When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.
—2 Kings 2:9 (NIV)
Of all the prophets there was never one more prolific than Elijah. He had raised the dead, spoken fire down from heaven and revealed a devastating drought coming from God. Many in that time probably thought there would never be another man of God like him, but we know that wasn’t the case. Moses was a strong leader who was replaced by Joshua. David was a man after God’s own heart yet Solomon completed the job his father was prevented from doing. Time after time we see God replacing a mighty leader with a successor who was doubly gifted. It was His will and His plan that was important, not necessarily the person in charge of it. Those leaders were not irreplaceable. God has limitless options at his fingertips to accomplish His plan and He will achieve His purpose.
One of the biggest pitfalls of being a leader is to believe we are indispensable in our role. The trap is set when we begin to do all the work ourselves, even if it is out of necessity. When this continually happens, pride can creep in and create the misconception that no one else can do the job as well. By hanging on too long we risk missing the privilege of partnering with God in planning our replacement. It is not a matter of if, but when God determines it is time to bring another leader on board. By failing to recognize the need for a succession plan, we become the problem rather than the solution. Ultimately it is His ministry that suffers.
The measure of a successful spiritual leader is not always the length of their service. No matter how long we lead, the serving is significant because it is for His glory not ours. Following God’s leading includes being prepared, even when that means it is time to pass the torch. He is trustworthy in everything, including His timing. The best thing we can do in our ministry is set ourselves up—for a good ending.
“Outstanding leaders pass the torch with fire blazing. Mediocre leaders pass a dimly lit torch. Poor leaders drop the torch making it difficult if not impossible to pick up again.”