Leadership Succession from Matthew's Gospel
Passing the Baton of Leadership to the Next Generation
Matthew wrote in a style consistent with Greek rhetoric of his day, using rhetorical tools familiar to his readers. This paper examines four of Matthew’s culturally relevant rhetorical tools plus Matthew’s record of Jesus’ final commission of His disciples.
From that examination, this paper offers five principles relevant to biblical leadership succession:
- Biblical leadership succession flows out of a foundation of a leader’s life of honor, demonstrated by respect for past generations, a daily commitment to God’s purposes, and determination to transfer leadership to the next generation.
- Biblical leadership succession is not a one-time event. It is continuous progression of honoring a heritage, engaging the present, and passing a legacy into the future.
- Biblical leadership succession is not an autonomous event; it develops out of Christ’s abiding presence in the family of God.
- Biblical leadership succession is not a leader-centered event; it occurs within Christ’s authority over all creation and the regency role of leaders.
- Biblical leadership succession must go beyond just good intentions; it must be real-time action based.
Extracting from Matthew’s use of an encomium to establish an overarching theme of honor in Christ’s leadership, this paper argues that honor overarches leadership today for all organizational leaders, including but not limited to religious, business, government, or education.
With leadership honor in mind, the above five biblical principles suggest five Christian ethical responses applicable to any organizational leadership succession:
- Organizational leadership must begin from individual honor, revealed in the leader’s recognition of the organization’s heritage, a focus on organizational purposes, and a commitment to developing the next generation of leaders.
- Organizational leadership succession is not a single event; it is continuous leadership for the good of the organization and its people.
- Organizational leadership succession is an event of the whole organization, born out of organization’s values and people.
- Organizational leadership succession draws the focus away from leadership and onto the values of the organization and leadership’s responsibility to support those values.
- Organizational leadership succession must flow from action, in contrast to just issuing promises or good intentions.
Matthew frames leadership succession as a critical deliverable for all organizations. If followed, it may provide a plum line to evaluate leadership and leadership activities. Matthew’s picture may assure a smoother continuity for organizations during times of transition and chaos. The question all leaders need to answer is, “Am I going to be an honorable leader?”
This article only touches the surface of the potential lessons available from Matthew’s Gospel on leadership succession. An excellent research project would be to discover a leadership development strategy out of the actual leadership activities Jesus used in His development of His disciples.