Inside View May/Jun 2012
May 1 marks a transition in leadership at The Friends of Israel as Bill Sutter begins his retirement and I step into his role as president and executive director. We are all going to miss Bill and his tremendous contributions to the ministry.
However, transitions are a fact of life. We face them regularly. Some are minor, while others are significant. Leadership transitions fit into the significant category. Years ago I read that the number one threat to a company in business more than three years is a change in leadership. My transition marks only the fifth time The Friends of Israel has appointed a director in its 74-year history. The other changes in leadership were successful, and I expect this one to be as well.
At the same time, transition is fraught with uncertainty. What will the new leader be like? Will there be changes? Will things ever be the same?
Such thinking led me to reflect on an important leadership change in the Old Testament. It came at a critical time in Israel’s history, when the Jewish people were on the precipice of entering the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 31 records that change from Moses to Joshua.
At 120 years old, Moses told the nation of Israel he was retiring as its leader (Dt. 31:1–2), having been told by God he could not enter the land (Num. 20:12). It might seem to us like an appropriate time for Moses to step down, but I’m not sure Israel was convinced.
He had led them out of slavery in Egypt, and for the past 40 years he had led them through the wilderness. Moses spoke to God face to face (Ex. 33:11; Dt. 34:10) and gave God’s words to the nation (Ex. 34:32). This appeared to be no time for a leadership change, considering the formidable task at hand was to conquer the land.
However, God had an important lesson to teach the Jewish people. His program for Israel was not dependent on one leader; rather, it was dependent on God. No leader—not even Moses, a prophet like unto our Savior (Acts 3:21–22)—was indispensable.
Over the years, The Friends of Israel has benefited from not being a personality-led ministry. Throughout its history, God has provided extremely capable men to lead; and each developed the ministry in his uniquely gifted way. Because FOI was not built on the personality of one man, it has successfully transitioned through each of the previous changes in leadership.
Moses told the Israelites God’s pro-gram for them depended on two things: God’s power to fulfill His promises and Israel’s obedience to God (Dt. 30:20; 31:3–6). Moses urged Israel to be courageous and not fear, because the people inhabiting the Promised Land were already defeated. Israel’s source of strength came from the fact that God was at their front, going before them.
What a great lesson for us today. The ministry of The Friends of Israel is a God-led one. Since 1938, we have been doing the work God has called us to do. We should not fear the leadership transition or any other challenge because God is going before us. Our responsibility is to follow Him.
Moses’ counsel to Joshua was to be strong and courageous as he led the people to follow God into the land (Dt. 31:7). God’s counsel to Joshua when he assumed leadership over Israel was to meditate on God’s Word day and night, to know it well: “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Josh. 1:8). To know God’s will, we first must know God’s Word.
I am excited and also humbled by the responsibility of being the executive director. I covet your prayers in the days to come, as we seek to honor the Lord and proclaim the biblical truth of Israel and the Messiah.