Leadership Succession

In recent weeks I attended two very significant events. The first was the celebration of the life and ministry of Pr. Dr. Daniel Ho, who at the age of 65 stepped down as the Senior Pastor of Damansara Utama Methodist Church. The second was the celebration of Georgetown Baptist Church’s  60th Anniversary and dedication of their new building with a seating capacity for 1,200 people.

Close-up on the Hand of a Male Athlete Passing a Relay Baton to Another Athlete, With a Dramatic Sky in the Background

Daniel Ho’s readiness to step down as the SP of DUMC, a church he co-founded and led for more than 30 years, and which has grown into a mega church, is a testimony to his humility and leadership philosophy. Too many pastors (including lay leaders/elders) don’t know how to let go. And that is one of the reasons for the stagnation or even decline among some churches.

However, Daniel Ho had worked hard on the development of the leadership for the next and even later generations. He had been grooming his young lieutenants for a long time, and over the last couple of years he had taken deliberate steps to transit the leadership of DUMC to the designated successor, Chris Kam.

It’s the stories of Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Paul and Timothy played out in our contemporary church scene.

I cannot claim to have been as intentional as the Biblical examples or Daniel Ho, but I did my bit at GBC. After 13 years as the SP I felt I was no longer the right person to take the church to the next level. GBC needed someone fresh, more able and with greater energy. I believed that Ng Kok Aun was God’s man. In fact it was by my encouragement that he had stepped into the full-time ministry eight years earlier. And during that time as we served together he had proven himself faithful and able.

At the point of transition, Kok Aun may not have been fully ready to assume the role of GBC’s SP (my fault due to lack of foresight), but 10 years later it is evident that he is God’s man for this season. The church has grown; it is healthy, strong and united. And one of the evidences for this is the new church building.

I strongly believe that there is a huge need for intentional leadership succession in the church today. Pastors and church leaders need to identify and intentionally raise up their successors. Secondly, a pastor or church leader must not overstay his time, especially if he is the main leader of the church. When he is no longer the man to lead the church he should be ready to admit it and step out. If a pastor is not prepared to do the latter he will not do the former. This calls for humility and honesty, as a pastor listens for the leading of the Lord during the different seasons of his life and ministry. It may be time to go and for his successor to take over.

We must think long term, we must think into the next and later generations; for without succession there can no long term success into the future generations.

Read next about “Leadership Succession from Within”.