Do you know what you call the baseball team that doesn’t have a bullpen? Losers. The game of baseball, like life, is built around the idea that at some point, the pitcher’s arm is going to wear out. With very few exceptions, the pitcher’s arm almost always gives out before the game is over. That’s why baseball teams have a bullpen. Baseball franchises put a lot of money into relief pitchers. These players fill the role of saving the baseball game or to win the game for the starting pitcher. Even if you have the best fielders, the biggest hitters, and the best starting pitcher in baseball- if you don’t have a good relief pitcher you’re going to lose the ball game. The bullpen in major league baseball is all about transition. Leadership succession in the game of baseball is largely built around the relief pitcher.
Did you know that God cares about the bullpen? In the Bible, there are several examples of leadership succession. Elijah handed off his ministry to Elisha. David passed the kingdom down to his son Solomon. Jesus handed off his ministry to 12 disciples. Even the great apostle Paul raised up a young buck by the name of Timothy who would take over after he was gone. But perhaps the greatest example of leadership transition in the Bible is the handoff between Moses and Joshua.
Handing off to the bullpen
God goes to the bullpen in Deuteronomy 31:14-15. Don’t get the wrong impression; Joshua wasn’t a second-string player. Apparently, Moses had been preparing this young man for many years to take over the ministry. The very fact that this leadership transition is described for us means that it was important to God and should be important to God’s people.
Leadership succession is the idea of handing off responsibilities to somebody who is trained in your absence. Every pitcher needs the bullpen. Every leader needs a backup. Unless you plan to live forever or kill your company- you should be training somebody to replace you right now.
Planning to fail
To fail to plan is to plan to fail! Most corporations and most churches have no leadership succession plan in place. There can be no greater failure in planning than the failure to hand off leadership responsibilities. If you’re the chairman of the board, you need to be developing a successor. If you are the CEO of the Corporation, you should be training up somebody right now to take your place when you’re gone. Failing to plan for succession is planning to fail at succession. There is no middle ground here.
That’s why I’m fascinated by the handoff between Joshua and Moses. Can you imagine how intimidating it would be to replace a leader like Moses? He literally was the father of his nation. He delivered people from slavery and led one of the greatest migrations of people in human history. It would be daunting to try to fill those sandals! Perhaps that’s why God encourages Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:23. God himself tells Joshua not to be afraid of the task that’s important. God’s presence gave Moses his leadership power. God promises that he will be present with Joshua like he was present with Moses.
Multiplying your influence
Leadership succession is not just about handing off the responsibilities well; it also is about multiplying your influence. Leadership is about influencing people. Preparing the person today who will replace you tomorrow gives you the ability to influence your organization long after you’re gone. Leadership succession also prepares the next leader for bigger responsibilities than you.
If you love the people that you lead, you will start preparing somebody to take over for you after you’re gone. It’s selfish for a leader to hold on too long or to leave a church or company without a plan for the future. Moses invested in Israel’s future when he invested in Joshua. Have you invested in the future of your company by putting a plan in place for someone to take your place?
God loves his church. In fact, he loves his church so much that he paid the blood sacrifice necessary to make her a pure and acceptable bride of his Jesus. If God loves his church this much, certainly he wants to make sure she is lead well in the future. Nothing is more important than preparing a church for a succession between pastors. This ensures that the church remains a healthy bride long after the transition. That’s why God is in the process of developing a strong bullpen right now.
How about you? Who will inherit your faith after you’re gone? Who will have your passion and your energy for the glory of God long after you? Who will still possess your heart long after it stops beating? If you don’t have a specific answer to those questions, start to look for someone today in whom you can pass on your faith.