Passing the mantle

Looking at the book of Exodus over the last couple of weeks, we hear about the actions of God as he delivered the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. Exodus provides the story of Moses, giving an account of his life from infancy to end of life. God not only saves Moses as an infant, but his becoming an adopted member of the royal family means that Moses receives the best education Egypt could offer. Little does he know how much he will come to need every ounce of education and experience.

Moses is aware of his Hebrew roots, and in a moment fury, he takes the life of an Egyptian taskmaster. This one rash decision puts his life in mortal danger. Moses flees to Midian, leaving the privileged life of Pharaoh’s court behind. In Midian, he meets and marries his wife, and lives the life of a shepherd for the next 40 years. Unexpectedly, God calls Moses out of exile and commissions him to lead Israel out of slavery. Moses is very reluctant to accept the role. He makes excuses, all of which God refuses to accept. Moses moves from the solitary life of a wandering herdsman returning to the land of his birth at the age of eighty.

Moses and Pharaoh are the product of the same educational system, but they could not be more different. Pharaoh cares nothing for his people and even less for the Hebrew slaves. Moses, on the other hand, cares for his people and feels empathy for the people of Egypt. Pharaoh believes that he is a god on earth and, as such, cannot be defied or make mistakes. Moses knows that he is just a spokesman and that the real power resides in the God who delivers Israel.

Moses encounters more than his fair share of leadership challenges. Imagine leading an entire people out of the only place they’ve ever known.  Having known nothing but slavery,  Israel frequently looks back with a longing for the good old days. It’s almost as though being free is less important than the comfort and familiarity of Egypt. Moses becomes the focal point for all of the discomfort associated with the transition.

The challenges of leadership take a toll on Moses. In a moment of frustration, he fails to obey God’s directive. This mistake disqualifies him from entering the promised land. When God directs the people to enter the promised land, their courage fails them, and the opportunity is lost. An entire generation of complainers who refused to listen to God’s instructions eventually die off while Israel wanders in the wilderness.

Moses learns how to recognize and mentor new leaders who will become God’s agents of deliverance too. Moses sees in Joshua a potential leader who he trains to be his eventual replacement. Of the host that left Egypt, only Joshua (Moses mentee) and Caleb eventually enter into the promised land. Joshua continues to learn from Moses and receives even more responsibility in leadership.

In my own experience, before I even became a pastor, my church family and pastors recognized my leadership gifts. The opportunity to serve on boards and committees developed many of the skills of a pastor. Still, it all began with my pastor seeing untapped potential in an untested package. Thankfully not only did they see potential, but they took the time to develop a future leader. Developing leaders is the way that the church moves forward and grows.

Occasionally I hear something repeated in conversation that calls for a clear response. Someone mentioned a member saying that the church didn’t need them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The last six months presented challenges for the church that no one could foresee. To protect people’s health and limit exposure, your leadership team made tough decisions. As we re-enter the building, we will undoubtedly find the need to assess and adapt our services and programming. This time has challenged every leader to think critically and make choices based on the common good.

Lay Nominations Committee will meet soon and begin the yearly process of inviting persons into leadership roles in the church. If you receive a call, please take the time to consider this opportunity. Perhaps you are already serving on a board, then you may be invited to chair a committee. This is the process of passing the baton. Christ’s church needs strong leaders in every generation. Established leaders are mentors that bring the next generation into leadership so that the church continues to thrive, and the gospel continues to transform lives, communities, and the world.                                  Pastor Kenny