The ABC’s of Transition: Acknowledge the Realities

May 27, 2020

Every leader will sooner or later come to a time of a change of leadership. This transition may happen by choice, circumstances, God’s call, or simply the passing of time. So, all leaders are either coming from a transition, working on a current transition, or laying the foundation for a future transition!

As I write, I’m facing a significant transition in my own leadership. So perhaps I’m writing this for my own benefit, but I invite you to discover with me how servant leaders transition. We’ll examine the final transition of Moses’ life where he models the ABC’s of transition: Acknowledge the Realities, Bless the Successor, and Cherish the Relationships.

1Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, …. 4Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” 5And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. 6He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. 7Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.  The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over” (Deuteronomy 34:1, 4-8).

One moment Moses was a great leader of an entire nation. The next moment he transitioned to his eternal reward. The first thing servant leaders can learn from his transition is to acknowledge three realities.

Acknowledge the reality of what has been done. Moses had led the nation through some very difficult times. I’m sure as he climbed slowly up the mountain he reflected on the parting of the Red Sea, the 10 Commandments, the water from the rock, and other highlights of his 40 years of leadership. Much had been done.

Servant leaders acknowledge with gratitude to God all that has been accomplished. And when they have led well, much has been done. They are not proud of themselves but are able to celebrate the reality of what God has done!

Acknowledge the reality of what remains undone. God provided Moses with a glimpse of the land promised to his people. I can feel Moses’ pain as he heard God’s words, “You will not cross over into it.” For years Moses had kept the vision alive but now he was leaving, and much was undone.

When servant leaders face transition, they acknowledge that there are things which remain undone. Whether that is because of their own mistakes (as it was with Moses) or simply because the time has come to transition, they accept the reality that much remains undone. They understand that God’s vision is always greater than their own leadership and some aspects will not be achieved before they transition.

Acknowledge the reality of what will be done. As Moses scanned the land of Israel, he could see what would happen after he was gone. Another leader would do what he had not!

This painful reality is not easy for any leader to accept. Some leaders don’t acknowledge the reality that they are growing old! Or that they have done all they can do for the organization. Or that others are needed to step in with new gifts to breathe new life into the vision. But servant leaders learn from Moses to acknowledge this reality when it is time for transition.

Servant leaders in transition celebrate what has been done while acknowledging that God will use another leader to accomplish what remains undone. They acknowledge these realities as they follow God’s direction in transition. They cry out to God to guard their hearts against pride, jealously, or a sense of failure. They are willing to keep serving in the place to which God will lead them.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • In transitions I have observed, how have I seen leaders doing well at acknowledging the realities? How have I seen them not acknowledge realities?     
  • In previous transitions in my leadership, how well have I acknowledged what has been done, what remains to be done and what will be done?
  • In my current role, what do I need to do today to best prepare to transition well?

In the next issue, we’ll look at the “B” in the ABC’s of transitioning well:

Acknowledge the Realities

Bless the Successor

Cherish the Relationships

The Act of Choosing Leaders: People Development

May 13, 2020

We have already looked at several biblical ways that leaders were chosen in the book of Acts. Some leaders were chosen by divine commissioning. Others were chosen by the people while some were simply appointed by the founders. In some cases, there was a mix of different methods. Now we will examine a final way that leaders were chosen, best illustrated from the life of Paul. “He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer” (Acts 19:22).

What was happening in this situation? Paul was raising up leaders and developing Timothy and Erastus. Then he sent them to lead in Macedonia. Servant leaders can learn from Paul to choose leaders by developing people.

The process of choosing by people development. How did Paul choose leaders by developing people? Paul’s DNA included a passion for church planting but the fuel for his amazing impact was his pattern of multiplication and people development. Everywhere he went he went with a team of people that he was developing. He chose leaders from those he had developed. This process of developing and commissioning people as leaders is one of the reasons for the Apostle Paul’s lasting influence on the church.

It appears that Paul was not developing people for specific positions, he simply developed people, then chose them for roles that suited their calling. (See Acts 18:19 for another example.) Some may argue that they were not given official roles or positions of leadership. But Paul sent them with the authority to lead and act on his behalf.

Servant leaders see the process of people development as a part of their call from God. They recognized that our world needs leaders and they seek to develop them with or without positions. Developing others is at the heart of servant leadership.

The power of choosing by people development. This method of choosing leaders has several advantages. This is perhaps the most proactive approach to appointing leaders. The other methods we have examined require a leader to be present and then he or she is chosen.

Paul didn’t wait for leaders to develop, he invested in their lives! As he developed leaders, he had a group from which to select leaders needed for a specific location or assignment. This way of choosing leaders provides much time for the potential leader to be well known by the current leader. No interview is needed, they have been working closely together for a long time! There is a strong relational bond between Paul and those he developed.

Servant leaders acknowledge the power of choosing leaders from those they have developed. They see the way this can multiply leaders for God’s purposes, and they follow Paul’s example by investing in developing those around them.

 The pitfalls of choosing by people development. There can also be challenges with this approach. Some leaders may develop people only to fill their own agendas or to accomplish their own visions. This is ultimately a selfish motive and may lead to unhealthy patterns of relating. Another danger is that a leader may not look beyond the persons he or she knows personally when selecting a leader. They may overlook others with great potential. Servant leaders wisely avoid the pitfalls of choosing by developing people as they follow the example of Paul.

Servant leaders see the option of choosing by people development as one of the ways God can direct the building of their team. But they continually seek God’s direction for the process of selecting leaders. They seek to follow His direction in every situation and are careful to recognize that at different times, God may lead in a way that is not their preferred method. They acknowledge that there is more than one biblical way to choose leaders.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How have my previous experiences and the thinking of those around me shaped my view on whether or not choosing by people development is a good way to choose leaders?
  • How likely am I to use choosing by people development to choose a leader? If I am very likely to use it, have I consciously avoided the pitfalls of this method? If I am unlikely to use it, in what ways might God be calling me to consider this method as a practical option for my situation?
  • In what situations might choosing by people development be the best choice for me to choose leaders? In what situations might choosing by people development be a poor choice for me?        

(To fully comprehend the methods Paul used to develop others, there will be a future series on this subject.)

In the next issue, we’ll examine The ABC’s of Transition!