I have been reading through Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development by Eric Geiger who is the author of Simple Church. There are a lot of leadership lessons to learn through this book. One of them is the leadership legacy we leave behind us.
As an example, contrast the leadership legacy of Moses vs the leadership legacy of Joshua. On the surface Joshua looks more successful. He is the one who lead the nation of Israel into the Promised Land but his legacy of leadership development and lack of developing others sets the stage for the entirety of leadership failure after leadership failure in Judges. After Joshua dies NO ONE was ready to lead. While Moses invested in others enough that an entire nation was reading to take the Promised Land with a leader ready. Despite Moses’ exhortation to Joshua to “pass on the Book of Instruction to the next generation so that they will learn to fear the Lord God and carefully obey all the terms of these instructions.”
Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten…After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Judges 2:8&10 (NIV)
So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, just as theLord had said. 6 The Lord buried him in a valley near Beth-peor in Moab, but to this day no one knows the exact place. 7 Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eyesight was clear, and he was as strong as ever. 8 The people of Israel mourned for Moses on the plains of Moab for thirty days, until the customary period of mourning was over.
9 Now Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him, doing just as the Lord had commanded Moses. Deuteronomy 34:5-9 (NIV)
With this contrast in mind, for some leaders there are three primary reasons they don’t develop others.
Some leaders are like the occasional church sound-guy that doesn’t want anyone else fiddling with the soundboard. If you have encountered this sound-guy, you likely first concluded that he probably knows best. After all, he is able to find that buzz, has saved the day multiple times, and uses words you don’t understand. You reason that you are an idiot and “that you should not concern yourself with things too marvelous for you” (Psalm 131:1). But as time passes, you wonder if the system has been intentionally designed so no one else can possibly run it. The sound-guy has built the sound-system around himself, for himself. In the same way, some leaders build ministry around themselves, for themselves, for at least three reasons.
- Job Security
Just as the sound-guy designed a system where he is necessary, some leaders are hesitant to develop others for ministry because they fear they will become unnecessary to the church. They reason, “If others can do the tasks people think I am paid to do, then what will happen to me?” While the desire of a leader to provide for his family is understandable and commendable, a kingdom-minded leader loves the idea of “working himself out of a job.” He understands he is an interim leader, given temporary responsibility for a group of people, and he wants to fulfill his calling—to prepare people for ministry, not hoard ministry for himself. Ironically, the leader who works himself out of a job will always have one, as there will always be a need for godly leaders who are committed to developing others.
Just as the sound-guy builds a system that necessitates him, some leaders need to be needed. They love to hear statements like “I can’t image anyone but you praying for me at the hospital” or “We do not know where our church would be without you.” Ministry can stroke the ego of an insecure leader who purposefully neglects preparing people for ministry because he needs the affirmations. It takes a secure leader to prepare others for ministry, a leader who realizes he/she is already approved by the Lord, already accepted by Him. And because His approval and acceptance is perfectly and permanently fixed on the leader, the leader is liberated to prepare and equip others.
Releasing ministry to others is impossible for the leader who holds tightly to ministry as his or her reason for being. Ministry can be an attractive idol because it is rarely called out as sinful. It is an idol that others applaud you for. If ministry success is our god, we are likely to take the shortest path to greater and greater “victories,” but preparing and developing people is never on the shortest path. If ministry idolatry plagues us, we are hesitant to relinquish the ministry that fuels and drives us. Instead, we want to be the one, the man, the hero. We are only excited to equip others if our hearts are filled with awe and wonder that we belong to Him.