Jump Start # 2798
Joshua 1:2 “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.”
I’ve heard it said that this verse contains the shortest funeral address of all time. Five words—Moses My servant is dead. This wasn’t actually a funeral. The end of Deuteronomy shows that the nation mourned and wept over Moses for thirty days. God is making a declaration here. There is a change taking place. For many years Joshua was being groomed for this very day. His time with Moses was a learning experience. The work of God is much greater than any of us. Moses would die, but the nation, the promises and the plans of God would continue.
Leadership is vital to success and it’s lacking in so many places today. It’s missing in politics. It’s missing in the home. It’s missing in the church. Among us are Moses’ and they die and there is no one to step up and take their places. And when that happens, the work flounders and falters.
I write these words on a Saturday evening. In the morning, one of our shepherds is no longer going to be serving in that capacity. He is moving out of state and new chapters of opportunities await him. For him, I am excited. I wish him well and want the best for him. He was one of the three shepherds years ago that allowed me to come and work with this church. And as we have transitioned, changed, and found a better focus, he was in the forefront of leading us. His insights are amazing. His kindness set the standard for the rest of us. We will miss him and I know that I will miss him.
Through my preaching years I have seen elders come and go. Sometimes the going part isn’t pleasant. But not this time. All is well. He has brought us to a great place and has helped us in ways that will be felt for generations. He truly understood the concept of shepherding. He will be a great help to another congregation, but he will be missed.
Here are some thoughts:
First, it’s easy to take our leaders for granted. They are always there. Every Sunday. Sometimes we cause them headaches, and that’s usually our fault. But Moses wasn’t always going to be there. I believe this passage is more than a transition from the Law to the History section of the Bible. I believe it’s more than simply showing us how the nation finally got into the promise land. Here, before our eyes is a change in leadership. Joshua wasn’t given ninety days to prove himself. There wasn’t a committee formed to search for the next leader. Joshua had been trained. He had seen Moses in action. More than that, he has seen God in action. I wonder if we complain about our leaders more than we thank the Lord for them. I wonder if we stand in their way more than we support them. This past year has been dreadful for most congregations. Masks or no masks. When do we come back together. What will that look like. Godly men have searched their hearts to find the right decision, knowing that some will not agree with them. It’s time to be thankful.
Second, congregations cannot wait until there is an exit in the leadership to start looking for replacements. The role of mentoring began long before Moses went up to the mountain for the last time. Who is on the horizon to be a leader? What is being done to develop them?
Third, when the work is done well, there are wonderful footprints and examples left for others to follow. Much too often men are appointed to the eldership simply because they meet the qualifications. Nothing is said about leadership. Many do not know what they are expected to do. Here is a sobering thought for us to consider: there are three qualifications to be President of the United States. One must be at least 35 years old, a natural born citizen and had lived here for the past fourteen years. That’s it. That’s the qualifications. So, a 35 year-old, unemployed man, who never graduated from high school, who lives in his mamma’s basement and plays video games all day long, technically is qualified to be the President. Now, you and I know there is much more to it than that. And, what happens too often is that men are selected to be elders and they don’t know what they are expected to do. Other than being nice guys, with decent families, they are put in the position of leading when they are not sure where they are going.
So, it would do well to spend some time talking about leading. It begins in the home. It would do well to look at the many shepherd passages in the Bible. It would do well to have some classes before names are ever selected. Do the people know what they are getting themselves into?
Fourth, we all know the horror stories of leading. We’ve seen them and heard them. Moses had his share. The sons of Korah. Aaron’s golden calf. His sister rebelling. The nation wanting to go back to Egypt. The complaints. God wanting to wipe the nation out and start over. And, when one only hears the horror stories, no one will ever want to step up and serve. Those that serve now, must paint a true picture, but they must not forget the joys and the blessings of serving such as seeing lives turn around for the Lord. Seeing young men grow and develop and step up to different roles in the congregation. To see the good that the church does worldwide. I’m certain every shepherd has moments when he wonders ‘Why am I doing this?’ And, forgive us when we are the cause of those thoughts. However, there are many, many more bright spots. Being able to leave a place better than you found it is one of the greatest blessings. A church that is growing, healthy, united, strong, engaged and making an impact worldwide is a great accomplishment of leadership. A church that honors the Lord before all things. A church that stands solid upon the word of God. A church that is Biblically strong, yet at the same time compassionate and helpful. It is said that the followers never exceed the leaders. And, when godly men are leading well, there is such peace among us.
And among us for nearly twenty years has been one such shepherd. The words “Thank you,” do not seem strong enough nor deep enough for the tender and careful leadership we’ve had and continue to have.
Thank you, Lee. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May your kind be found through God’s kingdom. You have made a difference and we are the better for it. Thank you!