Leadership Succession

January 2010


Dear friends,

Just a note to tell you that I had a wonderful time in the Philippines. I felt much freedom as I preached. It was a joy to have good fellowship with lay people who really love and serve God while being in the marketplace.

In three towns–Manila, Cebu and Davao–we had public meetings to release the Philippine edition of my book The Call to Joy and Pain published by OMF Lit. This is the ninth edition of that book to be released. And I think it is the nicest! It is a delight to know the quality of some of the literature coming out of Asia.

I was also able to complete chapter 31 for my Preaching commentary on Deuteronomy. It was really applicable to me because it described the procedures followed in Moses handing over the leadership to Joshua–something that I am hoping to do myself. The overwhelming message to me from this passage was that the whole focus was on encouraging the people to be obedient to God’s Word after Moses died. In order to do this Moses had to do two things.

  • He had to leave a written repository which would help them obey God and return to him after they have strayed. This was done especially through a song which would become part of the folklore of the people. Even when they have forgotten God and his ways they would sing it without caring for the words because it had become a one of their cultural practices–somewhat like the hymns sung by British football (soccer) spectators today. One day God would use the words of those songs to bring them back to himself.


  • The other thing Moses was to do was to spend time with the leaders explaining the Word to them for they were the ones who would ensure that the vision of God for the nation would be communicated to the people. Without wasting time on elaborate farewells we must spend our last days most with the leaders drumming the ethos of the movement into them. If what drives a movement is its programme, the likelihood of the movement departing soon from its original vision and crumbling once a strong leader leaves is great. The biblical model for movements is for them to be driven by a passion for its mission derived from God’s unchanging Word. If the leader has been concentrating on communicating that passion to his or her leaders, just like Jesus did with the Great Commission, then the likelihood is much greater that the movement will pursue the passion after the strong leader is gone is greater.

No time was spent for praising the achievements of Moses, whom some consider to have been the greatest national leader in human history. I thought of all the precious time, energy and resources that are wasted trying to praise and recognise departing leaders and leave behind things that will help people remember them and their legacy. There is no need for people to remember us. What is important is to leave a people with the vision of God’s desires for them, so that even after they stray they could come back to God. Moses’ legacy was the Word of God he gave to the people!

William Carey said, When I am gone, speak not of William Carey, but of William Carey’s Savior.

And what a wonderful Saviour we serve! I was preaching the same sermon in the three book launches–a sermon I must now have preached over 50 times. Each time I was more excited about the truth in it because it is truth from the Word of God. I have just finished two busy months where I have preached and taught about 65 times. But I am more fired up about preaching than I was when I began my ministry 33 years ago. Why? because the Word of God is such a powerful instrument to handle and the Lord Jesus is such a wonderful Saviour to serve.

Thanks for your prayers,