Scripture: EXODUS 18:5-32
The greatest need in the Church today is for competent, visionary and inspiring leadership. Most denominations operate in a leadership vacuum. The cry of ordinary members as they see our denomination in decline and fragmenting over moral issues, is "Where are our leaders? Why are they silent?" It is my love for THE UNITING CHURCH that causes me to help us understand how we can grow new leaders.
TIME Magazine this week "names and profiles the twenty most influential leaders and revolutionaries of the past 100 years." If the church were to do the same in Australia, our list would include some great and inspiring names, but as far as the Uniting Church is concerned, they would all be long retired or dead. A good test is to ask public commentators, journalists and radio-talk back personalities whom they regard as leaders of The Uniting Church. The answers I got included Archbishop Peter Hollingworth, Rev Tim Costello and Rev Fred Nile. One is an Anglican, the next a Baptist, the third a politician.
The words of Karl Jaspers have an ominous ring for us today: "The power of leadership appears to be declining everywhere. More and more of the people we see coming to the top seem to be merely drifting." It is a problem wider than the church. Ted W. Engstrom writes: "Solid, dependable, loyal, strong leadership is one of the most desperate needs in our world today. We see the tragedy of weak men in important places, little men in big jobs. Business, industry, government, labor, education, and the church are all starving for effective leadership. So today, perhaps more than ever before, there is such a need for leadership."
When we decry the scarcity of leadership, we are not talking about a lack of administrators or managers. We have plenty of people to send out memos, formulate regulations, and attend committees. We need administrators to undertake serious management studies to improve their skills. THE UNITING CHURCH has over a billion dollars of assets yet is there one administrator outside of Wesley Mission who has completed advanced management training who holds advanced qualifications? Wesley Mission believes in training leaders. Currently 80 staff are doing advanced leadership training and another 900 are doing skill enhancement courses.
To be good stewards of God's resources we expect administrators to be good managers. Some could become good leaders. Leaders can be made. Leaders read the signs of the times, look with vision, speak with skill and gather people together to get the job done effectively. Leaders do not wait for things to happen: they make things happen. Leaders take disparate people and make them a potent force. John Wesley was such a leader. He wrote: "We act at all times on one plain uniform principle - we will obey the rulers and governors of the Church, whenever we can consistently with our duty to God, whenever we cannot, we will quietly obey God rather than men." That was the leadership spirit of Apostles Peter and John.
For forty years Moses trained in Egypt until he fled to save his life. For the next forty years he learnt the inhospitable terrain of the desert. Then he led the Hebrews out of Egypt and into the desert on their way to Canaan. Moses was a great leader. But leadership is often a solitary affair.
Moses was separated from his family who stayed with his father-in-law Jethro. In a touching moment, v5-9 "Jethro, together with Moses' sons and wife, came to him in the desert, where he was camped near the mountain of God... Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians." The old man observed Moses and advised from his years of leading a desert tribe: v13 "The next day Moses was busy settling disputes among the people, and he was kept busy from morning till night." But he was too busy! So Jethro taught Moses to be an effective leader. Note his principles of leadership:
1. RESPECT YOUR OWN PURPOSE AND MOTIVATION.
v14-16 "When Jethro saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, "What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?" Moses answered him,"Because the people come to me to seek God's will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and laws."
Jethro asked two questions: "What is this you are doing?" and "Why are you doing this alone?" Every leader must ask: "What is this I am doing?" to understand what is happening and whom will benefit. Then ask: "Why am I doing this alone" to open up the ego problem. The person who says: "If I want it done, I'll just have to do it myself", is a poor leader but maybe a dependable administrator. Ego and fear sees self as indispensable. A leader knows his or her purpose, and never tries to do it alone.
Jesus "set His face steadfastly towards Jerusalem". He knew His purpose: "For this cause I have come into the world." He then went alone to complete man's salvation. Jesus was a great leader who knew His own purpose and commitment.
2. REALISE YOUR OWN CAPACITIES.
v17 "Moses' father-in-law replied, "What you are doing is not good." Moses decided issues like any bureaucrat so that all are satisfied. But leadership is not for the people who want to be liked; it is for people who want to win! Those who try to earn the approval of everybody lose because they are weak. Leaders make tough decisions and win. Jethro made Moses reconsider his leadership: "What you are doing is not good." Leaders try new methods. Jesus came with an astonishing answer for the forgiveness of sin. Jesus died on a cross. God sought to save us, but His messengers were rejected and killed. The death of His son, would be the means by which our sins would be forgiven. Leaders make tough decisions to achieve great ends.
3. RECOGNISE YOUR OWN LIMITATIONS.
Jethro said:v18 "You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone." Moses recognise his own limitations and involved others. A leader must recognise personal limitations and add the efforts of others. Leaders recognise personal limitation and delegate responsibility to others. Leaders delegate their strengths to others and work on improving their weaknesses. So Jesus delegated His task of proclaiming the Kingdom, teaching and healing to the disciples and prayed God would strengthen Him in Gethsemane.
4. RECOMMEND YOUR OWN INSIGHTS.
Jethro told Moses 19-20 "Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people's representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform." Jethro told Moses to restrict himself to leadership tasks, and involve others in doing the rest. Tom Peter's calls this "sticking to your knitting". Church leaders who say their role is to listen and find a common attitude, make the same mistake that Moses made until Jethro taught him that leadership involves speaking out and trusting your own insights.
Jesus is the superb example of such leadership. He taught with authority insights that have changed the values of the world. He entrusted those insights to His disciples. Jethro told Moses to teach the people God's commands, explain to them how they should live, and show them what they should do. He recommended his own insights. True leaders know where they are going and communicate their insights to those who follow.
5. REQUIRE YOUR OWN HELPERS TO ASSIST YOU.
Jethro said: 21 "Select capable men from all the people, men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens". Most people fear delegating their work to others. Why? Because their egos are threatened by others. The Apostles, demonstrated this leadership principle when they restricted themselves to prayer and the teaching of the scriptures, allowing others to serve the needs of the community, thus feeling needed.
For followers must feel indispensable. Leaders become vulnerable by delegating responsibility to others, but they make others feel needed. As the Chinese poet and philosopher Lao Tse said:
"Go to the people, Live among them.
Learn from them. Start with what they know.
Build on what they have: But of the best of leaders,
When their task is accomplished,
Their work is done, The people all remark
'We have done it ourselves'."
Leaders must choose helpers who are going to develop the skills of leadership according to their varied capacity. v21 "Select capable men from all the people: men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain, and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens." Will we ever learn that capable, God fearing, trust-worthy people of integrity should be the only ones given places of responsibility? The lack of character in business, political, religious and academic leaders is a scandal. Ethics and core values are essential. Jesus gave the world the supreme example of selfless service to others, personal integrity and character with high ethical and moral standards. That is why the church can never accept in leadership positions people who are immoral, who lack personal holiness or a life-style consistent with the Scriptures. Great leaders set a high moral tone and demand ethical standards from their followers.
6. REQUEST YOUR OWN FOLLOWERS TO SHARE YOUR LEADERSHIP.
v22-23 "Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you, the simple cases they can decide themselves. 8. That will make your load lighter because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied." Moses appointed 70 to serve with him. That is why our ministry is so strong and why we can stand the strain - we have 70 elders of great commitment and involvement. They serve others and go home satisfied.
Neil Armstrong, the first Man to walk on the moon told me: "Leadership is the art of getting average people doing extraordinary work." Leadership shares burdens among people. That way the leader does not wear out, but stands the strain, the people are served, and our helpers are satisfied.
Millions of people have heard the call of Jesus to become His disciples and follow Him. They have gladly taken up tasks of service following His leadership. Christian people together make up a leadership team, knowing where we are going, bearing the burdens together, serving the people and feeling satisfied. Jesus is our leader to God. He pioneered the way of salvation. The leadership principles set out for Moses, were demonstrated by Jesus. Those principles make us better leaders in our personal, business, professional and religious life.
Our nation needs leaders who have high moral standards, who follow the way of Jesus, who serve the needs of people and who feel satisfied. The Uniting Church desperately needs competent, visionary and inspiring leaders. It starts with people making a total commitment to God in Jesus Christ. Will you make that commitment and join with a great group of servant-leaders?
REFERENCES USED IN THIS SERMON:
THE MAKING OF A CHRISTIAN LEADER T W Engstrom Zondervan 1976
THE LEADERSHIP STYLE OF JESUS M Joussef Victor 1986
A DYNAMIC LEADERSHIP P Beasley-Murray MARC 1990
LEAD ON! J. Haggai Word 1986
THE MAKING OF A LEADER F Damazio Trilogy 1988
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