Success is a favorable satisfactory outcome or result whereas succession can be termed as coming into the place of another; what my pastor calls being picked from ‘the back of beyond’. God is not a respecter of persons; He is looking for people to bless, people who are right with Him. He can pull anyone from the back of beyond, from the streets of homelessness, from flames of addiction or from the comfort of mediocrity and make his life shine by His grace.
God has great plans for our lives and these are awesome if only we obey and trust in Him. In Jeremiah 29:11, He says that He has great plans for us- to prosper and not to harm us. The angel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary and declared great things that would happen to her, she had found favor in God’s eyes and would bear the Son of the Most High; in her wildest dreams, Mary could never have imagined this.
And yet success without a successor is no success. Every church must go through a change in leadership at one time or another. The head pastor or bishop has an onus to ensure that he lives behind a successor to his work and one who will steer the flock to the right direction when he is gone. Moses had a successor in Joshua. Some leaders in the contemporary world are averse to passing on the mantle when it is time for them to step down; some suffer some form of crisis which may disintegrate into civil strife when they should be involved in smooth transitions. Leadership is a privileged exercise enjoyed at the pleasure of those who have honored the leader with the appointments but most importantly, it is a divine calling by the Almighty from whom all things come.
Today’s succession is tomorrow’s success and although higher expectations may be placed on the new office bearer, progression offers a chance for people to move forward, to sequence into another level and to expand territories. God is the only one to turn to especially when expectations are heightened because only He can knock off the obstacles along the progression path and ensure that collaborative efforts between the people and the leader run smoothly.
There are, however, three main giants that every new leader must look out for and ask God specifically to help him or her conquer. Firstly is the ideological giant. There have been claims by many that the claims about Christ are mere rhetoric. In a post modern world where everything is relational and democratic, everyone tries to come up with his or her own explanations concerning people and things. But the message that every leader (especially a Christian one) ought to drive home is that Jesus Christ is not one of the ways to the Father but the only way. This is not something one should compromise nor argue about.
Secondly is the sociological giant. Despite the fact that churches operate in mostly cosmopolitan set-ups, their concerns remain spiritual. The urban dweller now has more complex and diverse problems which must be addressed from the pulpit if the church is to remain relevant and survive social evolution. Although the pastor may seek to share the truth of the Gospel, he should not ignore the plight of the poor and dispossessed. Is it not interesting how Christ would feed the crowds before continuing with his teachings? Certain problems need to be addressed from the core before spiritual nourishment is given. When accidents occur, we do not ask for more ambulances to be purchased but rather seek to eradicate the cause of the accidents. In the same way, a leader’s love should be more practical and seek to alleviate suffering before spiritual feeding that brings peace and joy.
Thirdly is the theological giant. Some preachers are more impressed by numbers and crowds rather than by the weight and impact of their sermons. Commitment should however be seen by the tenacity of their faith rather than the membership of their churches because numbers come not by might or power but by the Holy Spirit. No preacher should sacrifice hermeneutical principles at the altar of popularity. He should avoid the people with the itching ears mentioned in 2Timothy 4:3-4 who refuse to listen to sound doctrine and truth and instead turn to myths.
Success depends on commitment to the word of God by proclamation to preach His word freely, clearly (Col 4:3-4) and without fear because God accompanies us-Deuteronomy 31:6-8 and also so that the fire may never die down (Lev6:12). Even as succession continues, success must be recorded in Jesus name.