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Passing the Torch

Filed under: Leadership — Pastor David Apr 25, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

“The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. The saint is the man who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself a light.” Felix Adler (1851-1933); Intellectual, Founder of The Society For Ethical Culture

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be a great light to those who sat in darkness. And so He was (see Matt. 4:15) for He was the Light of the world. Those who followed Him would not walk in darkness. But He did not stop there, for immediately after He fulfilled this prophecy He recruited Simon and Andrew, James and John to follow Him (Matt 4:18-19). He promised  these followers that His training would transform them into fishers of men. And so they were! Shortly after Jesus ascended to heaven these same men harvested over 3000 souls in one assembly at Pentecost.  Jesus had “passed on His torch” to them!

This passing of the torch is the passion of OT and NT leadership. Abraham passed to Isaac, and Isaac to Jacob, and Jacob to Joseph. Later Moses passed on his torch to Joshua. Yahweh was very passionate in the Law of Moses that each generation pass on their torch to the next. This is clearly seen in the Passover event. The meal, the weeklong feast, the need for circumcision, and the memories of this event were to be passed on to the children by the father. This meant that the father was learning the importance of passing on the torch of faith and obedience to the next generation. Read Exodus 13 and there you will see that the children would ask their parents, “why they were doing all traditions and what they meant.”  The father was to respond with two important statements;  first he was to express what the event meant to him personally, then he was to tell the children what it meant to the family and nation. I like that!  Each and every year God’s people were to repeat this personal and collective history as a nation.

First we must personally experience the event of transformation, and then we explain what that transformation means to us. Our personal testimony is important.  Why and what it means is rooted in our own experience. But the second part is important as well; what we do and why is this important as it impacts our family and church history?  Others… and especially our children… must understand the importance of the Gospel and its power in our history as God’s people.

Moses taught the fathers to pass it on by what they said to the children and then by what they did with them. The father exposed his children to many experiences after he explained the meaning. He followed the pillar of cloud and fire, went into the wilderness and ate the provided manna, and saw the many divine miracles. The father saw it and so did the children. They experienced the tabernacle and the sacrifices. In the same way,  we must expose our children and those who follow us to the many experiences we have as we follow Christ. Let them see what we see!

The father also allowed the children to experience the divine encounters. The children saw and followed their leader as they all saw the pillar of cloud and fire. The children saw the water gush from the rock and drank from it as well. The children ate the manna every day! See what the father was doing? It is not enough for the children to just hear about God they must see it for themselves, eat and taste for themselves, realize that Yahweh is good and His love is everlasting. They must sip the communion cup and eat the wafer and hear that this represents Christ who died for them.  The same is true for all who follow us if we will pass on to them the torch we carry.

Lastly, the father listened to the questions the children asked.  Our children ask questions but are we listening? I have spent time with a lot of leaders over the years. I have had the privilege of eating in their homes and meeting their children. What a delight. I have seen the “tuned in” father who carefully hears the questions of his children. What hard work and focus that father maintained. Amazing leadership!  But, sadly, I have also watched some fathers who failed to hear their children’s questions. Some even quieted their children from asking a question. I have done the same and that is probably why I am sensitive to this need. I was not focused on my children while they were asking key questions related to the reality of what we believe and follow. I see the plank in my own eye.

What I also noticed is, that if we miss these moments,  it may be years before we get the chance again, if ever. The Bible says, “When your child asks you… say.” We must anticipate the question. We must be ready for the moment. Pray for it and plan and then when the child or follower perks up and states their question, then you are prepared to answer with the needed word. This moment, more than any other, is how we pass on the torch of our lives. Why is that true? Because the question and answer process bonds us to the child, the follower, the disciple whom we train! In that moment the two are united. The child knows that the father cares and loves them, for he has listened to them. This principle is true for natural fatherhood and spiritual fatherhood.

If we miss the questions,  we miss it all! So which is more important, talking to our followers or listening to them? We can talk and they fail to hear us and we will never know it because we do not hear their questions, their feedback, or their clarifications. May God make you the leader who passes on the torch through exposure, experiences shared, and by truly listening to the questions of those whom you lead.

Father, You pass on the torch to us in the Person of Your Son. He is the light that brings hope and help to us as we sit in darkness. May you make us leaders who multiply our lives by passing on our torch to as many others as possible!

In Jesus Name,  Amen.

Training the Next Generation Pt 1

Filed under: Leadership — Pastor David Apr 19, 2013 @ 9:29 am

Training the Next Generation  Pt 1

“All healthy organisms reproduce. It is in their DNA to look beyond themselves to the next generation, or their species dies.”  Bob Roberts

The natural world is a pattern for the supernatural world. Both share the same Author. God made everything to reproduce “after its kind.” Then Adam and Eve were commanded and empowered to reproduce and multiply themselves and fill the earth.  The same charge and command has been given to us regarding the Kingdom of God. After the resurrection Jesus said, “All authority is given to Me.  Go, therefore and disciple the nations…” i.e. reproduce ourselves in every nation of this world.

Many churches today focus on their own personal success and growth. This can be good, however its thinking does not go far enough, we need to be thinking about the next generation and its success as well.

If the apostles had only been concerned with reaching their own generation… we would not be here!  They, like their Master, raised up leader after leader to transition the first generation of leaders into next generation leaders. These leaders then passed on their faith, hope, and love to the next generation, and so on. Apostle John raised up Polycarp. But Polycarp was martyred at the age of 86. Who would carry on the next generation?  We know that Ignatius and Irenaeus followed after. The light of the Gospel passed on to the next generation. Each did their job passing on their leadership to others.

Paul records 4 generations of how we pass on our leadership in 2 Timothy 2:2. Paul committed his teaching to Timothy. Timothy passed it on to the “faithful men.” Then the “faithful men” passed it on the “others”. This adds up to four generations; Paul (1st generation) to Timothy (2nd generation) to “faithful men” (3rd generation) to “others” (4th generation). See it? This process of reproducing ourselves is actually something we see during our lifetime.  It happens while we are still alive. We do not pass it on after we die as with a legacy, like Moses to Joshua or David to Solomon or maybe even a father to his son. No, rather, Paul raised up leaders who, while he was still alive, were passing on their lives to others as well.

Paul planted the Ephesian church, and the Ephesian church planted Laodicea and Colossae in the Lycos valley. Paul admits he never saw the believers or leaders of Colossae. Titus was called to raise up elders in every city of Crete whom Paul would never meet. Paul worked with several leaders who had passed on their leadership during the 30 years of his ministry. So when Paul came to his time of dying, he said he “finished the course and the work God gave him”. In what way was that true?  It was not accomplished in the idea that he was passing on his leadership to Timothy, now that he was dying, as his way of a legacy. His real legacy was that he left behind leaders in every city who reproduced themselves in others who also reproduced themselves in others!

Here is the rub. Today we have many pastors and leaders of organizations who have not trained up anyone to replace them. They have not “reproduced themselves”.  This second generation leader-in-training is the key to the true success of their church or organization.  In most organizations it is typical that once the first leader dies…THEN their leadership is passed on in position and power to another.  This is what most present day churches think is “reproducing their leadership”. Sadly it is not!

Paul was in Thessalonica for three weeks and during that time he “gave away” (passed on) his leadership.  He was with them day and night for an intense period of modeling and training. That would be somewhere between 200 to 300 hours in those three weeks. Wow. He was very intentional and careful as to how he did this. Think about what 200 hours of training and pouring your leadership into another leader would accomplish. How many weeks or months would that represent? For most of us we train leaders in monthly meetings or maybe even weekly training. 200 hours in weekly training would take almost 4 years. If we calculate it in months it would be over a decade!

When we first hear three weeks, we may not see the intensity of Paul and his amazing skills in reproducing himself so rapidly. But he spent night and day before their eyes and ears. He was a mother and father image loving and nurturing them. This crash course was one life to several until they actually understood how to lead the church and reproduce their lives in others. Once they learned this skill their testimony was sounded abroad like thunderclaps to their entire area. They saturated their community with the Gospel. They were a model church to the other churches of that era. Read 1 Thessalonians 1! They were also tested by persecution and were found capable of standing the fire of angry hostility. Paul was worried about them, but once Timothy reported their faith and commitment he relaxed and sighed a deep breath of relief. The church was well and strong. This amazing testimony is only because Paul wisely and effectively passed on his life and leadership to others. They now had a future that outlived Paul’s time with them.

This is what we need to do. I first pass on the vision of it to you, begin thinking of your leadership in a new way. Your church or organization needs you to think ahead and begin training other men and women to take your place. Let them see your example of virtue and godliness. Next they need to see your ability to train others to take your place. Do not be afraid of this direction. I know many worry that an Absalom will steal their church or kick them out of leadership. This can happen, however it also can happen even if you try and hold on to your position. What good is it then to fearfully hold on to your power as if your grasp will stop all efforts of others to overthrow you? We will always have to possibility of facing a Dathan and Korah, or Sanballot and Tobiah. Diotrephes still lives. But this is happening today regardless of how careful we are to protect our positions and titles. Why then should that stop us from doing what Christ did, what the apostles and Paul did? If we focus on the people who may sabotage us we will never go forward. Let’s focus on the leader who will be faithful. Let’s see the potential in another person and teach them all we can and reproduce ourselves in others!  For every one or two that may be a problem there will be ten or twenty that will be a joy!

Father, thank You for Your Son and His vision of training the twelve. Thank You that  He did this even though one of His trained men was a traitor. Thank You for His secure leadership allowing His own training to be sabotaged but not stopped. Make us like Him and help us to stick with the vision of reproducing ourselves in others. Thank You that the eleven went to the whole world. Your plan does work. Now work it out through our leadership. In Jesus Name,  Amen