Not well. But this was his task. Thankfully, his father-in-law would step in with wise advice.
Moses had been called by God to lead Israel back to God and demonstrate who God was to the world. God’s power was put on display by redeeming Israel from slavery to go and worship God in their freedom. But Moses was trying to do it all by himself for likely more than a million people, and, frankly, who could blame him.
He was given Aaron and Miriam to lead with him, and their contribution was idol worship of a golden calf and complaining. The community consisted of people who had witnessed more powerful miracles than any of us had and still doubted God; these were mixed in with Egyptians who were just getting familiar with God. (Some of you just thought, “Wait, this sounds like my missional community.”) It was messy because every community is messy, and it was missional because God gathered them for a purpose.
Shortly after God’s deliverance of the people of Israel, Moses’ father-in-law shows up to celebrate God’s work and join the community. He watches as Moses went lone-ranger leader on the community and began resolving all of their disputes, providing for their spiritual needs, teaching everyone about their questions of God.
The next day, Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till 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, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?”
And 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 them know the statutes of God and his laws.”
Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do.
Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” Exodus 18:13-23
This passage should scare most of the churches in America. “Why do you sit alone and all the people stand around you from morning til evening?” Because I’m the pastor!!
Every church at large is a missional-community movement, the question is whether they are a missional community for God’s purposes or their own. The quickest way for a leader to short-circuit the movement of God is to get in the way as the only conduit for God to move.
The wisdom of Jethro applied to missional communities is essential to move it beyond one healthy community to saturating your neighborhood and city with missional communities.
Create a Missional-Community Movement, Not Just One Missional Community
The result of a community enamored with the gospel and on mission with God is that it grows and eventually multiplies. I’ll walk through the multiplication mess process another time, but this pattern only continues as we pursue God and others. The fruit of this is a missional-community movement that is impossible for one person to cultivate, sustain or even manage.
But this is what our cities and our neighborhoods need. They need more than your great missional community. Most of our streets need five missional communities at least, and my own building in Manhattan needs four missional communities to make disciples for the 65 people who live here.
Are you creating a movement or a monument to your success as a leader?
Don’t Do Everything, Empower Everyone
Are you cultivating leaders who could do greater things in missional communities than you? Will the missional communities that multiply out of your community be healthier than yours?
Moses couldn’t see past his own gifts until Jethro’s wisdom, but it forced him to recognize the potential for leadership capacity in others.
Shared leadership is the design of God to accomplish His mission.
(Ephesians 4, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12/14, 1 Timothy 3 and on and on and on.) Shared leadership is the means to display His glory through a people, not only one person. Only Jesus could bear the weight of displaying God alone, and even He chose to share leadership.
Don’t do everything, empower everyone.
Make It About Jesus and Not About What You Think About Jesus
It’s all about Jesus. We need communities filled with people who think about, love and live for Jesus, not one person pushing everyone to do so. The way to do this is to forget about your (awesome) self and magnify Christ in others.
Starting with your own missional community and then with other leaders, when it becomes about Jesus, people are transformed and can begin to envision the power of God in Christ empowering them for leadership. It’s a great joy to watch others grow in their ability to lead toward Jesus.
Jesus started the missional-community movement for Christianity. He did it by sharing and empowering those around Him, even encouraging them that they would do greater things than Him!