Moses passed it to Joshua–and died. Elijah passed it to Elisha–and was swept away into heaven.
1 PRACTICE HANDING THE BATON.
It is a bit tricky. Races (and ministries) are won or lost in the passing of the baton. Talk about it. Ask yourself, “What is it going to look like?” What will I be doing? Will I be available to my successor? How? Larry asked me how it was going. I said, “Not good.” He asked why. I said, “Because you are still around. People will always key in on you.” He had to leave temporarily for me to step successfully into my calling as a senior pastor. Ask yourself, “How will this look?”
2 HAND IT OFF AND LET GO.
It needs to happen at a point in time. People in the stands need to see it. The one who has passed the baton quits running. He cheers but he doesn’t run. That would be silly. You don’t have the baton. Some may wish you were still running. You ran your part of the race. Congratulations that you did it. Some never get around to truly passing the baton.
3 CHEER THE RUNNER ON.
Speak well of him/her with others. Support any way you can. Moses was dead, so Joshua could not rely on his gifts. Elijah was carried away, so he couldn’t influence Elisha. Larry was available, but he didn’t pry. I called him from time to time. Be careful of how you speak with others about the race. Some people may come to you and complain. Plan ahead of time what you will say.
Give whatever help is asked for. Moses was not around to be available to people who liked his kind of leadership. Elijah wasn’t around either. Nor was Jesus when he told the disciples that it would now be their turn. They never wished for him back once the Spirit came. The words of a pastor to an incumbent are important.
4 SOME DON’T PASS THE BATON–THEY DROP IT.
It sadly happens often. You lose your momentum. The American men and women were expected to win the 4×100 relay race at the Olympics and maybe smash the world record. They dropped the baton. The men never finished the race. Passing the baton well is essential for the next runner to run a good race.
Joshua didn’t pass the baton. Read the book of Judges and see the confusion over leadership. Likewise with Elisha. He had a great ministry, but he failed to pass the baton to someone who could capitalize on the momentum.
So who picks the person to pass the baton onto? The one who is carrying the baton. That should not be simply given to a committee, unless it is under the leadership of the pastor. A pastor should normally participate in the choice of the replacement IF he is finishing well and has the full support of the congregation. Who chose Timothy for the church at Ephesus? Paul. He knew the churches he planted well, so he also knew who would be able to lead them.
Important to draw up a plan with dates and objectives. The congregation needs to know when the present pastor is finished with his race and when the new pastor begins. Clarity is important. The congregation needs to know specifics about who is running what when. The plan should include any training the pastor may give to the successor or any time to talk together about the congregation. There needs to be a time of celebrating the pastor who is passing the baton.