Moses and Shared Leadership

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.

Afraid of the Dark

I am editing a book for my friend and co-pastor of our church, RD Hodges. It is titled, The Greatest Adventure I Never Dreamed Of. Here is an excerpt we are still working on:

There were a few black bears that would pass though our woods, and even tales of “panters” (panthers) that would scream in the night. Just the thought of these was enough to keep the footsteps of a young boy quick to the house when night was near.  With big-eyed terror lurking in my imagination, I would only feel safe when our front door was shutting behind me as I came in after dark. I was afraid of the dark.  But, I was a boy growing into a man; I was not supposed to be afraid.

I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and spent most of my childhood in the woods. One Saturday I left before first light, as I had done many times before. I had that itch to rush off, to go and hunt, to explore and discover, to hide myself in the woods.  Full of excitement and a spirit of adventure, I was off to hunt squirrels. But this time, with a body growing strong and lungs deep with the fresh morning air, I set my heart on a ridgeline far—further than I had ever gone before. It turned out to be a fruitful day of hunting. I had harvested a pouch full of squirrel and a grouse.

Late in the day, thrilled with the new territory I was covering, I shot and wounded another squirrel. This one was crippled so it could not climb. I chased it on the ground, down a ridge, until it went into the ground under a stump.  I had been taught that you never leave a wounded animal. So I began to dig.  Some time later, I was able to get my hand into the hole and grab its legs. Never in my experience before or since have I been able to understand how I could not pull that squirrel out.  I was tired after a long day. I was sweaty, dirty, hungry, and in tears because I couldn’t get the wounded animal out.

As I finally gave up on the squirrel, I realized that it was almost dark.  Terror struck my heart. I had never been this far before; I didn’t even know exactly where I was. But I knew that in a few minutes it would be dark, and those bears that pass through the woods and those “panters” that scream in the night would be out. I squeezed my 16-gauge shotgun, my only source of comfort. But I had only three shots left, just enough to make a bear or “panter” mad. I was as good as dead and eaten. As the darkness crept into the woods, I was paralyzed with fear. I took a few steps and then stopped to listen. A few more steps . . . stop and listen. I believed that at any minute I would hear the rush of the bear or the scream of the panther right before I died. Moments in terror seem like eternity in time.

Then full-night set in and, to my amazement, I was still alive. Soon, I was walking slowly with my shotgun up in front, ready to fire at will. Then, walking faster, I accepted the possibility that I might make it home in one piece, though much later than normal. Coming down the last hill to my house, I was walking with confidence—my chest out, my gun down by my side. I had made it.

I had conquered the darkness and my fear. I learned that fear could paralyze a person. But I also learned that many times fear has a lot of bark and no bite. It was a joy and relief to come face to face with the big-eyed terror of darkness and survive! This experience planted a seed of understanding about who I was and what I was capable of. Unfortunately, at this point in my life, the only one I could credit for this victory was me. That night I gained assurance in my strength. This was the first of many steps down a dead end road—the dead end road of my own sufficiency.