Chain of Command

When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will.  Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”

 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good.  You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him.  Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain —and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.  Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.   If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.  He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves. ~ Exodus 18:14-26, NIV

Much of what I share with you in theses leadership posts, I am in the process of learning myself.  I believe the true measure of a good leader is one that is always growing and seeking new insights.  Some of the wisdom we gather is from others who have gone before us, and some comes through trial-and-error.

Having a background in the business world, I notice that there is a distinct difference between the way secular and religious organizations operate.  There are times when I have thought that if people saw the lack of organization, logic and structure within the non-profit religious world, they would be mortified!  A year ago I attended a Christian non-profit meeting and was shocked to learn that we weren’t the only ones who didn’t have a formal business plan in writing at one time.  In fact, most attendees currently didn’t.

At the risk of offending many of you, I have observed that we in the Christian arena, quite frankly, stink at keeping a cogent chain of command in place.  Although many of us lack financial resources, that is not what is required to have such a structure established.  The only thing required is to see the importance of having one, and the focus and diligence to get it done.  While you may see this as something necessary that can be put off until a future date, let me make the case for why you should have a clear chain of command in place for your ministry now.

First and foremost, an ordered structure of accountability should be put in place now because it is how God operates.  In 1 Corinthians 14:33 we are told that God is a God of order.  So what right do we have to run an organization in His name in a disorderly way?  If we follow the example of Jesus, we will have “leaders in training”, also known in the Bible as “disciples”, who spend much time close to us, so they can learn first hand what we are doing and why we are doing it.  The Lord had no need to do such things for Himself, but did so because He was revealing who He is, and because He was setting a model before us to follow.

The second reason we need to have a clear chain of command in place now is because it will assure that God’s work is acted upon regardless of our own personal circumstances.  The ministry I have the privilege of running is not about me.  It is to point people to the glorious King of Kings.  Bearing that in mind, it is essential that the work of the ministry move forward whether there is a sudden crisis in my family, I win an all-expense-paid trip to Hawaii or my computer is on the fritz.  No healthy organization should have all of its plans locked up in one individual alone.

The third and final reason I set forth for moving now at putting a leadership structure in place is that the Lord doesn’t want you to burn out.  I love the passage above from Exodus.  Moses had the most noble of intentions.  But his father-in-law possessed wisdom and could see from a distance that Moses’ current structure of operations was not healthy.  Jethro had enough experience to realize what would come of Moses if this didn’t change quickly.  And each of us leaders is no different than Moses.  We all need to have our duties at a manageable level.  We all need to get away for refreshment.  And we all need to work a reasonable amount of hours.  How wise it is to have a chain of command in place, so we can engage in the self-care that we naturally require.

Don’t waste any more time!  Ask yourself today, “If I got hit by a truck, who would be ready to step into my place and carry on the work?”  If your answer is “No one,” then get started at training some apprentices without delay!

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