Leadership Succession From Within

This blog posting is a follow-up to the previous one I wrote, and I am calling it: Leadership Succession from Within. I wrote this article some 10 years ago for Georgetown Baptist Church’s 50th Anniversary magazine (2006). I have made some minor edits to make it more appropriate for the blog. I believe it is worth a read and  careful thought.

Succession Planning

Many churches start well, but when the pioneers or the pastors move on—the church starts to falter. This may last for years, until it is able to engage another capable pastor. The momentum, however, that had been built up during the previous pastor’s tenure is all but lost, and the new pastor has to practically start from ground zero.

To their credit, the leaders of Georgetown Baptist Church did well to keep the church going when the previous pastor left for Petaling Jaya: ably organizing themselves to provide pastoral care for the whole church and then still had the time, energy and vision to plant a new church in another part of the city.

It was not until December 1993, almost four years later, that I became GBC’s next pastor. Imagine how much more the church would have developed if there had not been such a gap—if there had been another pastor who immediately took over. Not just any pastor, but a pastor who had been groomed from within the church. Engaging someone from outside would mean time for the new pastor and the church to get to know and trust each other. Inevitably, I had to start almost from the ground. As a result the church hardly saw any numerical growth in the first four years of my tenure.

Before I left I was determined that this would not happen again; that there would be a pastor groomed up from within GBC and waiting in the wings to take over…. In such a situation there might still be hiccups, but certainly much less. This is because the succeeding pastor already understands the philosophy of ministry and vision of the church, he has worked with the church leadership, the members know him and have “taken to him”. Not that he will simply carry on doing everything that the previous pastor has done. Any good pastor will definitely introduce change, but he will have the advantage of building on the blocks—blocks that he has helped to develop in the first place.

Leaders must never fear raising up other leaders; even if it means that some of them will outshine us! That was what I aimed for. My goal was to pass the church into the hands of better men and women.

Paul was a great apostle—some say, the greatest. But in my mind Barnabas was the greater man. He recruited Paul because he saw Paul’s potential. He mentored Paul and wasn’t afraid that Paul might overtake him. Eventually when Paul did, he wasn’t concerned for his own face. My hope is to be a Barnabas to some Pauls.

Success is not about growing a great church. “Success” is about having a “successor” to take the church even further.

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