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Transitions in power are much like passing a baton in a relay race. The relay teams that win are often not the swiftest but the ones who have learned to negotiate and properly execute the exchange. It requires teamwork, communication, humility and sacrifice in order for the team to succeed.

The problems with the competing interests in ancient Israel manifest themselves today. Leaders often choose authoritarianism over authenticity. They seek to listen to the people in hopes of assuaging others without primarily listening to God to seek divine wisdom. As commentator Simon Devries stated, “How much easier it is to break up what belongs together than it is to restore what is broken.”

Transitions in power are much like passing a baton in a relay race. The relay teams that win are often not the swiftest but the ones who have learned to negotiate and properly execute the exchange. It requires teamwork, communication, humility and sacrifice in order for the team to succeed.

Nations, churches, businesses and families deal with competing interests. In the transition of power, how people listen to God, communicate with one another and handle the influence they have on one another can affect the longterm health of the community. Organizations will naturally subdivide into like-minded groups. Successful leaders and followers know their roles and listen to God who brought them together.

Some of the problems manifest themselves on a global scale. The fall of communism brought about a number of unexpected political difficulties as a result of the competing interests of local tribal and ethnic groups who had been squelched under the oppressive rule of the state.

Churches deal with these competing interests in staff transitions. Groups form around worship styles, Bible study groups, family groups and denominational opinions that seek to gain a voice and have influence over the new staff member. Invariably, the group that was suppressed during the previous administration seeks a stronger voice in the new. Generational tensions emerge as a more experienced group tries to pass the torch while a less-skilled group lacks the desire or training to carry the leadership load.

Families deal with similar struggles. When a matriarch dies or a couple divorces, families deal with the issues of mortality, inheritance, meaning and purpose at the same time. The choices of higher education, career and values play into the transitions at each stage in life.

Each situation calls for leaders and followers who are in tune with God’s designs. The Lord sees the transitions before we reach them and provides a living presence to handle each person’s struggles with power and influence. Service cannot be used as a tool to manipulate people into the real plans of a leader.

Under the guise of serving and fulfilling the people’s immediate wants, the devil tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread. Jesus’ response indicates that service alone cannot be the only determining factor in a leader’s decision. The attitude of service must permeate every decision and outcome on both leader’s and followers’ parts, but the basis for every decision is its relationship to the word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Followers and leaders work together and mold their expectations for the good of the group. Followers expect leaders to be responsive to their interests and not merely listen in order to bolster their own interests. Leaders who put the groups’ interests above their own expect followers to do the same and assist the leader in building consensus for the good of the community.

Kyle Matthews penned the lyrics to a song that confesses the tenuous nature of power:

Lord, when I use power, it’s such a coward’s way
Of giving up on love to meet my needs my way.
So show me love’s power comes to me in showers
When I give my power away.

Bill Shiell was senior pastor of Southland Baptist Church in San Angelo, Texas, at the time of publication. He is now pastor of First Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn.

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