on the leadership baton to people whom you have mentored and invested your
life in. Discipling people is the sure way to reproduce yourself.”
The Bible is full of examples on the subject of passing the leadership
baton. The succinct example is Paul’s admonition to Timothy in 2 Timothy.
Paul’s second letter to Timothy is in fact his last letter before he died. It is clear
that Paul did not just finish the race, keep the faith and fight a good fight for
himself alone (2 Tim. 4:6–7). It is clear from this letter that he was passing on
the baton to Timothy (see 2 Tim. 2:2). The concept of leadership in this issue
applies to leadership at all levels in the church, such as house group leaders,
Bible study group leaders, Sunday school teachers, and other church ministries.
To help us address this important theme, I have dealt with a lengthy
discourse from the book of Numbers chapter 27 on the leadership transition of
Moses to Joshua. This book highlights biblical principles on the leaders’
responsibility to prepare future leaders and how to have a seamless pass of
leadership transition. I also have a second article specifically addressing the
pastors and church leaders on how to manage leadership transitions in the
church. Pastor Choolwe Mwetwa has handled the practicalities of leadership
transition. Reading his article, you see the need to create a healthy and
harmonious leadership transition. He concisely provides nuggets of the leaders’
responsibilities to recognize apprenticeship and provide pious training in the
critical areas of need to those they should pass the leadership baton to.