I am thankful to God this week for two new elders at our church, Highland Christian Fellowship. R.D. Hodges and I have been elders for about four years now. Last Sunday we added Walt Stringer and James Wilkes. It was a long and beautiful process to see our fellowship seek God’s leadership in this (I should write about that, too). I love shared leadership. It is biblical and it makes sense. Having a plurality of elders was one of the primary findings in my dissertation The Authority of Church Elders in the New Testament.
I encountered in my Scripture reading this morning another affirmation of this principle. It is in Numbers 11, which is interesting in light of the fact that some point to Moses as the paradigm for a one-man leadership model.
Moses prayed, “I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me” (v. 14). God answered, “Gather for me seventy men from the elders of Israel. . . . I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you will not bear it all alone” (v. 17).
Sometimes it is difficult for men to share leadership. They become jealous and prideful. But “Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). When some men in the camp began to prophesy, manifesting that they also had received some of the Spirit, this bothered Joshua, Moses’ assistant. These men in the camp were not at the tent of meeting, where it seemed to Joshua that the official authorization of this shared leadership was imparted. Joshua said, “Moses, my lord, restrain them.”
How common it is to try to control such things. But Moses responded to Joshua, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” This demonstrates one of the most important qualities of a leader. His objective is not to have control, do things his way, and have all the leadership, gifting, and honor. His goal is the good of the people. And when more of the people are gifted and active in ministry and leadership, the more blessed and healthy the people are.