If you have ever watched a relay race, perhaps in the Olympic Games, then you realize that there are crucial times in the race when one runner has to pass the baton to the next runner. It is often in those moments that the race is lost or won. Passing the baton is also crucial to success in life and ministry. This is sometimes called “the changing of the guard” (i.e. the end of one ministry and the beginning of a new chapter). The Bible is full of stories regarding the passing of the baton, some successful and others that were not. Let us look at an example of doing it well. This is the story of Moses and Joshua.
MOSES AND JOSHUA
Moses was one of the great leaders in the Bible. Chosen by God for an enormous position that involved leading the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt on their way to the promised land, Moses held this leadership position for over 40 years. However, the time came when he had to pass the baton to Joshua. You will find the full story in Deuteronomy 31.
Moses told the people of Israel, “I am one hundred and twenty years old today. I can no longer go out and come in. Also the Lord has said to me, ‘You shall not cross over this Jordan.'” (Deut. 31:2&3, NKJV). In verse 3, Moses states, “Joshua himself crosses over before you, affirming the Lord’s choice of Joshua (Duet. 31:3, NKJV). Then you come to Joshua 1, which says, “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: ‘Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan” (i.e., lead the children of Isreal to the promised land).
LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM MOSES AND JOSHUA
- Moses chose Joshua as his personal assistant. Consequently, Joshua spent a lot of time with Moses and was with him at significant times.
- Although he was a young man at the time of the Exodus, he must have caught Moses’ eye as Moses gave him command of a detachment to repel the raiding Amalekites. He was a man of valor.
- Joshua’s relationship with the Lord. In Exodus 3:3 (NKJV), when Moses met with the Lord in the tabernacle, it says of Joshua, “Joshua… a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.” In other words, he learned how to wait on the Lord. He was a dedicated servant of the Lord.
- Joshua proved himself in various situations. Such as the battle with the Amalekites and especially as one of the spies who went into the promised land. He and Caleb were the only two of the twelve who favored going into the Promised Land. As a result, they almost got stoned.
- Joshua continued Moses’ teaching, and there was much of that given to Moses regarding how the children of Israel were to live as a people of God.
- Joshua understood authority and submitted to it. Exodus 17:10 tells us he was obedient to Moses. He knew how to follow orders.
- Joshua was in the long term. He followed Moses for 40 years in the wilderness and undoubtedly learned perseverance and faithfulness through it all.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD TODAY
Have you noticed how many leaders of the past moves of God have passed away, retired, or fallen away in recent times? Well, It is a part of the passing of the baton. God is raising up a new generation of younger leaders who will lead the church in the coming days.
For this to happen, the older generation must make room for them. It is important for leaders to know when the time is up. Just as Moses knew his time was up, older leaders need to realize their time is up.
Over the many years of ministry, I have known when my time was finished, and in most cases, I knew who would succeed me. Over the last 45 years, I have stepped down from leading six ministries for someone else to take my place. Sometimes it was hard and difficult, but in all of them, I knew my time was up.
WHAT CAN OLDER LEADERS DO?
Besides knowing when to pass the baton to the next generation, there are some things that older leaders can do. In Acts 13:36 (NKJV), the scripture declares, “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep” (i.e., died and was buried). We all need to realize that God has given us a set time as described as “our own generation,” and when it is over, it is over.
Nonetheless, some things can be done in the remaining years of one’s life.
Older Leaders Can Encourage the Next Generation – We all need encouragement, especially as a young person stepping out into ministry. A word of encouragement, a special gift, a kind letter or note can do just that. Sometimes a word of affirmation can be a real encouragement. Ask God to show you younger leaders you need to encourage.
Older Leaders Can Help Prepare for the Next Generation – We see this in the case of David when he was coming to the end of his generation. He had a desire to build a temple, but God said no. However, he was allowed to prepare for the time when his son, Solomon, would build the temple.
In 1 Chronicles 25:5 (NKJV), we read, “Now David said, ‘Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord must be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all countries. I will now make preparation for it.’ So David made abundant preparations before his death.”
He later goes on to say in 1 Chronicles 29:2 (NKJV), “Now for the house of my God I have prepared with all my might: gold for things to be made of gold…”
Older Leaders Can Pray for the Next Generation – The older generation can pray for the younger generation and give them a blessing just as David did for Soloman when he declared, “Only may the Lord give you wisdom and understanding, and give you charge concerning Israel,” (1 Chronicles 22:12, NKJV).
We need to have eyes to see the new young leaders God is raising up, pray for them, support them, bless them, and pray for a mighty move of God with these young leaders.
BILLY GRAHAM AND FRANKLIN GRAHAM
My wife Dorothy and I read books together, and at the moment, we are reading “Rebel with a Cause,” an autobiography by Franklin Graham. If you know his story, you will know that Franklin Graham was initially a rebel who eventually turned his life over to the Lord and eventually went into ministry, starting with
Samaritans Purse, where he learned what he describes as” hard lessons.”
In 1984, Billy Graham asked Franklin to go with him on a trip to Russia. Franklin literally jumped at the chance for the simple reason Daddy (as he called his father) wanted him to go. It was the first time they could spend extended time as father & son. He decided he would do whatever he could to help his father. Franklin declared that this trip to Russia was probably the beginning of their adult relationship. On the trip, he was able to observe firsthand how his father handled a variety of meetings with the Communist leaders and his father preaching the gospel. As he wrote, “Day after day, I was impressed with the way daddy always directed his messages, as well as his response to questions, back to Christ.”
In subsequent years, Franklin accompanied his Father to other Eastern Europe countries. He wrote about one such trip, “Being with Daddy on that trip had a large impact on me as a son….and without question it changed the direction of my life.” On a trip to Romania, “he felt God impressing on his heart that he wanted him to preach.” These years of preparation were preparing him to eventually take over the reins of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
You can see what leaders can do for the next generation of leaders. Encourage them, help them, prepare them and pray for them. Undoubtedly Billy Graham did all this and more in relation to his son Franklin that prepared him for “the changing of the guard.”
MY OWN EXPERIENCE (AS A YOUNG LEADER I NEEDED ENCOURAGEMENT)
Recently, my wife Dorothy and I have been reading her book Called Together, which tells the story of our life and ministry in Australia before we moved to America. One section made me think.
In 1971, I received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and within six months, I was led by God to see a vision for a National Charismatic Conference to take place in January 1973. It had only been six months since my baptism, and I was thrust into something more than I fully understood.
During that time, I was greatly encouraged by the ministry of two older leaders from America, who were ministering in Australia at the time, Ralph Mahony and Judson Cornwall. Let me share what happened as told by these two leaders in Dorothy’s book Called Together.
“In that first 1971 leaders’ conference in the city of Sydney, a number of the key men the Lord intended to use in the decade that was ahead were present.
At the end of the first meeting, Judson Cornwall and I were asked to go in and pray for a particular brother. As we laid hands upon him, the Spirit of the Lord came and we began to prophesy over this man the great things that God was going to do through him in the nation of Australia.
Judson Cornwall turned to Alan and said, ‘You are to go forward and take hold of that for which God has taken hold of you. You are to press in and seek God. You must go forward and take the land.’
Ralph Mahoney added, ‘God is planning to use you mightily in the land of Australia'” (Langstaff, 2008).
Both Dorothy and I were greatly encouraged by these words to know that, young as we were in the things of the Spirit, God was at work in our lives and preparing us for the future ministry he had for us to do.
It is possible that we are in the midst of a changing of the guard regarding ministry and leadership in the move of the Spirit in His church today. I believe we are, so let us pray that God raises up and releases new young leaders who will be God’s leaders for the days to come, pray for opportunities as the Lord leads you to encourage them, and above all, pray for them. As I always say, “The Best is Yet to Be.” So be it, Lord.
Graham, F. (1997). Rebel with a Cause. Thomas Nelson.
Langstaff, D., & Langstaff, A. (2008). Called Together. A Christian Voice.
Excellent and timely. Thank you! Blessings and oodles of love for you and Dorothy.