Orientation for Ministry – A Six Part Study Of Prominent Biblical Leaders
Moses was born to a Jewish family at a time when “a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt” (Exodus 1:8). Although he was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, when he was grown up he chose to identify with the children of Israel (Heb 11:24).
At the age of 40 Moses committed an offence which almost cost him his life when he killed an Egyptian who was mistreating a Jew. White (1947) remarks, “Moses thought that the children of Israel would be delivered by warfare and that he would stand at the head of the Hebrew host, to conduct the warfare against the Egyptian armies and deliver his brethren from the yoke of oppression” (p. 108). She (1958) comments further, “In slaying the Egyptian, Moses had fallen into the same error so often committed by his fathers, of taking into their own hands the work that God had promised to do” (p. 247).
Like Abraham and Jacob, Moses needed to learn to trust God, to leave every situation in His hands and “not to rely upon human strength or wisdom but upon the power of God for the fulfilment of His promises” (White, 1958, p. 247). In order to change the mindset of Moses God led him through three important steps.
A Suitable Environment for Orientation
As part of orientation for ministry God moved Moses from Egypt to a new environment where He could mold him after His will. White (1947) indicates that, “God overruled the act of Moses in slaying the Egyptian to bring about His purpose” (p.110). God often does this. He moved Abraham from Mesopotamia to Canaan, Joseph from Canaan to Egypt and David from Bethlehem to the wilderness where He prepared them to advance His cause. Moses’ story suggests that orientation for ministry may include moving people to new environments.
Discipline of Aloneness
God took Moses from the royal family and assigned him to look after sheep for forty years. In place of the luxury of Egypt the new responsibility taught Moses to be selfless, long-suffering and humble (Num 12:3). To delete the evil practices of idolatry and superstition which Moses had learnt in Egypt God led him through what McNeal (2006) calls the “discipline of aloneness” (p. 143). White (1958) commends, “Shut in the bulwarks of the mountains, Moses was alone with God” (p. 248). She (1958) goes on to say that, “Moses seemed to stand in His presence and to be overshadowed by His power. Here his pride and self-sufficiency were swept away” (p. 248). Through the humble responsibilities of a shepherd God transformed Moses into the spiritual leader of His flock. A number of insights emerge from this time of aloneness that Moses experienced:
1. Before Moses could lead Israel for 40 years, he had to be secluded from them and work with sheep for 40 years.
2. Before the school of aloneness Moses considered himself powerful enough to deliver Israel. After the training experience he was able to ask, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exod 3:11).
3. Before Midian he could not stand and watch a fellow Jew mistreated. Forty years later he was able to say to the children of Israel, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to stand still.” (Exod 14:14).
4. Before spending time alone with God Moses fled to Midian after Pharaoh threatened to kill him. At Sinai he is ready to face death on behalf of Israel, “But now, please forgive their sin – but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written” (Exod 32:32).
Moses’ experience suggests that a worker who receives the right orientation for ministry in the school of ‘aloneness with God’ can stand any hardship.
A Role Model for Moses
Moses’ story implies that orientation for ministry requires a positive role model. “The Lord directed his course, and he found a home with Jethro, the priest and prince of Midian” (White, 1958, p. 247). It is clear from Exodus 18 that Jethro was a wise and experienced administrator whom God chose to be a role model to Moses.
Moses was a workaholic who labored at the expense of his family. In Exod 18 Jethro brings Moses’ wife and children to the desert where Israel was camped. Moses did immediately go out to meet his family in spite of his busy schedule. This was crucial after the long period of separation his family had experienced. It would be assumed that Moses took time off in order to be with his family. However, the Bible says, “The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge to his people, and they stood around him from morning till evening” (Exod 18:13).
As Jethro observed and reflected upon the work Moses was doing he shared his conclusion with Moses, “The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” (Exod 18:18). After making this observation Jethro came up with a three faceted practical suggestion.
Leaders Represent God to the People
Jethro told Moses, “You must be the people’s representative before God” (Exod 18:19). Moses’ primary responsibility was to serve as a mediator between God and Israel. Getz (1997) remarks, “He was to spend time seeking God’s will for the people” (p.98).
Leaders Teach God’s Will
It was Moses’ priority to seek God’s will and to communicate it to the people. “Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live” (Exod 18:20). It is incumbent upon leaders to seek God’s will even in minor matters instead of making decisions that are based on common sense. Nathan gave wrong counsel to David when he advised him to build the temple without first seeking the Lord’s will on the matter (1 Chr 17:1-4).
Jethro counselled Moses to “select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain – and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds fifties and tens” (Exod 18:21). It was necessary for Moses to delegate some of his heavy responsibilities to spiritually mature and capable individuals. This principle allowed Moses enough time with God, time with his family and time to attend to other weightier matters of his office. Yeagley (2000) wrote, “Next to the day of worship, our family day was the most therapeutic of the week” (p. 7). If leaders leave no margin in their busy schedules their marriages suffer and they become vulnerable to burnout. White (1958) adds, “This counsel was accepted, and it not only brought relief to Moses, but resulted in establishing more perfect order among the people” (p.300).
Be Open to Advice
In spite of his position, “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said” (Exod 18:24). A wise leader is open to advice and counsel. White (1958) points out that, “The Lord had greatly honored Moses, and had wrought wonders by his hand; but the fact that he had been chosen to instruct others did not lead him to conclude that he himself needed no instruction” (p. 301). Her implication is that no leader is too big to learn.
Jethro was Moses’ spiritual mentor. Under him Moses learned patience through caring for sheep. From him he received a life partner. At Horeb he learned the leadership principle of empowering assistants through delegating authority.
Paminus Machamire is a Seventh-day Adventist Pastor who currently serves as a Vice President of the Southern Africa -Indian Ocean Division
This article is excerpted from A Project Proposal Presented in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirement for the Degree Doctor of Ministry by Paminus Machamire June, 2010
White, E. G. Patriarchs and prophets. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1958.
White, E. G. Story of redemption. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1947.
Yeagley, L. (2000). Being healthy amid pastoral stresses. Ministry: International Journal for Pastors, 73(1), 5-8.