Leadership by Liquidation
Jesus says, “If you want to be my disciple, take up your cross and follow me.” When he calls his first disciples, Peter, James and John, they walk away from their family fishing businesses. Later, after Christ’s death and resurrection, Peter goes back to what he knows: Fishing. Maybe his dad was glad to have him back. Maybe some in his village always thought the stint he did with Jesus was "just a phase." And, now that he’d gotten it out of his system, everything would go back to normal. But eventually, Peter returns to his true calling: fishing for people.
Most of us have been coached by well-meaning friends and mentors to have a backup, or safety, plan. In high school, you apply to your first-choice university, but you also apply to a safety school. “Sure,” they tell us, “apply for that dream job. Just make sure you send out resumes to a few other options too.” That’s what prudent people do.
But sometimes it’s best not to hedge. Elisha sure didn’t. He’s an ancient prophet in the Bible whose initial career choice was running the family farm. We pick the story up in 1Kings 19:19-21, as he’s being recruited by Israel’s most famous prophet, Elijah, to a life of ministry.
“Elisha son of Shaphat … was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.” “Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?” So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.”
Elisha doesn’t just to decide to follow Elijah on a mission to lead the people of Israel back to God. He publicly declares his devotion by burning, literally burning, his backup plan. He says good-bye to his family, kills twenty-four oxen and grills the meat on his burning plow. And he invites the whole village over for a BBQ party.
His decision is dramatic.
What about yours?
Do you sense that God is leading you into something new?
But you’re hanging onto some other options because you’re can’t see everything on the other side of the leap. No, you can’t keep settling for what you’re doing, but killing the oxen and starting a fire seems a little, well, severe. Wouldn’t it be smarter to put the plow in storage? And loan or lease the oxen to the neighbors? That way it can all be waiting for you… just in case.
Following God into the next season isn’t always easy, but it’s always, always worth it. Don’t flinch. Throw yourself a party. Invite your friends and neighbors. Thank them. Bless them. And move forward.