This is 30 of 31 Days of Missionary Sunday School.
I remember my first meeting with the Sunday School Director at my new church. He said, “We know we need to start new classes, but we are facing the age-old question: where do you get the leaders?” I responded, “There is a reason it is the age-old question, no one has answered it, and I don’t have an answer either.” He stared at me, shaking his head with disappointment. “However, the Bible never asks that question,” I said. “The Bible is filled with examples of leaders training new leaders.” The question is, “Are your leaders developing new leaders?”
The Bible gives numerous examples of training your replacement: Elijah and Elisha, Jesus with the disciples, Paul and Timothy, and Timothy with faithful men. Training leaders capable of taking the reins of ministry should be a focal point of leaders according to Ephesians 4. Each of these Biblical leaders gives us some insight in training a replacement; prayerful enlistment, personal preparation, participatory development, and a plan for multiplication.
Elijah – How do I know who I should enlist?
There are several unforgettable scenes in the life of Elijah such as the fire of God falling at Mount Carmel and Elijah’s whirlwind ride to heaven. Another unforgettable scene took place at Horeb where Elijah felt he was the only leader left. Perhaps this is the Old Testament rendition of ‘where do you get the leaders’ as Elijah believed he was the last in his line of prophets. God sent a strong wind, a powerful earthquake, and a blistering fire, but He was not found by Elijah in any of the three elements. Then there was a gentle whisper, and Elijah heard the voice of God. God assured Elijah that he was not alone and sent him to anoint Elisha as a prophet to take his place. God still provides us with an Elisha if we will listen to his voice. Your Elisha may not be a likely candidate, but through prayer, God will reveal His choice servant to you.
Jesus – How do I train them?
Reading through the Gospel of Luke is an excellent way to discover a model of leadership and multiplication. Real leaders must go through a time of personal, spiritual preparation where they are securely rooted in the Word of God. In Luke 4, Jesus demonstrated this personal preparation as he overcame life’s greatest temptations through the Word. Reading further in Luke, one can see how such preparation is necessary when calling others to follow your example to become ‘fishers of men.’
In Luke 9, Jesus gives an example of participatory development. He had called the disciples alongside so that they could participate in the mission. As chapter 9 unfolds, one can see how this participatory development moves to a new level as he sends the disciples out on a ‘field test.’ He sent them out empowered, equipped, and educated for what would take place. In training a replacement, one should call the apprentice alongside and then give him or her opportunities for a ‘field test’ of what has been learned. Empower, equip, and educate your apprentice for what lies ahead.
Paul – How should I release them to serve?
Paul gives leaders some tips of how to release new leaders into service. Learn to celebrate the accomplishments and value of the apprentice. Paul, in Philippians 2:20 – 22 (NAS), said Timothy was like “no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare” and celebrated his “proven worth” in sharing the Gospel. Celebrate the value of the new leaders and release them with a plan for multiplication as Paul did with Timothy. Paul, in his second letter to Timothy, encouraged his prized pupil to take those things that he had learned and pass them on to “faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2 NAS). Train your replacement and send him or her out with a plan to multiply.
Daniel Edmonds, State Missionary, Director of the Office of Sunday School & Discipleship, Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions