“So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away. Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!” – 1 Kings 19: 19-20.
All businesses lose good people for a variety of personal or professional reasons. That is why succession planning is so important. There are substantial benefits to be gained by identifying talented employees – including those deep in the organization with specialized skills – and coordinating their training and development to prepare them for the future. Investing the proper amount of time and effort needed to carry out a fully defined, organization-wide succession planning program is crucial.
The Bible has numerous stories of succession planning. An example is Elijah and Elisha. Elisha was out in the field, minding his own business, when the man of God came up and threw his cloak over his shoulders. It was a proposition. An invitation. God tells Elijah to “…Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus…anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet.” (1 Kings 19:15-16) God had a plan for continued ministry. Elijah acted with great humility by anointing Elisha. He recognized that God’s ministry did not start and end with Him. For God’s work in the world to continue, Elijah had to realize it was time to step down.
So what does Elisha do? He is faced with an unknown future. Should he stay or should he go. Elisha asks if he can say his goodbyes, but then takes the drastic action of burning his equipment; destroying any possibility of returning to the life he once lived. “So Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant.” (1 Kings 19:21)
The story of Elijah and Elisha is one of the most obvious succession planning stories in the Bible. It tells us much about both the role of the successor and the mentor. In his first encounter with Elijah, Elisha is willing to let go of his occupation, his family, and the life he had built thus far in order to follow after a man offering his mentorship by throwing his cloak across his shoulders.
Elisha wasted no time in obeying. He didn’t go away to take time to think about it. He didn’t write out a list of pros and cons. He didn’t play it safe. He immediately said yes to God’s calling through Elijah. He took drastic action. We too may need to take some dramatic steps if we are to get to the future we desire. Drastic action is needed sometimes to overcome inertia and moving forward to be the person we want to be in five years.
- What would be difficult about making a sudden break with your present life – style if God were to ask you to do it?
- Is there any action you need to take this week in order to change you in five years.