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Exodus 18:13-27, Jethro’s Advice

Not So Indispensable Leadership

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

If you are a leader in your organization, then you will know full well the dilemma Moses was in. He had become the only expert on God's laws, which meant he was the only person among thousands who could settle disputes that related to the law. That's one quick way to burnout! Jethro had a brilliant idea -- spread the burden. Share the responsibility. Let go of some of the control. Jethro knew that Moses was not indispensable, but that he would become ineffective if he continued down this path.

Someone quite close to me is a pastor in a nearby congregation. She struggles with the same thing Moses struggled with. Because she knows more aspects of the congregation's operations than anyone else in the congregation, she finds herself doing all the work. By herself, quite often. She is quickly burning out and I fear she will work herself, quite literally to death, if she is not careful.

She tells me if she doesn't do it, nobody will. To which I respond, so what? If it is a ministry vital to the congregation, then someone in the congregation will pick it up and see it through. If she refrains from doing it and it doesn't get done, and if no one picks it up to do it, then clearly it's not important to the congregation and can probably get let go.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, I challenge you to do the following exercise. Choose three ministries that are questionably effective. Three that you often wonder why your congregation is doing them. Don't do anything with them for three months and see what happens. (Yes, I know that's asking a lot. You will have to do a lot of self-talk to remind yourself you are not lazy, worthless, or careless -- this is a carefully thought-out, and necessary exercise, and you are not doing it for a purpose.) If you find nobody willing to take it on, then let it go. If others pick it up and take on the responsibility, then you have just freed yourself from being the only one who cares. Either way, you will have more clarity and more time than you did before, and you will have saved yourself from falling into Moses' trap of an over-inflated sense of self-importance. You're welcome.

Narrative Lectionary Text: Exodus 18:13-27

The next day Moses sat as judge for the people, while the people stood around him from morning until evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?” Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statutes and instructions of God.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me. I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You should represent the people before God, and you should bring their cases before God; teach them the statutes and instructions and make known to them the way they are to go and the things they are to do. You should also look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain; set such men over them as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Let them sit as judges for the people at all times; let them bring every important case to you, but decide every minor case themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their home in peace.” So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men from all Israel and appointed them as heads over the people, as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. And they judged the people at all times; hard cases they brought to Moses, but any minor case they decided themselves. Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went off to his own country.

Earlier Event: October 8
Exodus 16:1-18, God Provides Manna
Later Event: October 10
Exodus 20:1-21, The Ten Commandments