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Is Your Church A One-Generation Effort?

"The leader’s unique legacy is the creation of valued institutions that survive over time."

The New Testament doesn’t say much about leadership succession. The apostle Paul describes the selection and appointment of pastors, but is curiously quiet about when pastors are succeeded.

Leaders must spend time thinking about the future of their organizations. In one of my favorite leadership books, The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner write:

“The domain of leaders is the future. The leader’s unique legacy is the creation of valued institutions that survive over time. . . . In fact, it’s this quality of focusing on the future that most differentiates people who are seen as leaders from those who are not . . . It’s something to which every leader needs to give more time and attention.”

Way back in 2001, I was in Los Angeles for a conference and decided to visit the Crystal Cathedral, home of the largest glass building in the world. In the mid-1980’s at the height of their television ministry, I—like millions of other baby boomers—had seen the “Hour of Power” show. As the service started, I was stunned: the sanctuary was less that half-filled with a sea of whitecaps: people in their senior years. I remember turning to my wife and saying, “This church isn’t going to survive the next few years.” You didn’t have to be prophetic to see that—a dozen years later they held their final service after declaring bankruptcy earlier.

The Quaker author, Hannah Whitall Smith, writing in the late 1800’s, penned a fascinating essay late in life:

“People talk a great deal about the duties the young owe to the old, but I think it is far more important to consider the duties the old owe to the young. I do not of course say that the young owe us old people no duties, but at the age of seventy I have learned to see that the weight of preponderance is enormously on the other side, and that each generation owes to the succeeding one far more duty than the succeeding one owes to them. We brought the younger generation into the world, without consulting them, and we are bound therefore to sacrifice ourselves for their good. This is what the God who created us has done in the sacrifice of Christ, and I do not see that He could have done less.”

Q. Is your church, ministry or the organization you lead a one-generation effort?


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