Moses is one of the strongest leaders in the Bible, famous for rescuing God’s people from Egypt and leading them through the wilderness. We might easily think of his life as an ongoing success story. Yet Moses faced plenty of challenges that are familiar to church leaders today. Here are seven lessons from his life to guide contemporary leaders.
- When you feel unqualified, God will still call you. In Exodus, God calls to Moses from the burning bush, sending him to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, but Moses doesn’t want to go (3:11). He gives the excuse that he can’t speak very well (4:10) and exclaims, “O my Lord, please send someone else” (4:13). But God refuses to listen to Moses’ excuses.
Today, many church leaders don’t think they have what it takes. Many people feel unqualified or think some condition prevents them from leading. As with Moses, though, no excuse you can give will satisfy God.
- When you face external challenges or resistance, God will help. Moses demands that Pharaoh release God’s people, but the Egyptian ruler refuses and makes life even harder on the Israelites. Moses blames God for this unfortunate turn of events (Exodus 5:22-23). God responds by sending the plagues.
Leaders today face plenty of external challenges. Some people will resist your message and sometimes go out of their way to make your life hard. But God will help. God didn’t abandon Moses during hard times, and God won’t abandon you.
- When you succeed as a leader, God is working through you. Moses enjoys some high points during his leadership, such as parting the Red Sea (Exodus 14). God’s people feel stuck, their future inaccessible and their past pursuing them—in chariots. Yet God parts the sea and ushers them into their new future.
God provides many people to serve beside church leaders—Sunday school teachers, organists, worship assistants, council members, technical equipment operators and many more.
God does the same for church leaders today, providing new paths they haven’t considered. Whatever challenges you face as a leader, God will prepare a way, and there will be much rejoicing and praise of God on the other side.
- When you have tough times in leadership, God will take care of you. After crossing the Red Sea, Moses must contend with restless and impatient people in the wilderness. Complaining of hunger, the Israelites tell Moses they’d rather be back in Egypt where they can eat (Exodus 16:2-3). They worry that God won’t provide for them. But God sends them manna and quail.
Today, church leaders and parishioners often forget that God will provide for them. We pray “give us this day our daily bread” without realizing that God already does that. Leaders can take comfort in the fact that people who don’t trust their leadership may not trust God either (Exodus 16:8).
- When you feel tired and worn out, God provides help. During the battle with Amalek and his people in Exodus 17, Israel prevails whenever Moses raises his hands. But when he grows tired and lowers his hands, Amalek prevails. So when Moses grows tired, Aaron and Hur hold up his hands for him (11-13). God provides people to serve beside Moses when he’s exhausted.
Today, God provides many people to serve beside church leaders—Sunday school teachers, organists, worship assistants, council members, technical equipment operators and many more—to share some of the burden of leadership.
- When you spend time with God, it will make you a better leader. Moses leaves the Israelites when he’s called to the top of Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. During his absence, the Israelites create and worship a golden calf (Exodus 32). When Moses returns, he sees their horrible choices, but he’s a stronger leader for the time he spent alone with God.
When you lead, you may not see the fruits of your labor.
Leaders today need to remember to spend time with God. Praying, reading Scripture and listening for God’s voice will enhance not only their spiritual lives but their leadership capability. Leaders can’t always control the choices their followers make, but they can lead by example, focusing on God.
- When you lead, you may not see the fruits of your labor. Though Moses commits much of his life to leading God’s people, God won’t allow him to accompany them into the Promised Land. Moses must pass his leadership responsibilities to Joshua (Deuteronomy 3:23-29).
This happens to leaders today. They might take a call to a new congregation, retire or die. Whatever the case, God sticks with the people, empowering new leaders along their way.
Leading God’s people is about trusting God to work through you for a period of time, changing people’s lives for the better—just as God did through Moses.