Reflections on Leadership

Tomorrow is the Free Methodist Church of Southern California’s Annual Conference.  In my experience these have been times of celebrating the explosion of ministry taking place in SoCal, recognizing those who have become Conference Ministers and ordaining elders.  This year we get to make some decisions that will be difficult.

Change, whether good or bad, is difficult.  Leading change feels even harder.  We are making some changes in our ministry context.  While everyone has their own opinions about the changes – the motivation behind them and their value – the truth is they are difficult and complex decisions based on the economy, the toxicity of the ministry, and the health of the church.  As I have been walking through these changes my thoughts have strayed to Moses.

Bishop Will Willimon points out (in one of his sermons) that God came to Moses and said, “I’m gonna let my people go … I’m gonna show Pharaoh my power … I’m gonna … now go and tell Pharaoh to let my people go.”  Willimon directs us to what surely must have been going through Moses’ mind, “What!?  What happened to all that “I’m” stuff?”

As I recall, the people weren’t all that pleased with Moses … ever!  In the beginning he created more work for them.  In the wilderness they thought they were going to die from starvation and dehydration.  Then they thought they were going to die from too much manna and quail.  They got upset with him when he spent too much time on Mt. Sinai.  They got upset with him when they that the “promised land” was full of giants.  As outsiders we can clearly see God’s will in all of this, but how clear could the people see it?  How clear could Moses see it?

My guess is that Moses understood all too well.  What else could have possibly kept him in the role of leadership.  He could have passed the baton on to Aaron.  The people liked Aaron.  He made them a little god they could identify with.  He was non-confrontational and (I imagine) smiled a lot in front of them.  He could have passed the mantle on to Aaron.  What kept him there?  Calling.  That’s all I can think of, calling.  Moses knew God was in the mission and he was obedient.

I understand that leaders need to earn the respect of the people in order for them to follow.  I get that.  However, I don’t think that is how it always works in God’s kingdom.  Who respected Moses?  He was an outsider, even though he was a Hebrew.  He grew up in the oppressor’s house.  He was rejected by his own people.  It’s not too far of the mark to say they despised him.  Yet God called and equipped Moses to lead.  That was enough in God’s mind.  When the people forgot this not so good things happened – snakes falling from heaven, people put to the sword, more desert wandering, leprosy … need I say more.

I think we have lost this sense of authority.  It would be easy for me to preach this right now, “God has called me here so you better start showing some respect!”  However, did you notice that Moses didn’t make it into the Promised Land?  All that pain and no Promised Land.  Am I in it for the power trip?  Absolutely not.  However, if God has called me and the body of Christ has laid hands on me and ordained me then I have been given authority to lead, even if the people feel like I am dragging them into the desert.

So what am I rambling about?  I guess just this: Leaders don’t need to go it alone, but when God calls they do need to go it.


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