By Pete Charpentier, Caskey School of Divinity
One of my favorite people in the Bible is Moses.
As someone who has served in various ministry settings, I’ve seen some difficult days in ministry, but it appears Moses hardly ever had “a good day at the office!”
Yet, Paul writes that whatever was written before was written for our instruction – Rom. 15:4a. So we can learn key leadership lessons from Moses’ struggles, especially as we look at Num. 11:10-30.
In these verses we find Moses getting painfully honest with God. As he faced the frustrations of leadership, he opened his troubled soul to the Lord. He wanted to know why God was bringing so many trials into his life (vs. 11).
Next, Moses basically told God that he didn’t ask for all these troubles because he didn’t conceive and give birth to the Israelites (vs. 12a), and since he didn’t give birth to them, he wondered why he was bearing the weight of leading God’s people into the Promised Land (vs. 12b).
Lastly, after confessing his inability to shoulder the load of leadership (vs. 14), Moses finished venting with a request to die (vs. 15)!
Does anything here sound familiar to you? Have you been at this place before in your service to the Lord?
Have you ever cried out to God for answers as you’ve winced in pain from the thorns tearing your flesh?
Have you sought to lead God’s people but you’ve grown weary in the journey?
Have you ever felt the temptation to quit?
If so, you’re not alone. Just a glance at men like Abraham, David, Peter, and Paul show us that leaders face painful struggles.
In fact, God oftentimes uses these dark seasons to teach us, and we can see the Lord teaching Moses three powerful leadership lessons in Numbers 11:10-30.
First, God taught Moses about strength. Moses was right when he said, “I can’t carry all these people by myself. They are too much for me” (vs. 14).
The reality is that God’s work depends on God. It never depended on Moses, and it doesn’t depend on us. We must take this truth to heart when we feel like buckling under the weight of leadership.
The fact that we all need God’s strength is clear in Scripture. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 3:7 that “neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
No person is adequate for God’s work, but God never calls people because they’re adequate. He calls them because He’s adequate (see Jn. 15:5; 1 Thess. 5:24).
The Lord is looking for those who will echo Paul’s words: “I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So because of Christ, I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in pressures. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9b-10)
One of the most important lessons leaders must learn and remain focused on is God’s strength for ministry.
Second, God taught Moses about strategy. “Delegate” is the key word here.
After Moses stopped venting his frustrations, God spoke, and His words were straightforward. The Lord told Moses to gather seventy qualified elders so He could distribute some of His Spirit from Moses to them. (vss. 16-17a)
God told Moses that His purpose in doing this was simple: “[The elders and officers] will help you bear the burden of the people, so that you do not have to bear it by yourself – 17b.
We can’t handle our burdens alone.
So the Lord’s plan is to use others to serve alongside us. Paul outlined this strategy in Eph. 4:11-12: [Christ gave leaders] … for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.
Leaders must learn to delegate ministry responsibilities to others. In fact, their biblical mandate is to equip others to serve so the Church can grow.
Delegation is what Paul preached and practiced (see 2 Tim. 2:1-2) because he knew it was the most effective way to have a strategic and sustained impact beyond himself.
Third, God taught Moses about security. After the seventy leaders experienced the power of God, Moses received word that Eldad and Medad were prophesying in the camp rather than at the Tent of Meeting (vs. 27b).
Joshua urged Moses to silence these two “renegades” (vs. 28), but he didn’t do it.
Instead, Moses responded to Joshua, “Are you jealous on my account? If only all the Lord’s people were prophets, and the Lord would place His Spirit on them!” (vs. 29b)
Apparently, Moses was serious about delegating and secure in his leadership role. He didn’t stifle God’s work; he allowed others to serve in different ways in the power of the Spirit.
Here is a practical principle for ministry leadership: Delegating is one thing, but releasing others is quite another.
We must do more than engage in token delegation; we must be secure enough to allow others the freedom to serve.
Insecure leaders are ineffective because they fear both losing control and the success of others.
It’s true that we must be careful in selecting ministry partners (vs. 16), but we must also remain secure as God uses all His servants.
As long as ministry approaches fit within Scripture, we need to rest in the security of knowing that God’s Spirit works in different people in different ways.
Strength, strategy, and security are three valuable leadership lessons we can learn from Moses in Num. 11:10-30.
We need God’s strength for God’s work, and we must invest in others if we want to have a strategic and sustained impact beyond ourselves.
And we must also be secure enough to release others to serve the Lord.
When we embrace and implement these leadership lessons, we’ll see God’s work flourish for His glory.
Pete Charpentier, PhD, is an assistant professor of Pastoral Ministry at the Caskey School of Divinity at Louisiana College.