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Your Leadership Shelf Life

April 8, 2014

Are you prepared for what happens after you’re done doing what God has you doing? As the old soap opera tagline says, “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” As a church leader, I must constantly prepare for today. However, I must also prepare others for “tomorrow”. Regardless of whether or not I’m okay with it, my leadership has a shelf life. I may serve where I am until I retire. I may be called to a new ministry either within my current church body or elsewhere in a month. I might even keel over dead tomorrow! Any way you slice it, if I am not preparing others to lead in my stead after I’m gone, I am preparing my people for potential failure.

Eric Geiger speaks to this quite insightfully when showing the contrast between the end of Moses’ life and the end of Joshua’s life. Take a look:


Leadership is always a temporary assignment—always. It is a temporary assignment because leaders do not ultimately own the teams, ministries, or organizations that they lead. They simply steward what the Lord has entrusted to their care for a season.

Wise leaders embrace the temporal reality of leading, and they prepare the ministry for the future. Because the assignment is fleeting, developing others for leadership is an essential responsibility of a leader.

Moses understood the temporal reality of leadership and the necessity to develop others. He personally selected and invested in leaders. As you read through the Scripture, you see him pouring into his successor, Joshua. Moses took Joshua up the mountain to receive the tablets. Joshua was with Moses when Moses crushed the tablets. Joshua guarded the tent of meeting as Moses met with the Lord. Joshua was the one chosen to spot out the land of Canaan.

Through all these critical moments in the life of God’s people, Joshua was there with Moses. And immediately after Moses’ death, Joshua was ready to lead Israel.

After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, who had served Moses: “Moses My servant is dead. Now you and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan to the land I am giving the Israelites. (Joshua 1:1-2)

The leadership legacy of Joshua, sadly, is very different:

Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110… That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors. After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works He had done for Israel. (Judges 2:8, 10)

Why the stark contrast? There is no record of Joshua investing in anyone. We don’t see him intentionally developing leaders. We don’t read of him pouring into others. And the generation after his leadership doesn’t know the Lord.

A soul-searching question: If you were to hand your temporary leadership assignments over today, would a statement about your leadership sound more like Moses or more like Joshua?

Your leadership has a shelf life. Embrace it. And prepare the ministry for the future by preparing others now.

Eric Geiger serves as one of the Vice Presidents at LifeWay Christian Resources, leading the Church Resources Division. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church.

Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

If you’d like to read more of Eric’s thoughts on this and other subjects, find more here.

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