Faith involves both risk and adventure. Probably no one experiences this more than leaders. But leaders, don’t worry, others have experienced the highs and lows of leadership before you, and there is much that we can learn from them. Here’s my journalling (SOAPing) today from the leadership adventures of Moses in Numbers 14.
So they said to one another, “Letʼs appoint a leader and return to Egypt.” Numbers 14:4
It must have been one of the loneliest days in Moses life. As a leader, he was rejected, not by God but by the people he was supposed to be leading.
God had shown him the way, leading them to the brink of the promised land. All they had to do now was cross over the river and enter the land, possessing it as they defeated the enemies that they would find there.
This was the same God who had led them out of Egypt with a mighty demonstration of his miraculous power and who had then led them to escape the mighty army of Egypt by parting the waters of the Red Sea, and then smashing the army that was following them. It was the same God who had led them by a pillar of fire at night and by a cloud by day, bringing water from a rock to quench their thirst and food to sustain them.
What an adventure that had been! Imagine, the sea parting before you to provide a way to freedom with death breathing down your back, the miraculous happening time and again that defied human experience and logic!
And now He, the one whose name could not be mentioned, told them through Moses that their destiny lay on the other side of the river that they were camped at. But they would’t go. They rejected Moses’ leadership and they rejected the plans and destiny that God had for them.
Not only that, they thought of the good old days before their desert adventure began, forgetting that they cried out to God for freedom from the yoke of slavery that was oppressing them. In their minds and with their votes they minimised the pain of the past and maximised the problems they would face in the future. But that’s what human nature does.
For Moses as leader, he had heard from God and he was guided by God. But now the people wouldn’t follow. It was a leadership test. Would he stay faithful to God, or would he compromise and come up with a “Plan B” that wasn’t what God wanted, but was what the people would expect?
In that moment, Moses would probably never have felt so alone. But in the hours and days ahead, what he would experience would mark him as God’s man not just for life but for eternity.
Moses was God’s man. There wouldn’t be a “Plan B”. And he was left with the dilemma, in no man’s land. The promised land was forfeited as their destination because the people wouldn’t trust God or him as His appointed leader. So Moses became a leader without a destination to take his people to; a leader without a vision.
Proverbs 29:18 says it like this: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (KJV). That’s because they wander aimlessly, and that’s what happened for the next 40 years as Moses led the people back and forth until the generation died out and a new generation arose who had the faith and the courage to possess the land that God had intended as their destiny.
The leadership challenge that Moses faced is one that all God appointed leaders will face. At some point (or more likely points) they will have to choose between leading as they earnestly believe that God is directing, or leading to satisfy the voices of those that they lead.
Those voices can be loud, and the few voices can influence many, casting doubt not only into the minds of those being led but of the leaders as well.
And as leaders, we will have to face those who don’t want us to lead. There will be battles of will that we must face.
As leaders we have a choice. To obey what God is asking us to do and to possibly face rejection from those who lead, or to be faithful to our call, even when this means that we may lose the mandate to lead.
Christian leadership is a two way street. It begins with a God given vision and an authority to lead, but to truly lead, the people we lead must buy into our leadership even to the point of being led where they wouldn’t otherwise choose to go.
Wise leaders know that gaining this permission requires not just the authority but also the skill of leadership. Psalm 78:72 says it like this: “David cared them with pure motives and led them with skill” (NET). But even then the permission to lead is not guaranteed. That’s because leadership involves the ability to influence, but not everyone wants to be influenced as a leader wishes.
The dilemma that Moses faced is also faced by countless numbers of Christian leaders. Many church leaders commence with a God given vision that they are intent on pursuing. But then they face opposition. The book “Breakout Leaders” by Thom S Rainer tells this story well with real life case studies.
The opposition so often causes the leaders to adapt “Plan B” and so the ministries and churches that they lead end up living in the land of compromise; the wilderness and so the land of promise does not eventuate. And because they have let go of the God given vision, they wander aimlessly, without direction, until the time comes for the old generation to pass away.
Churches and ministries across our country are passing with those who decided that they would not take the risk and adventure of faith, those who want to keep things are they are, those who do not want to risk going into new territories.
Will we as leaders be held back by them? Or will we see to gently and lovingly and also purposefully lead them to where God beckons?
Transition with skill, love and conviction to the land of promise or stay in the comfort zone, the land of comfort? That’s the decision that we as leaders face.
My prayer is that across this country, faith filled people will arise to lead as God directs, that Plan B, the plan of compromise will not be an option, but that God’s Plan A of making disciples of people from every nation will be our unstoppable goal, and that we will not compromise His love for them or in the way that we receive His love and carry it to others, even those far from Him.
Let’s all pause and ask God if He is causing us to be a Joshua, one who would lead in the next generation.