Exit Strategies and Succession Planning

[The following is another email to Russ–if this keeps going, I may need to start a blog titled something like Emails to Russ <G>. It follows on a conversation with him yesterday about his feeling the need to be planning an exit strategy and some frustrations he expressed about that.]


I had some thoughts on your comments yesterday about exit strategy and your dissatisfaction, thoughts that kind of gelled later on.

1) I’m not sure, strictly speaking, that a planned exit strategy is Scriptural. I don’t see Jesus advising the disciples to do so or to try to figure out how to pass the “company” on in any way other than organically, i.e., simply by being who they were and “doing the behaviors” of being a Christian, allowing the chips to fall where they may. I know that is counter-cultural, but statistically (I’ve heard) 50% of men who retire (I don’t think it applies the same to women, who aren’t as driven as men–see point #3 below) die within 1 year of retiring. I’ve heard others say you shouldn’t retire–find something else to move your competence into–e.g., volunteer work, etc.–that’s definitely a better option. Retirement is just not painted as an option in the Scriptures.

If you look at other examples in Scripture, you don’t see effective planning for succession as a matter of course. Usually it’s a pretty brutal thing as it happens–Jesus being the most notable example, though I think his exit was more planned than most, and you could argue from that, with him being our model, that it is indeed scriptural. You see David bungling the whole transition, and Solomon rapidly making a bunch of power plays to confirm his kingship. Samuel didn’t rear his sons well, and Israel booted his successors out on that count. Elijah resisted handing the mantle over to Elijah, and had to be forced into it (I heard a teaching once that Elijah was so afraid of dying that he deliberately didn’t do 2 of the last 3 things the Lord commanded him, had to be pressed into doing the one he did–handing off to Elisha–and was taken up in the fiery chariot strictly as an act of grace so he wouldn’t have to die! Pretty radical thinking there….)

2) This is not to say you shouldn’t plan for it or try to move toward it–simply that you need to place the whole idea before the Lord. The pressure to do this may be part of your frustration with the Lord (or it may not). One way to figure it out is to get some counsel–from your wife, from some other trusted Christian leaders you know who may have insights on it but also have a wealth and depth of background in being rooted in the Scriptures (Dr. Bob Shearer comes to mind–he has a law degree, a divinity degree, and at 70 is working full-time for FCA and just had his first grandchild–I’ll be glad to introduce you if you don’t know him. He too, like you, moved into this area).

Also, you might do a study of retirement and succession planning in Scripture. I could be totally wrong in what I said in point #1 above. My own course of life is a testimony to my lack of planning, which I am not entirely happy about–but at age 20, I simply wanted to get to the end of my life with a zero balance–and I’m headed there. I once heard a Christian friend I admired (now deceased), who had retired from Pickens County School District as a junior-high school PE coach and drivers-ed instructor, say, “When I was young, I decided I’d never be rich. I succeeded!” There may even be some good books or audio’s out there on the topic, though I’m sure a lot of them would be the product of the wealth and prosperity mentality prevalent in Christianity today–you don’t see a lot of best-sellers on going as a missionary, taking a vow of poverty, or even (to spin off your comment yesterday) fasting. Still, even some of them may have a nugget that encourages you.
3) I recently listened to an hour-long audio by John Eldredge (available on the Ransomed Heart website) which impacted me enough that I transcribed most of it. I’m attaching a copy of that. He has come to the conclusion that The Spirit of the Age [the title of the teaching], for our age, is DRIVENNESS, and he offers some pointers for helping us see that spirit for how it impacts us, and some ways of identifying it and potentially overcoming it. Great message. It helped me see the need to cut back (because of it and the situation with my grandson, I realized I need to resign from being chairman of a local organization I’m heading, and I’m in process of transitioning over the reins in the next month). We fail to realize how impacted we are by the world we live in, how we are pressured and molded into their way of thinking, contrary to what Romans 12:2 admonishes.

4) Sometimes, we feel pressure like you’re feeling as something akin to labor pains, and the birthing (for a first-time mother) has to be, without a doubt, something totally unfamiliar. Sometimes it comes unexpectedly, or in undesired ways, and is not at all pleasant, but, as Scripture says, after the baby is born, the mother forgets the pain she went through b/c of the joy of the newborn being there. That may happen to you also–what some have called “a suddenly”–something totally unpredicted and unpredictable. (That is what has happened to me over the last 2 years, with this latest grandson coming into my world in  a major way.) Joseph in the OT is a prime example–how could he predict after 2 “full” years in prison, he’s be Prime Minister of Egypt the next day? Could David foresee Samuel’s anointing, or the dozen years it would be in coming to fulfillment? (Interestingly, about the same time frame and roughly the same chronological ages [from age 17 to age 30] as Joseph’s journey from his visions to his ascension to power.) Jesus said no one could know the day of his coming, but that the pressure building up to it would be like a woman in travail. Imagine you were a Jew living in Germany in the late 1930’s–could you imagine the horror of the Holocaust having been consummated within a few short years? I’ve asked people, Is there any 5- or 10-year plan the disciples could have come up with on the Mount of Ascension that would rival what actually transpired?  Sometimes, it may well be that the pressure we’re feeling is meant to thrust us into a new birthing of some sort, something we could never in our wildest dreams have predicted, but which is so radically joyful that we couldn’t have anticipated it anyway!

Final thought: Basically, only you and the Lord ( and perhaps with some input from your wife) can figure out who, what and where you’re supposed to be in the coming days. And even then, keep in mind that famous old adage,

“Man plans–God laughs!’

With some joyful laughter (or a least a big smile) to mirror God’s–




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One Response to “Exit Strategies and Succession Planning”

  1. Andrew Brinton Says:

    Ken, you mentioned that you recently listened to an hour-long audio by John Eldredge (available on the Ransomed Heart website)and transcribed most of it. However, I couldn’t find your transcription, is there anyway you could email it to me? brinton.andrew@gmail.com.


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