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Have you prepared your successor?

April 18, 2015

Every good leader prepares a successor. Even Jesus prepared a successor, not for himself, but for the disciples. After Judas Iscariot betrayed him and hung himself, the Acts of the Apostles tells us Jesus’ disciples chose a “successor,” a person to take Judas’ place. In fact, they had two men to choose from – Joseph Justus (also called Barsabbas) and Matthias. After praying, they cast lots and Matthias was chosen (Acts 1:22-26).

Jesus disciplesWe do not hear about Matthias individually as the rest of Acts and the New Testament unfolds. There are various records in church history identifying different locations where Matthias ministered, all indicating he preached the resurrected Jesus wherever he went (eg. Cappadocia, Aethiopia).

Along with having followed Jesus throughout his work on earth, we can safely guess the person chosen to replace Judas would need to be considered trustworthy, reliable, and loyal. Both Joseph and Matthias were prepared to be called into service as the next apostle because they had followed Jesus and because they had proven themselves to the other 11 disciples. When the time came for someone to step up and step into a new role, they were ready!

Whatever the context you work in today, paid or volunteer, if you do not have a successor ready, you are not doing your job, or at least not fully. If your successor is not prepared to step in when you have a medical emergency or take an extended vacation, you have not done your job. If everything in a certain area of your work “stops” because nobody else knows what to do when you are not around, you have failed.

On the other hand, if you are preparing your successor, there will be good testing grounds for your to help them succeed and improve. When a scheduled or unexpected absence comes, your successor will be able to practice their responsibilities. Upon your return, you will have a chance to debrief; to review how things went? what went smoothly? what questions arse? what obstacles did they encounter? As you discuss these, they will be even more prepared for success.

And training your successor – or ideally more than one person who could step into your responsibilities – means you are ready to step into greater leadership.

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