I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant. Joshua 24:13 ESV
Joshua is recounting what the Lord had done in delivering on His promises to give Israel the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob many years before. Note that God’s land of blessing had been worked, planted and built by others. Israel received from the Lord the hard work done by others before them.
Kingdom leaders sometimes have the privilege of pioneering a new work of the Lord. But often they have the privilege of inheriting an on-going ministry from another. Both are special privileges from the Lord as we serve Him. One is no better than another for all is being done to please Him, grow His Kingdom and not our own.
Some leaders will have pioneering-apostolic gifts and calling to launch new works where none existed. They are designed by God for such a work and must have the wisdom needed to know when to transition the work they founded on to another. Paul knew his work was to plant the Gospel in new communities and then move on. He states, “… and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” Romans 15:20-21
Many Kingdom leaders will inherit an ongoing ministry, ideally one not in crisis, and take what others have done and improve, expand and grow it to a whole new level. This too is a great privilege that requires special gifting and calling. It is never maintaining what is already in existence. Leaders are never satisfied with the status quo. Rather, they build upon what is there and create a new work on the foundation already laid by others. Jesus told the Twelve, “I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” John 4:38 ESV
So whether you are pioneering a new work or building on an older one, both are callings with unique challenges. May you receive these as from the Lord and work with all your strength for His glory.
PS A Primer for Kingdom Leaders: 100 Reflections for Improving Your Leadership – A collection of 100 of my most popular blogs – compiled, edited and available for FREE download. See Tom’s Books page above to download.