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Steps to Becoming a Missionary: Passing the Baton Part 2 by Jeff Bush

Training and Empowering National Leaders: Passing the Baton Part 2 By Jeff Bush

Last week we began looking at how empowering and training national leaders is like passing a baton. This week I would like to look at a Biblical example of passing the baton. One of the greatest Bible examples of empowering a leader and passing off the baton is that of Joshua and Moses. When Moses dies, the Lord tells Joshua to take courage and begin leading the people (Joshua 1:1-9). Joshua later becomes a very effective leader, piloting the children of Israel to the Promised Land as well as conquering much land for God’s people. But none of this would have happened without Moses preparing Joshua for the big day in which he would receive the baton and run the next leg of the race. Let’s check out how Moses prepared this young Joshua to become an effective leader.

Moses prayed for a leader. (Numbers 25:15-17) Joshua was God’s answer to this prayer. This concept may be extremely basic for the reader, but I fear many are not praying for someone to teach who will later take the reins of the ministry. The Bible teaches in James 4:2 that we have not because we ask not. I am convinced that our wonderful and loving Father in heaven wants to give us a leader for our ministry (after all, the ministry belongs to Him) much more than we ourselves desire it. Yet if we never ask God, why are we surprised when later our ministries lack leaders. May we begin to fervently pray that God give our ministries a “Joshua” to help, love, lead, teach, and take over when our ministerial day is done.

After praying, God reveals to Moses who the leader will be, and Moses then “takes” Joshua (Numbers 25:18). And once a missionary prays that God will provide a leader for the ministry, the missionary should begin to open his eyes because that prospective leader will be just around the corner. The type of praying that Moses practiced was a prayer with his eyes open, looking while praying and working with people. And just so no one perceives the wrong idea, Moses was not praying and sitting around; he had already been giving Joshua open opportunities. Joshua was Moses’ servant, a mighty warrior, a respectable man, and chosen as a prince of his tribe to go spy out the land when only one from every tribe was appointed. Joshua was given many responsibilities. Joshua was the head of the army that fought against Amalek. So, when Moses “takes” Joshua, it was because he had already been allowing Joshua to serve.

Moses gives Joshua some of his honor (Numbers 25:18-20). Moses first laid his hands on Joshua (vs. 18), which was a repeated sign in the Bible when someone was anointed, committed a charge and/or was ordained into a ministry. He then sets Joshua before the people (vs. 19) so that he will be seen publicly, recognized as the new leader, and the people will know that he is accepted, trusted and empowered by the current leader, Moses. Then God commands Moses to “put some of thine honour upon him (Joshua)” (vs. 20). I’m not positive, but I assume that his “honor” may mean his blessing, his approval, his help, his love, recognition and credit. And when a congregation sees that their leader gives his honor to another leader, that new leader will almost certainly be accepted in the eyes of the people and avoid many people-problems.

From there Moses lets Joshua be in charge while he himself is still around (Numbers 25:21). It is one thing to recognize someone and give your blessing, but when a missionary will allow that person to be in charge while he himself is still present, that further proves how the missionary believes in this new leader. A missionary would want to preach, be in charge, and make the calls for everything that is happening in the ministry. But when a missionary begins allowing the new leader to make the calls, do the preaching, receive the credit, and have the center of attention while he, the current leader, is still around, he will set the new leader to successfully take the reins.

Moses’ final move, according to this passage, is that he gives Joshua a charge (Numbers 25:22-23). Moses has already recognized Joshua before the congregation, but now he gives Joshua instruction while spending time with him going over what he is supposed to do, giving him the tools and encouragement to be a success. This is key: any leader thinking of the future is wise to follow Moses’ plan. It is not sufficient to merely give someone the position of authority, that person must be helped and receive the tools and encouragement to do a better job than the current leader. None of us arrived where we are by ourselves; others helped us if we are honest. Just as we needed help, the new leader needs help. It is unfair that a missionary walks out of ministry, carrying his toolbox, his knowledge, his contacts, and his experience, leaving the new leader to “fend for himself.” A missionary is only successful if his successor is successful. Knowing this concept well will help us to give our successors the needed “know-how.” Has the new leader been taught how to prepare a message? Does he have the books and tools to study and grow in his life? If the answer to those questions is negative, the new leader has only been set up to fail. The current leader must spend time with the new leader, give him the tools, give him respect, give him encouragement, and show him sincere care and love. God specifically told Moses to “charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see.” (Deut. 3:28)

When Jesus Christ ascended up into Heaven, His earthly ministry did not cease. The church advanced and like a plague spread all over the known world. But how could the church grow after Jesus Christ, the head and leader of the church, was no longer present? Many organizations and ministries dwindle when the founder and leader leave. Yet, the church grew because Christ spent over three years with twelve men whom He empowered and trusted. The true missionary model and example, Jesus Christ, substantiates what a ministry should look like: trusting and empowering leaders.