Will your legacy help the next generation know God?
by ERIC GEIGER
IT SEEMS THE OLDER WE GET, the more we hear and think about words like legacy, significance, and impact. As we become more and more aware of the brevity of this life, we long to make an impact, to leave a mark, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves — something that outlasts us.
Your legacy will be people. Your legacy as a Christ-follower will be the people you have invested in, discipled, and developed as leaders to be used by God in all spheres of life.
The Christian faith has always, by God’s grace, been transferred from one generation to the next, from one person to another. God’s people have always multiplied. We are Christians because others have shared the gospel with us. We have matured because others have helped develop us. Developing others is embedded in our faith because Jesus is a disciple-maker.
JESUS, THE DISCIPLE-MAKER
Jesus could have chosen any method to ensure the world would hear of His gracious sacrifice for them, to ensure that the message would be shared around the globe. He is the only Creator, so He could have designed a means to communicate or broadcast His life and death to the world. He could have assembled the world to Himself to observe His death or resurrection. He could have chosen any method imaginable or unimaginable, yet He chose to invest in twelve disciples.
From a worldly perspective, Jesus’ ministry was not a huge success. His ministry began with a jeer from a disciple — “Nazareth! Can anything good come from Nazareth?” — and ended with a lonely death. In the middle, His own brothers did not believe Him, and one of His own disciples betrayed Him. From the height of His popularity, His following dwindled significantly. At one time, there were 5000 men (much more with women and children) listening to His sermons and enjoying the free snacks after the service. But as He went to the cross, few supporters were there. Even after He conquered the grave and rose from the dead, only about 120 waited in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit. But His ministry forever changed the world. The disciples Jesus developed bore fruit, fruit that lasts forever. Just as Jesus discipled them, they poured their lives into others, and followers of Christ have been multiplying ever since.
It is now our turn. It is your turn. Because you are His disciple, you are invited to invest in others, to develop others, to help others become more and more like Christ. From your children, to your grandchildren, to your neighbors, to young people in your church who could benefit from your mentorship and influence, there are people around you the Lord has in your path for a purpose. And that purpose is clear … to disciple and develop. Just as Jesus had a small group of people He poured into, you can and should as well.
Sadly, not all of God’s people hold a deep conviction to develop others. And their legacy will not be as impactful as it could be. If we look at Moses and Joshua, his successor, we see conviction for developing others in one and a lack of conviction in the other. And we also see that the impact of possessing or lacking a conviction for development is huge on a person’s legacy.
MOSES OR JOSHUA?
Conviction for developing others gripped Moses. He understood that leadership is always a temporary assignment — always. We simply steward what the Lord has entrusted to our care for a season. And part of wise stewardship is developing others and preparing others for life and leadership.
Moses embraced the necessity to develop others. He personally selected and invested in leaders. As you read through the Scripture, you see Moses pouring into Joshua. “So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua and went up the mountain of God.” (Ex. 24:13). Joshua observed Moses’ righteous indignation when Moses smashed the two tablets (Ex. 32:17-19), and Joshua sensed the holy communion Moses shared with the Lord as Joshua guarded the tent of meeting (Ex. 33:11). Joshua was also one of the 12 leaders chosen to spot out the land of Canaan. Through all these critical moments in the life of God’s people, Joshua was there with Moses. Moses served his people by pouring into the life of another. And immediately after Moses’ death, Joshua was ready to lead Israel: “After the death of Moses the LORD’s servant, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, who had served Moses: ‘Moses My servant is dead. Now you and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan to the land I am giving the Israelites’” (Josh. 1:1-2).
The leadership legacy of Joshua, sadly, is very different: “Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110. … That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors. After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works He had done for Israel” (Judg. 2:8,10).
After Joshua died, it was only one generation later before people did not even know about the rescue from Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and God’s providence for His people. Why the stark contrast?
There is no record of Joshua’s investing in anyone. We don’t see him intentionally developing leaders. We don’t read of him pouring into others. And the generation after his leadership doesn’t know the Lord.
A soul-searching question: Would a statement about your influence sound more like Moses or more like Joshua? Moses proactively and intentionally invested his life in Joshua. Under Joshua’s leadership, Israel enjoyed great prosperity and victory. But Joshua failed to see the value of investing in younger leaders. Will you be like Moses or like Joshua? Will you invest in others who will ensure the following generations know of the Lord and His gracious works?
There are young families in your church, teenagers in your church’s youth ministry, and others who could benefit from your wisdom, experience, and life. Follow the example of your Lord and invest in others. Then you will have a legacy that lasts forever.
For more on the church and leadership development, check out Eric’s upcoming book Designed to Lead, available September 1, 2016 from B&H Publishing Group.
ERIC GEIGER serves as one of the vice presidents at LifeWay Christian Resources, leading the Resources Division. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric authored or co-authored several books including Creature of the Word and the best-selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.
This article originally appeared in Mature Living magazine (July 2016). For more articles like this, subscribe to Mature Living.