Volume. XXIII, No. 35
Sunday, 22 February 2009

From the Pastors Heart: Succession Plan

Any issue related to leadership succession is important.  Otherwise, why do we pay attention even to the presidential election of a country in which we do not live?  Why are so many people excited over the election of President Obama, who is not the leader of their own countries?  In early 2007, Lee Hsien Loong, prime minister of Singapore surprised his country men and women by talking about searching for his potential successor.  He felt that his being a leader of the country at the age of 52 was a bit old.  Thus, he desired to hand over his leadership position to someone who was younger than he was.  When secular companies and corporations change their leaders, they often find the new leadership influencing markets both positively and negatively.  The Apple company was hit hard when there were rumours about its CEO, Steve Jobs’ ill health.  When Jack Welch became CEO of General Electric, he wanted to make the company the world’s most competitive enterprise.  His leadership revolutionized the business world.  I am not saying that I endorse the way he has run the company.  I simply mention his name to show the importance of leadership.  There was a time a few decades ago when he could have left the company, while he was working as a junior engineer.  However, there was a man who recognized his value and persuaded him to stay in the company.  His name was Reuben Gutoff, without whom Jack Welch could not be the man of GE.  We cannot emphasize too much on the importance of good leadership.  Then, how about the leadership in the Christian churches?  Christian churches have grown up or died out over the centuries and decades.  Leadership has been one of the major factors that has played behind the scenes.  Behind sinful nations, there were sinful leaders.  Just think about the history of Israel in the Old Testament.  At the same time, I cannot but think that people have received what they have deserved.  Evil people will have evil leaders.  Only by the grace of God were they able to return to God through righteous leadership. 

1 Kings 1-2 records one of the leadership succession stories in the Bible.  The leadership was transferred from David to Solomon.  Verse 5 in chapter one has an interesting statement: “Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him.”  From verse 1, we find that King David was still alive, and he had not appointed any particular person to succeed him yet.  At the same time, the first part of the verse says, “Now king David was old and stricken in years.”  We may gather two simple facts from these two verses: (1) David was old, and (2) Adonijah appointed himself as a king by simple declaration.  He appeared to have good relationship with his father, David.  Verse 6a says that David had not even rebuked him at all, and that he was a handsome man.  Besides, it seems that he was capable of recruiting people for his cause.  For example, verse 7 says, “And he conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah, and with Abiathar the priest: and they following Adonijah helped him.”  While David was indecisive in the matter of designating his successor, there was a schism within his own court.  Thus, verse 8 says, “But Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and Nathan the prophet, and Shimei, and Rei, and the mighty men which belonged to David, were not with Adonijah.”  Eventually, this episode was ended in Solomon’s succession and the rebel leaders’ demise.  It shows us the importance of succession plans and their timely executions.  I wonder what would have happened if David had a clear succession plan before he was forced to do something about the succession issue.  In fact, the lack of succession plan in Christian churches has caused lots of unnecessary troubles.  It has been one of the major causes of church splits too.  Some refuse to make any succession plan because they feel threatened.  Some have only one succession, which is from father to son.  In this case, if the son is not a worthy man for the ministry, the church becomes a family inheritance.  It must be equally considered that the son should not be discriminated simply because there is a father and son relationship in the succession.  Some do not think that there is any necessity for a succession plan.  There are many reasons why smooth successions of church leadership have not been practiced in the church of God.  The following are only a few examples: (1) God is going to do it in His time; therefore there is no reason that we make any plan for it, (2) younger generation leaders are not ready, (3) leadership succession removes the more experienced leaders from their services and ministries, (4) young leaders are prone to make mistakes and are not so reliable, (5) we have lots of time to groom young ones to take over, (6) making succession plans only shows the lack of our faith in God, (7) church leaders should be allowed to serve till they go to heaven, and many more reasons.  I must say that all of those reasons listed have certain degrees of validity in them.  Having said that, we must not forget that leadership succession is not a matter of choice, but of necessity.  Leadership succession has to be done whether we like it or not.  No one lives forever, and generation changes are a natural course of life.  If there is any talk about leadership succession, it must be about the quality, nature, and timing of succession.  As we have seen it from king David, the Bible gives us various stories about leadership successions. 

The reason that we cannot but talk about leadership succession is that it affects the church of God either positively or negatively.  Or sometimes, during the transition from one leadership to the next, there may be some glitches and undesirable effects.  It is because every individual is distinguished by his own personality, character, philosophy, strength and weakness, age, attitude, or interest.  Preparing for smooth succession from one leader to the next is not uniquely found only in the Church of God.  In fact, we must say that an effective succession strategy is crucial to any organization seeking to attain high levels of performance.  When organizations fail to provide succession plans, they often suffer with a perpetual status quo, and their fresh ideas and zeal will be stifled.  After all, the key to any lively organization is not its project or programs, but people.  There have to be good people and good leaders.  The importance of church leadership succession is found in the Pastoral Epistles: 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus.  The necessity of these epistles was that the Church of God needed continuing supply of her leaders, though she had such a giant like Paul in her early days.  Paul was a great man of God and apostle of Jesus Christ.  However, one inevitable fact is that he could not live forever, but the Church should be continued in history with his absence.  Paul knew that his days were coming to the end.  He wanted to know that there would be proper leadership after his departure, so that the work of God would not be hurt.   In a large scale, we may be able to say that the work of God runs through a stream of successions.  It is not too hard to understand.  We have heard about big churches and large Christian organizations once very active and lively but gone only into history because they have failed to secure proper leadership through rightful and biblical succession.  Some theological seminaries and Bible schools have not been able to continue with their founding ethos.  Some churches have been switched from conservatism to liberalism.  Some churches have suffered with internal conflicts because of failures in leadership succession. 

When I talk about the succession of leadership within the church context, I must clarify that I do not refer to the succession of church offices or titles as the Church of Rome has insisted.  The Church of Rome has invented an idea of the apostolic succession through the papacy.  The truly biblical succession may be illustrated by what Paul had to say in 2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”  The most biblical leadership must be found in (1) faithful men and (2) the same teaching.  If a leader be a good man, it is good.  However, it is not good enough.  He has to be faithful in character, and all the more he must believe and teach the same doctrines that the forefathers have faithfully believed and taught.  If a church leader fails in any one of these two, his church is waiting for her last breath.  I’ll continue on this topic next time.  In the meanwhile, pray for your leaders.

Lovingly, Your Pastor

More Lively Hope




Kitchen Rosters - Team Leader: Sis Ethel Chung.

Warm Welcome: back from London, Ps Ki.

Hope B-P Chinese Fellowship commences Sat, 7 March.

O-Week Preparations: All YAFers are asked to help with welcome packs in the library at 1 pm today.

Working Bee: help needed to prepare the church property for wedding next month.

Ladies’ Share & Prayer Meeting is rescheduled for this coming Tuesday.

Lively Hope Committee: Sis Michelle Lee has resigned and has been replaced by Bro You Wen Yeap.

Any donation for the victims & those who lost their loved ones in the Victorian Bushfire is welcome. Your generosity is appreciated.


Looking Ahead

Family Bible Conference at Easter, 10-13 April 2009.


Praise & Thanksgiving

Journey mercies: Ps Ki; Elder Thomas Liaw & family; Bro Joseph Selvanayagam (Athens); Sisters Yvone Kam, Maybelline Tan, Felicia & Vanessa Tan (Adl); Bro Phil & Sis Iris Surman (KL) &  all others who have travelled.

Church activities: BSAG, Joy & Maranatha; E-Ministry; Shorter Catechism Class; Senior Citizens’ Fellowship Meeting; Sparks 4Christ; YAF Video Night.

Ministry of Pastor Ki in New Life BPC, London.

Good Health: Rev Peter Chua

Labour of love in Lively Hope Committee: Sis Michelle Lee.


Prayer Items

Health & God’s healing - Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren; Rev John & Mrs Christine McKenzie; Rev Peter Clements,  Rev Stephen Khoo, Rev Timothy Tow, Dr S H Tow, Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan; Bros Tommy Brooks, Yew Shing Chan, Colin Creaser, S Dhamarlingam, Makoto Kobayashi, Raphael Ng’s father, Richard Pearson, Winston Selvanayagam, & Hans Ziegelmann; Mr Yeom. Grandpa Ki; Auntie Oei; Sisters Mabella Booth, Nita Chong, Annie D’Mello, Myung Ki, Alice Lee’s father, Fiona Paauwe; Margaret, Dianne, & Sarah Pearson; Aranka Rejtoe, Susan Veradi, Irena Kurek-Braden, Giok Yeo’s sister-in-law; Piah Buey Yeo & others in affliction.

Missions - Cambodia: (Bro Surish Dharmalingam’s ministry in Siem Pang), Pastors & believers in Laos, Pakistan & India; Kuching Ministry (Teo family).

Sketch n’ Tell Ministry - Pr H S Lim

Pastor Ki: future ministry & his family.

Journey Mercies: Bro Joseph Selvanayagam (Adl); & others who are travelling.

Pastor Weng: ministry & family in Hope BPC. Message preparations for Ebenezer BPC’s Family Bible Camp at Easter.

Outreach to Mandarin speakers in Adelaide.

Job - Bro Cong Pham; Sisters Marion Chan, Tabitha Heah, Judy Li & Angie Yuen.

BPCWA (Perth) - God’s guidance & wisdom.

Rev Edward & Sis Lehia Paauwe (Perth) -  Wisdom and guidance.

Rev & Mrs Patrick Tan - preparation for Easter Bible Conference

Victorian Bushfire last week: healing & comfort for victims & those who lost their loved ones.

Queensland Flood: victims

O-Week: organisers & uni students to be reached.

Bro Barry Palm & Sis Juanita Tong - wedding in March.



© Hope Bible-Presbyterian Church
14 Bedford Square, Colonel Light Gardens, South Australia 5041