Replace Yourself

During the summer at our churches, the operating equation is:

Increased temperatures = Increased fun

We seize summer’s opportunity to be a little bit silly. Like the road trip–packing game that kicked off a summer service at Gwinnett Church.

But switching things up over the summer isn’t all in the name of fun. Some of the seasonal swaps—like communicators from other ministry areas taking the main stage—reflect a choice to practice intentional apprenticing.

That’s a pretty fancy title for what we at North Point call “replacing yourself.” And it’s a concept for which we have the perfect role model—Jesus.

It’s easy to argue that Jesus was the most irreplaceable person who ever lived. We can all try to follow his example, but none of us can fully fill his shoes. Yet irreplaceable Jesus modeled for us what it looks like to select, train, and hand over responsibility to the person or group that will replace you. And to do it before you have to.

There are really only two options for succession.

1. Proactively select and train the next generation, and then watch your mission (your passion, your job) advance without you.

2. Wait until you’re gone and hope it works without you. 

In Luke 9, we see which option Jesus picked. From the very beginning, he had the end in mind.

What would that look like for you? At work, it may mean hiring for the future—selecting a young, smart, overqualified person who can be a protégé, not a threat.

Or maybe it’s time to swing open the door on some of the things you usually do behind a closed one: budgeting, negotiating, interviewing. Remember how nervous you were the first time budget forecasting was on your “to do” list? Invite a younger leader into your process. Do you know everything there is to know about budgeting? Maybe not. But do you have a tip or two that you learned the hard (or time-consuming) way? Start there.

It’s comforting to be the only one who can do what you can do. Self-preservation pulls you toward accumulating expertise, not bestowing it. And there’s always the fear that replacing yourself will make you replaceable.

But as gently as possible, can I suggest that those thoughts might need to be worked out on your knees? Are you willing to miss the next big thing God has planned for you because you’re hunkering down and hoarding your knowledge?

Let’s follow Jesus’ example. Let’s look for opportunities to pour into young leaders. Let’s pass on what we know now so we’re ready when God moves us to the next big thing.

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.” So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida.

Learn more about the concept of intentional apprenticing in Andy Stanley's book, Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend.


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