Passing the baton in a relay race is the most critical part of the race. It happens three times, and each pass impacts the race. When it’s done in a smooth, swift manner, precious seconds are gained. When the transition is rough, it slows the pace of both runners and valuable time is lost. If the baton is dropped, the whole relay team loses.
They say that practice makes perfect, and this is paramount for a relay race. Sadly, there have been some horrendous baton mistakes in recent Olympic races. Can you imagine working for years to get to the Olympics, only to watch your hopes of a medal vanish in seconds? It happens.
The passing of a baton is a good illustration for a transition of leadership. When it’s done well, the benefits are immense. When it’s done poorly, the losses are incalculable.
The transfer process
Reading through 2 Chronicles, in the midst of genealogies and royal histories, the Lord opened up some thoughts for me about transition of leadership.
A lack of wisdom
This is the first in a three-part series on transition of leadership. This post will look at the immediate context of a young leader stepping into the very large shoes of a bigger-than-life leader, namely, King Solomon. The text is 2 Chronicles 10:1-19.
After King Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam finds the people of Israel coming with a request. They express how difficult it was for them living under the strong-handed leadership of his father, and the cost it required. They request a lighter burden to bear in exchange for loyalty and continued service.
Rehoboam seeks the counsel of his father’s advisors who suggest he grant the people’s request and the people will be faithful and loyal as his servants.
But Rehoboam is not satisfied with their counsel, so he seeks out his own advisors—those who’ve grown up with him, his peers in experience and age. Their counsel is to be even more harsh than his father had been. So, when the people return for the king’s response, they are met with a harsh rebuke.
The people responded with rebellion! When the king refused to listen to them, they abandoned him, or as others have said, they voted with their feet.
The right person
Why did this happen? Many answers could apply, but here are a couple of observations.
The right time and the right way
Rehoboam refused to really listen to the people and consider the implications of what they were saying. A common problem for many young leaders is to try to bring change too quickly. Another problem is trying to lead with the same style of leadership as someone else. Neither is wise. When I prepared to turn over the church I planted in the late seventies, to join another ministry overseas, I had a simple prayer request. I asked the Lord for a man who had senior pastoral experience to come take the church. I saw enough failed and troubled church transitions to know the consequences of inexperience.
I wanted to have a clean hand-off of the baton of leadership. Thankfully, the Lord answered my prayer, and the church saw no downturn in giving or attendance, and the church experienced strong growth within months of the final transition.
How can it be done well?
In the meantime, to get started in that direction—
What is God showing you through this text (2 Chronicles 10:1-19) about leadership in general?
What experience do you have witnessing or participating in a transition of leadership (at any level)?
With Trip Kimball’s permission this is a repost from his blog, Word-Strong. Along with his family, Trip planted a Calvary Chapel in 1978 and in 1990 took them to the Philippines as missionaries. There in Asia he was used by God to not only establish Rainbow Village for abandoned babies, but serve in equipping hundreds of national pastors and church planters. Currently Trip serves from his Florida home as a mentor with CCPN, as an integral part of Poimen Ministries and continues to equip leaders in the States as well as in missionary settings.