Hand-Me-Downs...a Biblical Guide to Developing Leaders

One of the most important aspects of ministry is developing leaders.

Effective leaders know they can only do so much flying solo and develop other leaders to expand the work of the ministry.  They also know they won't be here forever and they prepare successors to carry on the ministry after they're gone.

Moses modeled this with Joshua.  Jesus modeled this with His disciples.  Paul modeled this with Timothy.  

When you develop leaders, you multiply your influence and insure the ministry will flourish after you're gone.

So the question is...how is this done?  How do you effectively find, mentor and equip people to be leaders?  Recently, I was reading a passage in the Bible and God showed me a step-by-step guide for this.  It's a guide that can help you develop the leaders you need.

It's found in I Kings 19 & 2 Kings 2.

So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat.  He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair.  Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.  Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?  So Elisha left him and went back.  He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them.  He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate.  Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.

“You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.  Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father!  My father!  The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”  And Elisha saw him no more.  Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.

Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.  He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked.  When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.”

Elijah was a mighty prophet of God.  He was a bold prophet.  He was an anointed prophet.  He stood alone against 850 of Baal's false prophets and saw God reign down fire from heaven to bring a great victory.  As Elijah began to prepare for his transition, he began to look for someone he could mentor and raise up to be the next prophet of God.  Someone that he could hand down his cloak to.  His cloak represented the ministry and anointing God had placed upon Him.

Elijah successfully handed down his anointing and ministry to Elisha.  It culminating with his cloak falling off his back and into Elisha's grasp.

Just like Elijah, you and I are called to hand down to others the leadership and ministry God has entrusted us with.

From Elijah's example, here are the keys to a successful hand-me-down.

I. Hand-Me-Downs involve THINKING
Human nature skews us toward build our own kingdom.  We want the spotlight...the glory...the praise and accolades.  What if the person we develop outshines us?  What if they take the ministry farther than we could?

But a hand-me-down means you think differently.  Instead, you die to yourself and esteem others better than yourself.  You begin to live Philippians 2:3 which says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility esteem others above yourself."

Elijah reached the point where it wasn't about him.  It was about the mission.  He realized that what he was part of was bigger than the part he played.

A successful hand-me-down starts first with you.  Are you willing to adjust your thinking and say, "It's not about me?"  Are you willing to help others rise above you?  Are you willing to let others go farther than you have gone?

II. Hand-Me-Downs involve THROWING 
If you look back up at the passage, you'll notice that Elijah went and found Elisha and threw his cloak around him.  Developing leaders requires intentionality.  You have to go to the right person and make the ask.

The big question...how do you know who the right person is?  The answers can be found in the passage.  Here's what to look for when you're searching for someone to invest in.
  • Look for someone who wants to fulfill God's will for their life.  The person should have a sense of calling.  Notice how Elisha engaged and begin following Elijah.  He was ready to find the destiny God had for him. 
  • Look for someone who is all in.  Elisha was willing to leave his family, financial security and home to follow God's call.  Look for someone who is already committed.  Look for someone who already goes the second mile.  Look for someone who is already serving faithfully. 
  • Look for someone who is willing to pay the price.  As referenced above, Elisha was willing to let go of his financial livelihood to fulfill God's destiny for his life.  He slaughtered his oxen and burned his plowing equipment.  He made it clear there was no turning back.
  • Look for someone who is willing to serve first.  Notice what it says about Elisha at the end of chapter 19.  It says "he set out to follow Elijah and a serve him.  Great leaders are great followers first.  Look for someone who has a teachable spirit.  If the person is not teachable, they will not be usable.  In addition, look for someone who is more concerned about serving others than they are about having a title.  
  • Look for someone who has what can't be taught.  These are things like character, integrity, passion and motivation.  People either have them or they don't.  Notice how Elisha was self-motivated.  He asked for a double portion of the anointing that was on Elijah's life. 
  • Look for the person who emerges from the crowd.  There were many young prophets at the time.  But it was Elisha that emerged from the crowd as the obvious choice.  Raising up a leader is not the time for charity cases.  Love everyone equally, but invest selectively.  In other words, you must be selective in who you mentor and develop as a leader.
III.  Hand-Me-Downs involve TRAINING
Elijah took Elisha with him on the journey and trained him along the way.  It takes work to develop a leader.  It takes lots of teaching...showing...providing feedback...
mentoring...talking...praying and investing. 
Is it faster to do ministry by yourself?  Yes.  But the ministry will go farther if you bring someone with you. 
IV.  Hand-Me-Downs involve TIMING
The hand-me-down wasn't done immediately.  Timing is important in such matters.  God's timing arrived one day as they stood together by the Jordan River.  As Elijah was caught up into the heavens his cloak was left for Elisha.  The transfer was made.  The hand-me-down was complete.

Timing is important in your hand-me-down as well.  A premature hand-me-down can result in the successor not being prepared or ready to lead.  An overdue hand-me-
down can result in stagnation and discouragement.

The right timing comes from God's wisdom and guidance being infused into process.

V.  Hand-Me-Downs involve THRIVING
When you develop leaders effectively, the ministry will thrive.  Elijah did 14 miracles.  Guess how many Elisha did?  28.  Exactly double...right in line with the double portion he had asked for.  I can't help but think that Elijah looked down from heaven and rejoiced.

Our prayer should be that the leaders we develop will make the ministry twice as good as we could have alone...that they will reach twice as many people...that they will see twice as many miracles...that they will see twice as many blessings...that they will be twice as good as leaders as we were.
A truly effective hand-me-down results in the ministry thriving instead of just surviving!
Closing Thoughts...
Who will you throw your cloak upon?  Who will you raise up to lead with you now and later after you are gone?  Who is your Elisha?

Begin THINKING God's kingdom...not your kingdom.
Start THROWING your cloak on the person God wants you to develop.
Pour yourself into TRAINING that person.
In God's TIMING, advance them.
Watch the ministry begin THRIVING.