“Lead the way!”
The words were directed at my oldest son as he stood saluting the combat-decorated master sergeant. It was the pivotal moment of the commissioning ceremony when Army cadets officially received the rank of second lieutenant.
The master sergeant had marched forward in parade precision and was stopping sharply only inches from each cadet. He snapped a salute, then addressed them for the first time as officers. Locking eyes with each cadet, he issued his final order to them: “Lead the way!”
The weight of tradition was palpable as each young cadet stood waiting for this exchange with the master sergeant. The ceremonial response from each newly minted second lieutenant was, “Follow me!”
Now if you’re like me and don’t know military ranks, the master sergeant is one of the highest enlisted rankings. The guy standing in front of my son was—well, if you’re ever in a fight, you would want him on your side. In fact, you may not need anybody else. This career soldier had served in Special Forces and had traveled to almost every country in the world. He was a sniper master and an airborne and air assault instructor. If all of that means little to you, in the Army world it’s the equivalent of a tenured PhD.
The ceremony was all part of a solemn Army ritual to signify that the next generation of leaders were receiving a real mantle of responsibility.Even though the master sergeant had more experience, more training, more skills and more years, he was acknowledging a transfer of power to the next generation. The Master Sergeant’s job was not complete until he could look the next generation in the eye and say, “Lead the way!”.
An Ambition to Transfer
The Army honors this tradition because they understand something very important: a leader’s ambition must stretch to the next generation. True success means not just building something during your life but passing it on to a younger generation. I’m talking about defining success not just by what we do with our lives but by how we set up the next generation for success. This means real responsibility–locking eyes, snapping the proverbial salute, and saying, “Lead the way.”
An ambition for the gospel means ensuring gospel-values are entrusted to the kids in children’s ministry. It means your church has metrics of success that include cultivating future planters church leaders and church planters. Paul saw this, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2: 2).
When it comes to ambition, gospel-centered includes gospel-transference.
The Ambition of Moses
Long before my son received his mantle of responsibility, an old man called his assistant to stand before him in another commissioning service. Joshua, who had accompanied Moses up Sinai and had remained with him during those forty-long years of wilderness wanderings, was now poised to lead the Israelites into the promised land. In the sight of all the people, Moses locked eyes with Joshua, gave him a salute, and said, “Lead the way!”
Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. (Deuteronomy 31:7–8)
Moses’s dream to personally lead the people into the land was disappointed. But self-pity didn’t sideline him. Moses knew the great ambition to lead God’s people into the land he had promised the patriarchs must not die with him. This responsibility had to be passed on to the next younger generation (though Joshua was no spring chicken!). Without a strong commander to lead the army, without someone to navigate the complexities of parceling out inheritances, and without someone to set the example of Torah obedience, Israel would flounder. Moses handed the mantle of leadership to Joshua, a commissioning ceremony that God later repeated in private (Deuteronomy 31:14–23).
Now, this kind of responsibility isn’t given to just anyone. The day of my son’s commissioning, the master sergeant didn’t just grab a few volunteers from the audience and offer them an officer’s commission. He had trained those cadets for four hard years. The weight of responsibility they were about to bear was only conferred on those ready for it.
Joshua’s training took four decades. It involved rigorous training. He watched as thousands of his people perished from war, disease, and old age. He spent countless hours in the tent of meeting. He studied the law of God. He was meticulously prepared for this role.
What does this mean for you? How might the idea of “entrusting the gospel to the next generation” shape how you build your business or the vision of success you put forward for your kids? Our ambitions must not be limited to a single lifetime. Biblical ambition looks beyond the near horizon and asks, “What kind of impact can we make in ten years, twenty or even fifty years if our kids believe that biblical success includes making disciples who impact the world for Christ?” And then ambition looks to the next generation for leaders to groom, preparing them to receive the mantle of responsibility and lead the charge, calling them to be strong and courageous as they, in their turn, stoke ambition for the glory of God.
Tenacious Tuesday Question
Regardless of your age or role, who are you preparing right now to carry forward the gospel work you are doing once it’s time to pass that mantle of responsibility?
Lord, give me strength and courage to pursue with boldness the mission I have received, and grant me wisdom to find and train up the next generation who will do the same