Moses on Leadership

It seems that there are just a few weeks, maybe months, between evangelical leaders being exposed for tragic sins. The latest is just the latest, not the last. Dig into them and there always seems to be some combination of unaccountable authority, overweening pride, and presumed entitlement—the unholy trinity of sinful leadership.

And those faults are as old as leaders in Scripture. But there is at least one man that is recognized for his humility. “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth” (Num 12:3 ESV).

Recently a godly man who greatly influenced my ministry philosophy received a leadership award for his lifetime of service in Christian ministry. One comment made in his tribute video was that he was talking about servant leadership before it was popular. And that’s so true. He was talking about it in the ’80s, and he got pushback from some ministry leaders then that thought authoritarian leadership was necessary in evangelicalism. Sadly, conservative evangelicalism is still in awe of those leaders with big personalities and big results. The meek man, the humble man, the servant, well… he’ll often get passed over.

This description of Moses occurs in the context of his authority being criticized by siblings, Aaron and Miriam which makes it especially noteworthy. How many Christian leaders respond with meekness when being unjustly criticized? In light of all the moral failures of evangelical mega-ministry leaders, Moses’ meekness is surprising. We don’t promote many meek men. Humble men don’t rise to the top of our churches and evangelical institutions.

It has been God’s grace to me that I never pastored a large church, nor led a large ministry, nor had a big name in conservative evangelicalism. I believe the list of men who can handle that is far smaller than the list of men that want it. Like most seminarians, I dreamed of importance. One of my college professors said of Diotrephes in 3 John, “The loving of prominence and the longing for preeminence is in every one of us.”

I was thrilled to hear that this man received an award for his lifetime of humble service. But I also felt something else for a brief moment. I was disappointed that I would never get an award like that. That no one would ever recognize me as a servant leader–because I’m not one. And I want the recognition. The longing for preeminence indeed.

Moses’s meekness isn’t just in contrast to mega-ministry leaders, it’s also in contrast to me. I want glory; I want importance. But being known as a meek, humble leader, well, really, what could be better than that?

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