I think a huge obstacle we face in today’s church is lack of continuity in ministry. A preacher develops a great ministry that draws thousands and then he dies or moves on to another place. A void is created and then many go elsewhere to look for their next favorite speaker. The new minister, seeing the mass exodus of members headed to new churches, feels discouraged and is eventually tempted to quit. After four or five different pastors come and go, each being judged by the high standards set by the first pastor, the church is a shell of its former self, populated by people who long for the good old days or have never even heard of the first pastor. This cycle happens way too often in the body of Christ.
In 2 Timothy 2:2, we read Paul’s biblical solution to this problem: “And the things you have heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” So Paul lays out a simple plan for Timothy that involves four generations of believers: Paul, Timothy, faithful men, and then the ones the faithful men taught. We would do well to follow the same model.
So the big question is this: who are you pouring into? Who is learning your values and incorporating them into their own ministry? But also realize just as Timothy could never be Paul, so those you mentor will not be you; they will have their own style and personality. But they should be given every opportunity to grow a ministry even more full of impact than yours. And they need to be trained on how to teach others. Paul’s plan guaranteed at least 50 years of continuity at Timothy’s church and protected the Church from falling prey to false teachers.
So, in conclusion, let’s take the initial scenario I laid out and see the glorious way that church should be. The initial pastor takes the time to invest in young leaders. He goes beyond just making them errand boys and grants them more and more responsibility. The congregation grows to love the young leaders while never losing appreciation for the older leader, who is honored and respected for his wisdom. When he passes on, a solid group of new leaders are ready to engage a new generation. These new leaders will have been working with young men and women, training them to take the Word that was passed on them by the initial pastor and teach yet more people about Christ. The church members feel secure and the world sees that the church is not a bickering group of people led by an egotistical distant pastor, but is instead an open, caring community that loves them led by secure leaders not afraid to allow them a chance to grow.
Together we can leave a legacy that pleases the Lord and endures for generations, each generation a more powerful beacon of hope in a world desperate to know that there is a God who loves and cares for them.