The Mantle of Leadership

Recently, I passed the mantle of my leadership at the church where I was the Senior Pastor to another pastor.

As I told the church during the ceremony, “Please forgive me for being nervous, as I have never done this before.” I had been the Senior Pastor for 49 years – my only job as an adult.

My comments that morning focused on Elijah passing his “mantle” to Elisha, his successor. A mantle in the Old Testament was a cloak worn for warmth, protection against weather, and became a symbol of authority.

In 2 Kings 2 we read:

As Elijah and Elisha went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. And he took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him. 

In their conversation that day, Elijah had asked Elisha what he could do for Elisha before he was taken up to be with God. Elisha responded, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” Elijah responded with, “You have asked a hard thing [a double portion wasn’t Elijah’s to give] but if you see me as I am taken, you will receive this anointing.”

A whirlwind of a fiery chariot with horses passed between Elijah and Elisha. Elijah was taken as the chariot rose into the heavens. Elisha watched as Elijah’s mantel fell to the ground – a promise that Elisha would receive the double anointing of Elijah’s spirit.

The succession ceremony at my church wasn’t as dramatic. I could not Uber chariots of fire, and I really do not want to leave earth at this time.

Just as important though – my succession!

Just before my successor was ordained, I read 2 Timothy 4:5. The verse ends with “fulfill your ministry.” I have believed for years that my true success as a pastor would be having a Timothy like Paul or an Elisha like Elijah.  

A pastor has fulfilled his ministry only when someone with a double portion can take over!

Passing the mantle of leadership righteously assures a church, or any organization, of continued, and even double success in the future.

There are three principles I have followed in passing my mantle of leadership:

  1. He must increase and I must decrease, as John the Baptist said of Christ (John 3:30). This should be the primary philosophy of any ministry – I/we/you aren’t that important – only God’s will. Most leaders don’t succeed well because they hold too tightly to their ministry.
  2. Ministry is a calling not a right. The mantle wasn’t for Elijah to give or for Elisha to grasp. Elisha received what God provided. Replacing a leader in the church isn’t as much about education, talent, or experience, though they are important – it is about calling!
  3. You become your successor’s c0-worker. Paul calls his former disciple a “co-worker” in 1 Thessalonians 3:2. I’m not the leader or spiritual authority in the life of my successor. I still have influence, but the best way for the leader who leaves and the leader who arrives to succeed, is for both to decisively become co-workers.

Wow! Chariots and horses of fire. A mantle falling to earth. Elisha with a double portion.  God went “dramatic” with the idea of passing leadership anointing to others.

Let’s learn the lessons.

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