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Choosing New Leaders

Amy Cunningham, 22/01/19

Ahead of our new Catalyst leadership training days on 6 April (Belfast) and 13 April (Dublin), Amy Cunningham, our Belfast Staff Worker, considers what we should be looking for as we choose new leaders.

Choosing New Leaders

The scene is set: after meeting Jesus later in your life, and having spent many years following him and telling others about him, you believe your time has finally come to meet him face–to–face. You are in prison, and are expecting to die soon. You decide you will write a letter to a young apprentice of yours, one who you shared the gospel with, who you saw come to trust Jesus, who will likely outlive you by many years. What will your last words to him be?

Parting words are important. Author Oscar Wilde reportedly remarked on his deathbed, “Either these curtains go, or I do”, while composer Bartok lamented, “The sad thing is, I leave with so much to say”. Many people want to leave lasting, meaningful words to those around them.

We see in Paul’s final letter to Timothy that he also has lasting words he wants to leave with his beloved protégé. What will those parting words be?

Perhaps you’ve been asked to consider stepping up to lead in your Christian Union, or church, or Bible study group. Maybe you’re stepping down from leadership, and are thinking of those to whom you can pass on the baton. What final words are important to impart? Who are the voices we should be listening to?

There are many instances in the Bible of leaders choosing new leaders to follow them. We see it in Moses passing on to Joshua, Elijah taking on Elisha as his apprentice, Jesus choosing and sending out his disciples, and in Paul handing over to Timothy.

“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” 

–  2 Timothy 2:2

Paul’s message has been the gospel of grace; the amazing news that Jesus died and rose again for the forgiveness of sins and to give new life to his people. Paul wants Timothy to be confident in God’s grace and strength given to him. And so, this is the message he entrusts to Timothy to boldly proclaim to faithful people who will in turn be able to teach others. In this way, the gospel message will continue to spread through faithful and godly leaders.

Leading in a godly way is rooted in a heart that knows God’s character and purposes in Scripture. In his letter, Paul reminds Timothy of the importance of the Bible.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 

– 2 Timothy 3:16–17

God’s Word equips God’s people for “every good work”. Therefore, leaders must be people who love God, love his Word, and are continually being equipped by it for “every good work”, to love the people they lead and serve.

Paul warns Timothy in the last part of his letter that there will be people who:

“will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” 

– 2 Timothy 4:3–4

Paul wanted his successor to be rooted in the Word, knowing that because it alone is sufficient to equip for every good work, leading his apprentice in habitual study would be the only way to ensure Timothy would hold fast to the truth.

word-centred leaders

We can think how this works out practically today. How can leaders look for new leaders, and how can new leaders lead others, in a manner that is rooted in God’s word and reflects his character? Consider:

  • What will you do when someone confronts you with a hard truth you don’t want to hear? 
  • How will you respond when someone in a committee meeting doesn’t understand your point of view?
  • How will you respond to that topical cultural issue that someone you’re leading is struggling with?
  • When you’re feeling tired, burdened or worn out, how will you treat others you lead?


Being a leader is a challenging, joy–filled time of growth, humility and learning to depend more on God and less on yourself.

Being a leader is a challenging, joy–filled time of growth, humility and learning to depend more on God and less on yourself.

As you start your journey leading, or choosing new leaders:

Remember the grace of God, in his son Jesus. Stay in the Word, take heart in the gospel, and pass it on to faithful people who will, in turn, continue passing it on to others.


For more about choosing new leaders, or how you can be equipped and resourced to lead well, ask your local Staff Worker.