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5 Church Leadership Lessons I Learned from Moses’ Father-in-Law

I know that’s not a very intriguing or sexy title…no clickbait there. However, to this day, the best leadership book I’ve ever read is the Bible (and like you, I’ve read a lot of leadership books). One of the most interesting leadership interactions I’ve ever read about is out of Exodus chapter 18.

Moses is actually pretty early in his personal leadership development and along comes Exodus chapter 18, which turns out to be a crucible moment for Moses. It’s one of those moments where Moses’ leadership grows exponentially. Exponential leadership growth, or crucible moments, are usually a result of pain in our lives, and in Exodus 18 Moses is experiencing all kinds of leadership pain. In fact, it was so painful it affected his family so badly that his father-in-law had to step in. Not a great moment for a son-in-law.

Usually we are the lid to our own leadership

“The next day Moses sat to judge the people and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening.” Exodus 18:13

Moses was his own worst enemy, and the worst part is he didn’t even see it. He had led himself into a corner. Every decision had to go through him. He chose control over growth. He could control everything if it came through him, but by doing so he stunted his own personal leadership growth and prevented himself from being what the Israelites needed him to be. At first, for a new young leader that may make you feel important and valuable. But like Moses you’ll quickly learn that when you’re running from sunup to sundown, that kind of approach can lead to some very unhealthy behaviors in your life and actually hurt the Church.

We all have blind spots

“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?’” Exodus 18:14a

Moses had a blind spot. He was doing something that wasn’t good for himself and it wasn’t good for the people he was supposed to be leading. And by the way, it also wasn’t good for his family…that’s probably why his father-in-law butted in. We all need people to butt-in from time to time and hold up a mirror to help us see things that we just can’t see on our own. When people hold up a mirror to your leadership is your first inclination to listen and ponder or fight and offer excuses?

You don’t have to lead alone

“’Why do you sit alone, and all of the people stand around you from morning till evening?’” Exodus 18:14b

Leadership by its very nature is exclusive. After all, how many CEO’s of Amazon are there? How many CEO’s of Apple are there? I think you get my point. However, just because leadership is exclusive doesn’t mean it needs to be lonely. Those are two different things. While it’s true that the leader has decision making power and carries weight that others in the organization don’t, it doesn’t mean they need to do that in isolation. It’s never good to sit alone in leadership like Moses was. Bad things happen when leaders become lonely.

You’re not the only one who can do it

“Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘What you are doing is not good.’” Exodus 18:17

When church leaders buy into the lie that says, “no one can do it as good as me,” all kinds of bad things happen. You suffer, everyone around you suffers, and the mission of Jesus suffers, You suffer because you carry more than you are called and designed to carry. People around you suffer because they carry less than they are called and designed to carry. The mission of Jesus suffers because less people are involved in the mission and as a result the reach of the Gospel is diminished. Are you carrying out your calling, or have you picked up things that it’s time to let go of?

The help you need is probably right under your nose

“So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.” Exodus 18:24-25

Often, we can’t see the solutions God is providing us because we’re more focused on being a victim and find a solution. Moses had become a bit self-absorbed and had a bit of a “woe-is-me” attitude. As soon as Moses started looking around to see what kind of solution and resources God had provided him and got his eyes off of himself things started working for Israel and for Moses. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and playing the part of a martyr, take a different approach and find a solution.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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  1. Saturday Suggestions/Week in Review | ChuckLawless.com - February 21, 2020

    […] 5 Church Leadership Lessons I Learned from Moses’ Father-in-Law by Paul Alexander We aren’t meant to lead alone. Paul Alexander offers valuable leadership insight from Exodus 18. […]

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