It’s always a time of uncertainty when a longtime leader retires, leaves, or dies. The new leader often faces comparisons to the previous one. People worry over the changes new leadership will bring. It happens whenever the ownership of a company changes hands or a new CEO is hired. Employees wonder if their job will change or be lost. This same unrest happens every four years in our country, as we wonder what the new administration will do or change.
Churches also face these same kinds of concerns when a well-liked pastor has left. The time of seeking a new pastor is often a time of “unrest” for the church. During this transition, some people change churches. Others stay, but even they often compare the new pastor’s preaching and leadership to that of the previous pastor.
The Bible records the results of one such change in the leadership of Israel. Following Moses, Joshua had led Israel for about 70 years. He had led the nation well. The people experienced a series of military victories as well as strong spiritual leadership. But now, at the age of 110, Joshua dies. We can learn important lessons from what happens next.
Joshua 24:31 says, “Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.” The people continued to worship the Lord for awhile after Joshua died. Those of his generation kept the country on track. But after they died, things drastically changed. Why? What were the causes?
Judges 2:10 answers those questions. “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” The new generation did not have as strong a tie to the Lord as the older folks had. They didn’t know their history.
You witness this pattern too many times when a young person leaves home. While under the leadership of their parents, they seem to enjoy the Lord and His Church. But once they get out on their own, their spiritual life takes a backseat. The reason? The kids hadn’t established or developed their own walk with the Lord. They didn’t sense an individual responsibility to Him.
That’s why it’s so important that we have our own personal relationship with Christ. There needs to be a personal “changing of the guard” when we turn over the reigns of our lives to Jesus. Then we are to take an active role in growing in that relationship with Christ. We can’t “ride on the coattails” of others because once those “coattails” are removed, we don’t have the qualities developed to keep making headway.
As an older generation of Christ-followers, our responsibility includes helping younger believers to develop strong walks with the Lord. A verse that relates is Psalm 71:18, “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare Your power to the next generation, Your might to all who are to come.” On some issues it’s difficult to relate to the younger crowd, but basically, their dreams and aspirations are the same that ours were.
We who are older must take the initiative to reach out to younger believers and help them to seek the Lord through the challenges they face. Whether as a parent or grandparent, mentor or friend, the younger folks need older saints to pray for them and encourage them and help them to stay grounded in the Lord. It requires that we don’t slack off in our faith as the years progress. Energy levels change, but our hearts must remain fervent. We don’t want it said of us that we didn’t pass the baton well to the next generation.