Leadership Succession from Matthew's Gospel Passing the Baton of Leadership to the Next Generation

Leadership Succession from Matthew's Gospel Passing the Baton of Leadership to the Next Generation

By Allen Quist 

Leadership Succession from Matthew 28:18-20

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus entrusted the leadership succession of His church to His eleven disciples with directions about how to accomplish their task. Jesus picked each of these men, taught them, modeled leadership to them, gave them leadership experiences, and lived with them for the years before His death. These are the future leaders Jesus intends to use to build His church. They are the fruit of Jesus’ succession plan.

Christ began His mountaintop commissioning of His eleven disciples by stating His authority over all that exists in heaven and earth. He does not place any limit on the boundaries of His authority, nor does He offer any exceptions, nor is there any expiration date. In contrast to Christ, the teachers of the dominant culture taught their devoted disciples with the understanding that their disciples would eventually become teachers with their own following of devotees.

In the Christ-disciple relationship, Christ kept authority forever, assigning the disciples the role of teaching others about Him and His commands, in contrast to the disciples teaching what they themselves think, believe, and know. This puts the leadership role of the disciples as a regency role – that of acting as a representative of the King. It is from His position as Lord with continuing authority that Jesus says “go!”

Christ told them to “go,” which is an outcome of Christ’s authority and of Christ’s relational statement that he will be with them always. Because of His continuous presence, it could translate as “go with me.” Some authors argue that “go” literally means “while you are going”, but that should in no way imply that “going” is a casual event. Rather, “going” carries a “continuous” nature in which making disciples represents something disciples do continually.

Christ’s commissioning centers on a critical verb, “make disciples” – a single word, not two words. Making disciples is not a suggestion; it is a command, the only one in the commission. Wilkins argues when Jesus told His disciples to “make disciples,” Jesus meant that His disciples should replicate themselves. He proposes Matthew’s Gospel teaches that Jesus had put years into developing His successors and Jesus wanted His disciples to do in others what He had done in them.

Christ told His disciples to baptize – bring those they are discipling to a point of fully identifying with and falling under the lordship of Jesus. This paper argues that baptism reflects a type of kenosis, a step of publicly announcing the decision to be emptied of self for Christ. The underlying motivator will be a sacrificial devotion to Christ flowing from a heart of love for Him.

Christ told His disciples to “teach.” Inferred from the next two participles, Jesus intended for His disciples to teach more than just cognitive information. He intended for them to teach His commandments and to model and coach the active practice of living in Christ. In leadership development and succession, Christ calls leaders to intentionally teach and develop the next generation.

Christ told His disciples to teach others to observe (live in a manner consistent with Christ’s guidance). Jesus did not tell His disciples to teach just Christ’s commandments, which would be orthodoxy. He told them to teach the nations to carry out His commands in His way – a matter of orthopraxis In Christian leadership succession, life in Christ becomes a heart and action issue in which Christ calls leaders to teach the next generation to do continuously what Christ is telling them.

Christ told them to teach others to observe everything He has commanded. In leadership development and succession, Christ calls leaders to focus their teaching on Christ’s instruction to His people. Leadership succession and development must focus on life changing obedience to what Christ commands, in contrast to following personal whims.

In Matthew’s final attributed speech of Jesus, he records Christ’s message of action – “make disciples.” Matthew also records Christ giving His disciples directions on how to accomplish His command. In Jesus’ message to His eleven disciples, He entrusted them with action steps to make disciples or, as Wilkins argues, replicate them. From Matthew Next Page28:18-20, this paper infers the principle:

Biblical leadership succession must go beyond just good intentions; it must be real-time action based.

Contact Allen with any questions or comments
Leadership Succession from Matthew's Gospel (pdf) includes works cited.

Definition of Leadership:

Giving your heart to others by listening to their heart


When you grow a leader who values people you help the whole world

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