As leaders, called by God, sometimes we might feel that the burden of leading a people has become too great.
I listened to a podcast recently, and a guy on it said that if we’re not facing any opposition or feel any burden then maybe we’re not leading well as we should be.
Sometimes, it can seem to leaders that all the people we’re leading are complaining and whining and whinging about everything, instead of just getting on with the tasks God has laid out, and trying to be the kind of people God desires us to be.
Check out this passage of Scripture from Numbers:
10 Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. 11 He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? 13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favour in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”
16 The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.
and from verse 24…
24 So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied…
Just like Moses, those of us who lead in the church, instead of going to God with a heart that wants the best for His people, we can sometimes find ourselves responding to the whinging by having a whinge about them return!
Read again what Moses says:
“Why have you brought trouble on your servant?”
“They keep wailing to me.”
“Please, go ahead and kill me!”
I find myself asking the question: What had the leaders appointed at the suggestion of Jethro in Exodus 18 been doing? Why is Moses still feeling the strain of leadership with seemingly little or no practical support? Or is it a case that it was a good idea that came from Jethro, but where exactly had God been in that discussion? Because God will provide help – if we ask for it.
Not only will God provide us with good people to share the load, but He’ll also anoint them with His power, just as He did the seventy elders of Israel.
Still, we might ask ourselves: “Is it my job to equip people to serve and lead? Am I not merely to be a pastor and teach the people on Sunday?”
This question – which some of us may have thought or heard in so many ways – demonstrates how our culture has blinded us to the Biblical call for leaders to equip other leaders.
We get stuck in a role and get entrenched in that role, and the more you work the trench, the deeper you get, until one day you discover you can’t see over the top. You can see what’s behind you, and where you’ve been, and you can see in front of you, you’ve got purpose and reason for doing stuff you’ve come up with all by yourself – the big problem is there is no-one else is in the trench with you … forget casting vision, burn-out is ahead.
There’s a saying, which you’ve probably heard before, but it’s such a wise saying that it’s worth repeating time and again: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
These verses in Numbers 11 should demonstrate to us that equipping others around us to help lead and serve is God’s good idea. As good leaders we are to identify (find the gold in people), prepare (give of ourselves), and release other leaders to work under the guidance and authority of the Holy Spirit – this releasing though is often the hardest part, because we’ve seen and we’ve invested, but we have to let that leader go.
Let’s look at some of the verses in this section of Scripture a bit more closely and ask of it what do leaders who are in our teams, or those who we see as potential leaders, need? I think God left no doubt about how Moses was to train the seventy leaders he had selected.
1. They need authority (v. 16, “that they may stand there with you”).
They need to know they have solid support behind them and that you aren’t going anywhere.
They need to know that you will actually, really, truly trust them to make decisions without your input.
Which also means, no micro-managing, no passive-aggressive hints about what they should do instead.
Your congregation and / or your wider team need to know who they are and the authority they have been given.
2. They need anointing (v. 17, “I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is upon you and put it on them”).
Anointing someone in the power of the Holy Spirit into the role God desires them to have doesn’t mean that every box has to be ticked and that every edge has to smooth before they start!
As people are anointed by God, the power and authority they have will increase; this is a supernatural unlocking.
And as they are in your leadership team, or you are releasing them into leadership roles elsewhere, some of who you are, some of what God has put in you will be in them – the same Spirit that was in you does not diminish when shared with others. Just like a candle can light other candles, the original candle still stands lit and bright – it doesn’t diminish as every other light sparks to life – it’s just now, together, we can see more of what is in front of us.
3. They need ownership of the vision (v. 17, “the Spirit that is upon you and put it on them”).
This same line means then that as we see more together, we see the same thing.
It is the same Spirit that puts the vision of what God wants in us, and so the same vision is given to others as the same Spirit in these anointed leaders.
4. They need responsibility (v. 17, “they will share the burden of the people with you”).
If we have indeed given our leaders authority, then let them run with that responsibility. Let them truly feel the burden.
Responsibility is only really accepted when others around us see us hold that responsibility, so make it public – again how can they share the burden of the people, if the people don’t know about them?
God has anointed these leaders, so give them real responsibility and let them sometimes to make mistakes which they will, but great leaders allow them
“If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing anything.”
5. They need specific ministry roles (v. 24, “and had them stand around the tent”).
Everyone has a role to play. If we believe that a person is a potential leader, then we need to position them correctly and not try and push them into a role that isn’t shaped for them – this is destined to fail.
6. They need to express their gifts (v. 25, “when the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied”).
The leaders in our teams may share the same vision, the same heart and most importantly, the same Spirit, but that doesn’t mean they will do things in the same way.
We need to let the leaders in our teams express themselves, find their own way of doing things and not be overly shaped by us but by the Holy Spirit.
Very pragmatically, what are their spiritual gifts? Encourage and draw out confidence to operate in these spheres.
Let me finish this blog post by quoting from a Matthew Henry commentary on these verses which sums things up succinctly:
“Let the testimony of Moses be believed by those who desire to be in power; that government is a burden. It is a burden of care and trouble to those who make conscience of the duty of it; and to those who do not, it will prove a heavier burden on the day of account. Let the example of Moses be followed by those in power; let them not despise the advice and assistance of others, but desire it, and be thankful for it. If all the present number of the Lord’s people were rendered prophets, or ministers, by the Spirit of Christ, though not all agreed in outward matters, there is work enough for all, in calling sinners to repentance, and faith in our Lord Jesus.”