Session 3: “What does the Old Testament teach us about leadership?” – Part 1
Welcome to the third in this series on Church Leadership. So far we have affirmed that Jesus is the Head of the Church and that the Church is the people not a building. We have also looked at some of the terms used in the New Testament and elsewhere, that, I hope, will help us to be clear on what we are talking about as we look in more detail at leadership in the Church.
In this session I want to start to look at a few brief examples from the Bible that will give us some clues as to how God called and gifted leaders. We’ll continue with this next time.
As I was advancing in my career, the Director of the Department I was working in decided that I would benefit from some management training. So a one day course was chosen for me and off I went to join about 100 other people from various parts of the public sector. We were in a lecture hall, with a lectern on which was a book that looked to me like a Bible. At the due time the man who was going to teach us about management introduced himself and then asked the audience: “Who has heard of Nehemiah?” A few hands went up – including mine. He then took the Bible from the lectern, held it up and said: “This is the best textbook you can get on all aspects of life – including management”. He went on to tell us that he was going to use Nehemiah as a case study. He was brilliant! We’ll take a look at Nehemiah’s leadership style next time.
Not only do we find much help from those God chose as leaders – we also see that He chose imperfect people. Most of the saints of old got it wrong from time to time – Abraham lied about Sarah, Noah got drunk, Moses lost his temper, David committed adultery, Elijah was suicidal, Jonah ran away, Thomas doubted, Peter denied Jesus, Paul persecuted Christians – need I go on? The amazing thing is that God forgave them as they repented and He continued to use them. All of us, as leaders, are constantly in need of the grace of God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit as we battle with sin and failure. Praise Him – He is the God of the second (and third and fourth and fifth etc etc) chance as we submit to Him.
We don’t have time today to look at many examples – so here are just two – we’ll look at more next time:
Moses began life as a foundling and was brought up in Pharaoh’s palace at a time when his people were being sorely oppressed. He had a magnificent early training in the best educational establishments that Egypt could offer and, aged 40 years, he went out to deliver his fellow Israelites. But he got it wrong – he was 40 years too soon! He ran away and spent 40 years in the desert looking after his father-in-law’s sheep. It was then that God called him and, at 80 years old, he was able to become one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. What do we learn from this?
- Nothing learned is ever wasted – God used his early education in Egypt to help him confront the Pharaoh of the day.
- Attempt things for God in your own strength and you will fail.
- Don’t despise the “wilderness experience”. Moses learned the ways of the desert through which he was to lead Israel.
- Work with others where you can – Moses had Aaron with him, along with the elders of Israel.
- Take advice from others – he listened to Jethro, his father-in-law, and reduced his burden by delegating to others (note, the Bible described those to whom he delegated “able men” – Genesis 18).
- Train the one who will take your place – Joshua, while being God’s chosen man, had to learn the ropes.
Then there is Daniel. I relate to him – after all, he was a government official (that was his “day job”) but also a powerful and faithful prophet of God. He was from the Hebrew elite – but still carried off into exile by the Babylonians. Along with his three friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, he refused to compromise on essential matters (eating kosher food and bowing down to graven images for example) and yet surpassed the other students in that year’s intake. You can read about it in the early chapters of the book that bears his name. God used him to interpret dreams, to guide the despotic kings who ruled over many years and to warn where necessary. The famous incident of the Den of Lions – when, incidentally, Danial was an old man, reminds us of his faithfulness over the whole of his career. This is what the first few verses of Daniel 6 have to say:
“It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 2 with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
What a man! Would that all leaders – both in church and other spheres of service could be described like that.
Next time we’ll take a brief look at some more leaders from the Scriptures.
A prayer: “Thank you, Lord, that Your word pulls no punches about those you called to lead. Thank you for what we can learn from them and what it tells us about your outrageous grace – for which we thank You – in Jesus Name”