Some Leaders Stay Too Long

The Exodus drama is one of liberation and deliverance. God’s servant Moses is raised up to rescue the people of God from their enslavement. But the story doesn’t begin there. The people of Israel find themselves in Egypt not because of conquest or war, but because during a time of famine they found favor with the king through Joseph. Joseph, who had been sold into slavery by his brothers, ascended the ranks and became the second in command. The Pharaoh of that time, invited Joseph’s family to live in Egypt and enjoy the favor of the king.

But Joseph died and Pharaoh died and a new Pharaoh rose to power who did not know Joseph. As the people of Israel grew, this new Pharaoh feared they would become greater than even the Egyptians. And so he began to oppress and kill them. He enslaved them and even forced them to make bricks with no straw.

The people of Israel were not cursed, in fact, they were blessed. They simply stayed in the same place too long; what was once a blessing had become a burden.

In Little River, Alabama there is not much scenery to gaze upon, just long roads and cotton fields. I remember traveling those roads every Sunday to attend the Mt. Triumph Missionary Baptist Church as a youngster. The pastor was Rev. Wilmer Padgett. He was nearly eighty years old, had one leg amputated, and needed the assistance of a walker to get around – but he was still pastoring.

The membership had dwindled and at one point the church sat for years in construction phase. The handful of members who attended met for Sunday service in the kitchen. Rev Padgett had now been at the church so long, the young people could recite his prayer word for word.

There is a tremendous danger in staying in the same place for too long.

The church motif is an appropriate one, particularly in the Black Baptist church, where many pastors do not learn the value of knowing when to leave. Good pastors who may have once been a blessing to a congregation can become a burden when they overstay their time.

Not only is it damaging to the church they serve, it is a failure to their obligation to prepare the next generation. There are too many young preachers who are not ready to lead or are not afforded the opportunity because others past their time refuse to bow out and pass the torch.

Often, there isn’t even an effective mechanism for training or development. It is far too selfish to die at the wheel when the car is full of licensed passengers.

My current pastor recently announced his impending retirement. After serving 33 years and now the age of 63, he will retire in two years. He has witnessed pastors kill a church because they refuse to leave and he vows not to be among their ranks. I applaud this Godly wisdom and selflessness. A key component of good leadership is discerning the time to allow someone else the opportunity to lead. I’m blessed to be a part of a church where the leader understands and models this principle.

Rising generations have opted out of following stale and outdated leadership. God has chosen a generation of Davids in the midst of defiant Sauls. Generations of old must learn to let go. They must learn how to train others for leadership, how to support, and how to follow.


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