By David McNeely
Replace or Embrace?
Elisha was selected by God to be the next prophet after Elijah. Elijah then went to Elisha and told him as much. Elisha embraced the calling and spent the next seven or eight years observing, serving, and learning from Elijah. Elisha never received the same level of fame as did his mentor. In fact, when Elisha was on the scene as the main prophet to the Northern Kingdom, Jehosophat (Southern King) didn’t even know Elisha was serving. (2 Kings 3:11)
It’s not the first time the disciple remained in the shadow of the teacher. It won’t be the last. There is nothing wrong with that. But often times when a well-known leader reaches the end of his or her career the public begins to ask, “Who will replace _____?” It’s an understandable question. It’s also a terrible question.
Randy Pope, Lead Teacher of Perimeter Church, says this often when staff members leave, “You never lose someone to the will of God.” He is saying God’s will is accomplished through different people for different circumstances.
My mentor, Matt Brinkley, made a statement over and over as staff members left, “You don’t replace people, you embrace people.” What Matt meant is that people’s gifts and talents, strengths and weaknesses, personality and quirks cannot be replaced. People are unique. So the question should never be, “How do we replace _____?” You can’t replace a person.
You can try to replace a position, but even that is futile if you try to get a carbon copy person for a carbon copy calling. The best approach is to embrace the uniqueness of the individual and seek to maximize his or her gifts and calling. Chuck Swindoll said, “God’s calling is personal and His leading is unique.” I agree.
Business leaders can sometimes be guilty of trying to replace the old staff member rather than embracing the new staff member. Coaches can fall prey to the same in an effort to replace great players and their role as leaders. Churches do it with alarming regularity.
Who is going to replace Billy Graham?
Who is going to replace Andy Stanley?
Who is going to replace Tim Keller?
The answer . . . NO ONE.
You can’t replace them. God’s calling is personal and His leading is unique. Someone will follow them but no one will replace them. Someone will be next, but no one will replace.
The obvious danger in trying to replace a spouse, or a child, or an employee, or a CEO, or a teacher, or a coach, or a friend, or a pastor, or a Wal-Mart greeter is that we miss out on the blessing the next person can bring. If God is sovereign, then we must view the person following as the next person God desires to use not as a replacement of the previous one. When I demand that the next person does what the previous person did, I just devalued the next person and made him or her a little less human.
Injuries are frequent in professional sports. When one man goes down with an injury it is common to hear a phrase that describes the guy who steps in for the injured person, “next man up.” I love that. If you are the next man up in your business accept the fact that people will be silently asking, “Can she replace _____?”
Don’t try to tell them to think differently. Just do your job to the best of your ability and show them the difference between the previous and next will be a good thing. If you are on the other end and are looking to bring someone else in then take a cue from the Lord and don’t replace the old, embrace the new.
Let the words of Ecclesiastes 7:10 linger,
Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.