The New York Times reported last week that Jay Leno has named his successor for hosting NBC’s “The Tonight Show.” In five years, he’ll walk away and hand over the reins to Conan O’Brian, the current host of “Late Night.”
In a statement, Mr. Leno said: “When I signed my new contract, I felt that the timing was right to plan for my successor, and there is no one more qualified than Conan. Plus, I promised my wife, Mavis, I would take her out for dinner before I turned 60.”
NBC executives have happened upon a practice that many ministries continue to struggle with. If you look out at the ministry landscape today it is full of ministries that began back in the 1970’s and 80’s, many before that. Today, those ministries are being led by principals who are in their 60’s and 70’s. It doesn’t take a college professor to do the math…many of those ministries are facing some major changes in the coming years.
There are really two questions:
1. Does God really want this ministry to carry on after I no longer desire (or am able) to continue? This is a tough one. I’m sure that every minister has a vision of his or her work continuing long into the future; blessing many more lives for years to come. But is that really what God wants? Is there such thing as a ministry being anointed for a time, then passing away? Is it just too much to consider that all the work and accomplishments could be over only to live on through the lives of others?
2. If I’m convinced God wants this ministry to continue…then who does God want me to hand off to? Another tough one. Too often ministers assume that one of his or her children are the natural fit for taking over the ministry. But, sadly, history shows us that in many cases this is just not true. Certainly, it can happen. But it seems that most times a “calling” is placed on an individual or even a couple, but rarely a whole family. If a son or a daughter is to take over, they should be able to apply their own gifts, talents and callings to the task. And the ministry will change to reflect their new leadership. No matter who takes over, the real mistake is to ignore the new talents and gifts of the new principal only to cling to the old mandate… “we’ve always done it that way,” requiring the new leadership to just match the old ways.
My opinion of Jay Leno has just gone up a notch or two. To deny his ego, which would try to convince him that he could do the job forever and to actually agree with NBC to hand off to another man—that shows a massive amount of humility and security in who he is and what he wants in life. Congratulations Jay, for a great run and for being man enough to make plans to hand off when you’re done.