Transition of Leadership: Part I (A Not So Smooth Passing of the Baton)
A while ago, I was reading through 2 Chronicles. In the midst of genealogies and royal histories, the Lord opened up some thoughts for me. In Chapter 10, the transition of power from Solomon to Rehoboam, his son, is a clear example of how not to do leadership transition. Let's be honest, for anyone who has gone through a transition of leadership in any field, it can be very tricky and difficult for everyone concerned. When it comes to spiritual leadership, especially pastoral leadership, transition can not only be difficult, but costly. The fallout of a failed or troubled transition affects churches and communities, as well as, the immediate leadership involved (pastors, elders, boards, ministry leaders, etc.). The text is 2 Chr 10:1-19. Part 1 will look at the immediate context of a young leader stepping into the very large shoes of a bigger-than-life leader, namely, Solomon.
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. Their response– rebellion! It says that when they realized the king refused to listen to them, they abandoned him, or as others have said, they voted with their feet.
Why did this happen? There could be many answers, but here's a couple thoughts. For one thing, Rehoboam was no Solomon– he didn't have nearly the stature, wisdom, nor leadership gifts his father Solomon had. My wife and I have learned over nearly four decades of full-time ministry that one person probably cannot be replaced with just anyone. There is no magical transfer of leadership gifts and capacity. Often, two or three people are needed to take the place of another, for various reasons. Primary leadership (director, pastor, etc.) is certainly not just a "hole" to be filled. It requires more than just a warm body.
Another thing to consider is the simple refusal of Rehoboam to really listen to the people and consider the implications of what they were saying. One thing many younger leaders attempt is trying to bring change too quickly, or trying to lead with the same style of leadership as someone else. Niether is wise. When I prepared to turn over the church I had planted in the late seventies, so I could move overseas with another ministry, one of my prayer requests to the Lord was for a man who who had senior pastoral experience to come take the church. I had seen enough failed and troubled church transitions and saw this as one way of preventing failure. Thankfully, the Lord answered my prayer, and the church saw no downturn in giving or attendance, in fact, there was strong growth within months of the final transition.
In the next installment, I'm going to ask some specific questions related to transition of leadership. General principles can be gained by the examples given in the Bible, but specifics need more consideration. In the meantime, to get started in that direction, what is God showing you through this text passage about leadership in general?