NUMBERS 18-20: LEADERS DIE AND THEN WHAT?
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN LEADERS MAKE MISTAKES?
As you read Numbers 18-20, notice the crisis of leadership. Moses, Miriam, and Aaron, the trio that have led Israel out of bondage, come to crisis and the end of two of their lives in these three chapters of Numbers.
What happens when leaders make grave mistakes, get called elsewhere, or die? How many times over do we have to watch a church build itself around the personality, celebrity, gifts, skills, charisma, leadership of one person (actually it would be a change if a church built some things around a woman leader, but my point is something else), to realize that this is not a good idea!
My point is, over and over we've watched churches with a strong charismatic, biblical, pastoral, good preacher disintegrate once the leader steps aside, steps down, steps away, or passes away. What lessons about passing on leadership could we learn from Israel, from God's guidance of Israel?
WATCH OUT FOR PREACHERS STRIKING ROCKS. God really seemed to enjoy Moses, but not when Moses commenced to acting large and in charge and going off script.
WATCH FOR DEATH THREATS. People talk a lot about God's violence in the Old Testament. Let's talk about Moses' violence for a minute. He got started in "leadership" by murdering an Egyptian. Just a couple chapters back he tied his leadership to the deaths of 250 men who were committing mutiny. He threw commandment tablets, made people drink gold sludge, told people that if you are with me, you'll take up the sword. None of these few examples seemed from the text to be God's idea. Watch out when leaders start threatening to kill people, make ultimatums, start making power plays.
- WATCH OUT FOR FAMILY FIEFDOMS. God suggested Aaron the brother of Moses go along to Egypt, called on Aaron to be the High Priest, and Miriam is in the thick of things writing songs and praising God for hurling the Egyptian horses and riders into the sea. Family blood ties are not meant to override the grand design of God for all of humanity to be redeemed. Since ancient times till today in our organizations, religious, business and government, family insider influence, nepotism, is an issue. I have not been in a church where the children are handed the pastorate, but I don't understand this at all. The Catholic Church had broken up that mentality long ago and is one of the key reasons priests are celibate, because the church feared losing power and influence to families.
PRAYER AND NEXT STEPS
The deaths of Miriam and Aaron and the refusal of God to allow Moses to enter the promised land are very sad and important details in these three chapters of Numbers. As you read, pray about your own leadership, and I'm praying today over my leadership. Just yesterday I was asked once again by a new member of The Journey if the person should call me "Pastor Greg," and I pointed out that "Greg" is sufficient, that Jesus said "call no human father" and another bystander pointed out that when we stand before Jesus, there will be no titles before our names. On the same day I also rebuffed a remark of one of our shepherds who said I am the biblical expert in the church, which I appreciate and it strokes my ego, and yes, I take the Bible and God's word seriously, but setting myself above people as an expert is not the pathway we're on with The Journey Bible Project. We're listening for the voice of God, and God doesn't have to speak through me. Right now I'm still willing to speak to rocks, but beware if I start hitting them.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.