Numbers 27:12-23 (Part 2) – Mars Hill Church, Newspring Church, Moses & Joshua: Leadership Lessons

Posted: October 24, 2016 in Book of Numbers
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Numbers 27:12-23 (Part 2)

Joshua Chosen to Lead Israel

 

Go and make disciplines is one of the most famous lines uttered by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. He did not say “Go and make converts!” He said “Go and make disciples!” There’s a big difference. Jesus meant for us to not only lead people to the cross and accept Christ as their Savior but to teach them what it means to live a godly life and to grow into being more and more like Jesus everyday and to reach out and share the good news with others. It was to be an ongoing repeatable process. This was practical advance to not only to ensure that the church survived but also to ensure the spread of the gospel to the far corners of the earth by people who did not directly know Jesus Christ the person who physically walked the earth over 2,000 years ago. Jesus did not want the spread of the gospel to be dependent on his physical presence. Otherwise, His mission would have failed. Christianity would have been a local phenomenon in Jerusalem and nowhere else and would have died out within a generation or two. That did not happen though. Christianity is now the largest religion in the world, by most reckonings, and has been for many centuries. It all started with Jesus training up his direct disciples. They lived together, worked together, worshiped together, had fun together, worked hard together, for three years. Jesus invested in these men daily. He practiced the principle of “You watch. I do. We do together. You do. I watch. You do it alone.” Although they were often clueless, after the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they became the most amazing force of change the world has ever seen.

 

This is practical advice for church leaders whether you are paid staff or not. If you are a ministry leader at your church because God has made a way for you to be in that position because He has given you the passion and spirit for your ministry, you would be wise to follow Jesus’ example during his earthly ministry. The survival of your church is at stake. As leaders in the church, we must continually be developing the next leader. We must have the next man up mentality. We must identify those who are reporting to us in our ministry as those who have the potential to replace us. This is true not only in ministry but in business as well but we will focus on the church here.

 

We have two great laboratories of two megachurches who looked at leadership differently and we have seen how those two megachurches played out. Mars Hill Church in the Seattle, WA area was one of our nation’s largest churches. It had a huge central campus church and, I don’t know exactly, but maybe 20-25 satellite campuses in the state of Washington. It was a huge church and was doing great things for the Lord. They were reaching people who previously were unreached by the gospel. The lead pastor of the church, Mark Driscoll, became famous as a result. He became a famous author of many books on the Christian life and on Christian leadership. However, as time progressed, Mark succumbed to the celebrity of his position and became arrogant to the point that the elders of the church asked that he step down and when he didn’t, they removed him from his position. Within a year and a half, just a year and a half, the megachurch that was once the largest or at least one of the top 5 largest churches in America imploded and disbanded. The church is no more. It is sad to say but Mars Hill Church, after taking years to gather the momentum that it had, was gone in a flash. Why? Lack of leadership development that would have ensured the survival of a church in crisis.

 

Newspring Church here in the Upstate region of South Carolina is another example of a church in crisis. However, the results so far have been different. Perry Noble grew Newspring from just a few people meeting in an auditorium and Anderson University in Anderson, SC into a 30,000 strong church with its central campus in Anderson and 22 other satellite campuses around the Upstate. Perry Noble took a lot of heat from traditional churches in our area and from his own denomination for preaching “gospel lite” to his people and certainly that may be true. However, Newspring was reaching people who would otherwise not darkened the door of a church EVER. As often happens with megachurches, the lead pastor runs into trouble. The weight of a fast growing, large church is often too much for its founder. In Perry’s case, he turned to alcohol and inappropriate relationships with women who were not his wife. He failed his church morally. That was six months or more ago when Perry agreed with his elders at the church and stepped down and checked himself into rehab. Clayton King, one of his associate pastors, was asked to step in and takeover after the larger than life figure of Perry Noble. However, where Mars Hill began to implode almost immediately, Newspring is still chugging along. They are surviving. Say what you will about Perry Noble and his seeming lack of deep grasp of Christian theology, he did built a leadership structure that is enabling Newspring to survive a crisis. Newsping developed a leadership team where each level of the organization was being groomed for the next level of leadership. That’s how organizations survive.

 

Jesus wants His church to survive and thrive and with the flawed individuals who run it. The key to survival of any church is its ability to generate new leaders. Every second and third tier leader in every church should be being groomed to take the place of the leadership under which they operate. Leaders should be developing leaders. It’s not just theological. It’s practical. From a theological standpoint, we should not become complacent with the positions that we hold at church. We should have the humility to learn more and more and become more and more and be stretched to serve the Lord beyond what is comfortable and easy. It’s practical in that it ensures the survival of the organization. Next man up!

 

The difference between Mars Hill Church and Newspring Church is what I thought of when I read this passage again today for the second time. Let’s read about the passing of the baton to Joshua in this passage, Numbers 27:12-23:

 

12 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go up this mountain in the Abarim Range and see the land I have given the Israelites. 13 After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, 14 for when the community rebelled at the waters in the Desert of Zin, both of you disobeyed my command to honor me as holy before their eyes.” (These were the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.)

 

15 Moses said to the Lord, 16 “May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community 17 to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”

 

18 So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership,[a] and lay your hand on him. 19 Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. 20 Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him. 21 He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the Lord. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in.”

 

22 Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly. 23 Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the Lord instructed through Moses.

 

In this passage, we see that Moses did not want to leave his work for the Lord without making sure that a new leader was ready to take his place. First, he asked God to help him find a replacement. Then, when God showed Moses that Joshua was that guy, Moses gave him a variety of tasks to ease the transition of Joshua into his new position. Moses also clearly told the people that Joshua had the authority and the ability to lead the nation. His display of confidence in Joshua was good for both Joshua and for the people of Israel. To minimize leadership gaps, anyone in a leadership position should train others to carry on their duties should he or she have to suddenly or eventually leave their position. While you have the opportunity, follow Moses’ pattern. We must first pray that God will open our eyes to that “next man up” or “next woman up” underneath us. We must follow God’s prodding and select that person. We must develop that person into a leader (sometimes this will involve stretching them beyond what they think they can do). Then, we should commission them. We must make it known that they are a leader in training with our full trust and that they will be the one to replace us.

 

This is practical advice not only for the church but also for us who operate in the secular business world as well. A successful department and a successful organization is one that does not have to reboot itself every time there is a manager departure. A successful organization is one that develops leaders at every level so that when that “next man up” opportunity presents itself, that next man up steps into the next level position ready to succeed. If you are not developing the people underneath you, then you are being prideful and your organization will be hurt or destroyed when you leave. That is not what we want in our Christian organizations and that is not what we want when we are Christians working in secular organizations. One of the characteristics of Christ was that He made His disciples feel like part of the team. He developed that. He had a plan for transition of leadership. As Christians, we want to leave our secular organizations better than we found them. We want develop leaders to take our place and have influenced them for Christ in the process.

 

In our churches, we must follow the example of Christ. We must have the humility to realize that it is not about us and not horde the power the we have been granted. We must give it away. We must raise up disciples to ensure the survival of the church. This is not about us. This about ensuring that the gospel message will be told from generation to generation from century to century. Let us take our egos out of the way and develop leaders just as Moses developed Joshua and as Jesus developed the disciples who changed the world.

 

Amen and Amen.

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