How to Bequeath Your Life (succession pt. 1)

Maybe it’s my age, or my sense of legacy, but I need to be sure now that my life’s work will pass to the next generation, and flourish. My succession plan must be more than a brave hope and bunch of concerns – my life’s work is at stake.

I’m hearing positive talk, yet watching leaders make grave mistakes, hearing great theories yet watching them pass their batons to impostors – by desperate abandonment, by bad timing, by bad advice from other leaders, and most embarrassing, discovering in the end that they don’t have a successor. (Two thirds of family businesses in Canada end with the first generation because the kids won’t, or can’t, carry on.)

Do you own property, programs and groups of people? These don’t seem to transition so well – they get changed into something we didn’t intend once we’ve released ownership to our youngers. I don’t want to be the pastor who builds a great ministry to watch my successor unbuild it – and I will be watching, even from my grave. And I’ll be extremely disappointed if I used the wrong strategy, got the wrong guy, didn’t train him well enough, or he got proud.

Here’s some bad advice: “Let go completely”, “Keep a firm grip”, “There should be a committee”, or “Just leave it to the Lord”. Such advice is irrelevant and bad because succession is not a simple inheritance of property, programs and people.

So what is it? Some might see succession as passing on a business, a church, or ministry; but for me, it’s the future of a life-long call that gathers and builds disciples from the nations. We are an apostolic organism, a family of creative people with one heart – to reach and disciple people who need Jesus and desire His purpose for their lives. Although we employ property and programs, what I am really passing on is something deeper. And how well I pass it on is measured by how well discipleship continues to happen.

This isn’t about the real estate, but a spiritual stake we’ve driven into the ground, not programs but the organism of discipleship, it’s not fame, but influence, not the multitude of people but the rising leaders who are called out by this vision to reach those multitudes. It’s the thing that got us here, built the buildings, attracted the people – it’s our God given, purpose borne, vision.

Succession fails when leaders bequeath the wrong thing – their namesake, perpetuation of their ideas, protection of their acquisitions, and other earth-bound treasures, and then choose a person or a system that can securely manage these in their absence. Are we so foolish to build with vision and then trust the future to politics? Adoniram Judson invested his life into planting churches across the mountains of southeast Asia; thousands of wonderful churches. A plan was then put in place that has perpetuated the succession of property and leadership for 200 years – and killed the vision. The visionaries who are planting and growing churches in those mountains today find the old plan to be their biggest hindrance. The bottom line on the sign in front of the Judson Baptist Church in Rangoon reads; “Opposes liberalism, modernism, ecumenism, formalism and worldliness.” See anything wrong with this vision statement?

Coming up: ‘It’s too late to start now’, a ‘how to’ pass on your vision.

Know of any good books or resources on succession, tried and proven stuff?

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2 responses to “How to Bequeath Your Life (succession pt. 1)

  1. “The bottom line on the sign in front of the Judson Baptist Church in Rangoon reads; “Opposes liberalism, modernism, ecumenism, formalism and worldliness.” See anything wrong with this vision statement?” YES, YES!!!! This is soooo far removed from Adoniram Judson’s vision and passion. He just loved Jesus and the Word and was willing and obedient to GO! Oh my the challenges faced today that seem to complicate christian life. That is what the enemy wants us to believe, even be distracted by such legalism, and be fearful of the future. But really it’s all about the heart and our love for Jesus and our experienced love from Him and the Father. This brings to mind Billy Graham and his son, Franklin Graham, who now carries his father’s torch and serves as president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and as president and CEO of international relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse. Although the techniques of “doing” the ministry are different, updated, and expanded, the overall vision, purpose, and “spirit” is still his father’s. My thoughts are we can’t be afraid to let the younger generation express, through different modes of communication, etc., the calling upon their lives as long as the stay will the vision, purpose, and “spirit’ of the work. Oh course it goes without saying and I’m assuming the work and ministry is all in accordance with God’s Word and will. I’m certain Joshua led much different then Moses. Oh Lord help us catch Your Spirit and as leaders be as Moses and find faithful men and women to impart this to. May we not buy into the lie that we are old, tired, and need a rest. Give us Caleb’s spirt. Let us say, “Give us that mountain. We can take it.” And forgive us Lord where we have tried to make it easy on our sons and daughters and even tried to rescue them from trials and discomforts. Forgive us of spoiling our children and not disciplining them because we wanted more to be their friends then their Fathers and Mothers. Give us Your heart and wisdom for the next generation. Give us those young ones who will go further then we ever did. Pressing through and bringing more of Your kingdom to this earth. I pray let it be done as it is in heaven in Jesus’ name. Amen.
    Oh my this is a lengthy entry. But this subject is very close to my heart.

  2. Got you there..yes Lord raise up the spirit of Caleb in us.. We have many good years in us… One thing we did with our girls is pray that God would give them enough trouble so they could see Him as mighty to save! No battle, no victory! We had things come up in our lives that we chose not to hid from them but to bring them through the process so they could see by example and from the word on how to face the obstacles and blessings in life. We ” brought them through the process” it was a great teacher. But books? I think there is a dearth… Which probably speaks to the quality of our family life and our prayer lives….ouch

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