Leadership and delegation


Posted on Monday, June 17, 2013 by Chris Meigh

Exodus 18:13-27 (Message)

13-14 “The next day Moses took his place to judge the people. People were standing before him all day long, from morning to night. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What’s going on here? Why are you doing all this, and all by yourself, letting everybody line up before you from morning to night?”
15-16 Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me with questions about God. When something comes up, they come to me. I judge between a man and his neighbour and teach them God’s laws and instructions.”
17-23 Moses’ father-in-law said, “This is no way to go about it. You’ll burn out, and the people right along with you. This is way too much for you — you can’t do this alone. Now listen to me. Let me tell you how to do this so that God will be in this with you. Be there for the people before God, but let the matters of concern be presented to God. Your job is to teach them the rules and instructions, to show them how to live, what to do. And then you need to keep a sharp eye out for competent men — men who fear God, men of integrity, men who are incorruptible — and appoint them as leaders over groups organised by the thousand, by the hundred, by fifty, and by ten. They’ll be responsible for the everyday work of judging among the people. They’ll bring the hard cases to you, but in the routine cases they’ll be the judges. They will share your load and that will make it easier for you. If you handle the work this way, you’ll have the strength to carry out whatever God commands you, and the people in their settings will flourish also.”
24-27 Moses listened to the counsel of his father-in-law and did everything he said. Moses picked competent men from all Israel and set them as leaders over the people who were organised by the thousand, by the hundred, by fifty, and by ten. They took over the everyday work of judging among the people. They brought the hard cases to Moses, but in the routine cases they were the judges. Then Moses said good-bye to his father-in-law who went home to his own country.”

Moses’ life splits into approx. 40 years + 40 years + 40 years:

First 40 years:

  • Adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, nursed by his Israelite mother
  • Brought up in Egyptian ways but knowing Israelite background
  • Runs away from Egypt after killing an Egyptian who mistreated an Israelite

Second 40 years:

  • Moses flees to the country of Midian, and is taken in to the household of Jethro, priest of Midian.
  • He marries Zipporah, one of the priest’s daughters, and they have 2 sons, Gershom and Eliezer.
  • Moses tends Jethro’s sheep in the wilderness
  • There comes a time when Moses is near Mt Sinai and sees a burning bush that is not consumed. God speaks to him out of the burning bush, and sends him to go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let the enslaved Israelites go. Moses says “No”

    “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
    (Exodus 3:11)

    God gives Moses miracles he can do, to show to the Israelites and Pharaoh.

    Exodus 4:11-12 God says he will help Moses speak. But Moses says in Exodus 4:13,

    “O Lord, please send someone else to do it!”

  • God persists and eventually Moses leads the people of Israel out of Egypt through the Red Sea.

The third 40 years are with the people of Israel, wandering in the wilderness.

Before the people of Israel get to Mt. Sinai, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro has heard of what has happened and travels from Midian, bringing to Moses his wife and sons.

In Exodus 18:12, he is invited to a meal with Aaron and all the elders of Israel,

“…in the presence of God.”

(See the first reading): Jethro advises Moses to reduce the burden of judging the people, which he has taken on himself. Although God had spoken to Moses many times, there is no indication that He had mentioned this. Jethro advises Moses to organise and delegate to suitable people: ones who,

“…are capable; fear God; are trustworthy; hate dishonest gain… and appoint officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens…”

…as judges, who are to pass upward any difficult cases.

The estimate is Moses was leading approx. 2 million Israelites (Numbers 1 says there were 600,000 men aged 20+)


In Exodus chapters 3 – 17,

“The LORD said to Moses…”

…appears many, many times;

Why not “The LORD said to Moses, Why do you alone sit as judge? What you are doing is not good.”?

  • Did Moses just assume it all had to be done by him personally because in Egypt and the Exodus God had given his commands / instructions to the Israelites through Moses?
  • Is the assumption ‘it can’t be me’ (chosen by God to lead out the people of Israel) a sign of confidence or lack of confidence?
  • Is the assumption ‘it has to be me’ (doing the judging) a sign of confidence or lack of confidence?

“Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”
(Numbers 12:3)

Why would God choose a very humble person to be the one to lead a nation out of Egypt to the Promised Land?

Second reading: Acts 6:1-7 (NIV)

1In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.
3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

The initial growth of the Church from the Day of Pentecost:

  • Before Pentecost: Acts 1:15 – about 120 disciples.
  • Day of Pentecost: Acts 2:41 – 3000 baptised and added to their number.
  • Healing of the crippled beggar: Acts 4:4 – Number of men grew to about 5000.

Sharing possessions:

  • Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-35 – “…distributed to anyone as he had need.’
  • Acts 5:14 – more and more men and women believed and were added to their number.
  • Acts 6:1 – when the number of disciples was increasing.

Dispute between Grecian and Aramaic-speaking Jews about the daily distribution of food to widows

Apostles: Must devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word – say it’s not appropriate for them to spend time to ‘wait on tables’!

But clearly this is not a ‘put-down’ of the task the Deacons are given: look at the requirements and the process of selection.

Those chosen to be deacons must be full of the Spirit and wisdom – they are given responsibility for organising the fair distribution of food. And the apostles don’t select the deacons themselves, they authorise the whole group of disciples to be involved.

Question: why specify ‘full of the Spirit and wisdom’ for ‘waiting on tables’? Cf. Network course – spiritual gift of Administration?

Again, the message is DELEGATION – leaders focus on what is their important work and arrange for others to get on with other important work.

The apostles realise it’s not up to them to do everything, they have particular tasks to concentrate on, need to find others to do other tasks. They get the believers to choose who are the right people for the job, and then confirm the choice.

These readings are both to do with ‘having authority’, and ‘delegating authority’. It comes from the top downwards, but involving everyone in perceiving who are the right people to choose – and the choice is not about ‘who is good at organising food service?’, or ‘who is good at deciding who should receive food?’ or ‘who is a good judge’?

Some people in authority want to be in charge of everything, don’t want any power to slip away to others. Moses’ response when there was a complaint that others were being filled with the Spirit was – do not stop them!

Numbers 11:24-30

27A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
28Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”
29But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”

In contrast:

3 John 1:5-12 (NIV)

The apostle John, probably in old age, writes to his friend Gaius at one of the Christian congregations of the time.

Diotrephes – Self-confident, self-regarding. He ‘loves to be first’ – contrast that with Moses!

“…but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. 10So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.”

In contrast with Demetrius – who is doing what is good:

11Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone — and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.”

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