Why is spiritual leadership challenging?

I suppose a group of leaders might be able to come up with a list of reasons, but here are four that I think you see from the leadership journey of Moses (seen above in a painting by Chagall).

  1. It’s challenging because it means taking responsibility. At times Moses found this overwhelming. Witness his dialogue with God in Numbers 11. He couldn’t take it. He had already had his father in law attempt to help him with some practical advice, aimed at avoiding burnout, both on the part of Moses and on the part of everyone else. This time God equipped elders from the people to be Moses’ assistants. Biblical leadership involves responsibility. When Hebrews urges believers to follow the lead of their leaders, it reminds them that their leaders keep watch over their souls as people who will give account.
  2. It’s challenging because it involves criticism. Not only did Moses have to bear the brunt of complaints about food and water, his leadership was challenged, not least by his brother and sister. ‘What’s so special about you?’ type of thing. Ron Boyd MacMillan suggests that preachers who cannot deal with criticism will not preach for long. How many leaders would say the same?
  3. It’s challenging because it exposes the leader’s own heart. There were a couple of times when God basically offered Moses the opportunity of having all the trouble makers wiped out. I think you see Moses at his finest when he prefers to put the honour and reputation of God ahead of his own prosperity. Reggie McNeal gets it when he says that ‘maturity begins to be in evidence when leaders who find themselves arrayed against the enemies of God worry more for God’s reputation than their own.’ How sad then that Moses falls when he is provoked to the point of failing to uphold God as holy in the eyes of the people (striking the rock). While it’s true that the people provoked him and made his heart bitter (Psalm 106), we are left wondering if the meekest man on earth had not fully conquered an underlying seam of anger.
  4. It’s challenging because it means leaders have to think beyond their own leadership. Barred from entering the Promised Land himself, Moses remains concerned that it will go well for the people. So he asks God to give them a new leader and he encourages that new leader (who turns out to be his assistant) in the task that awaits him.

Why does this matter?

It matters if you are a leader trying to find your way through your leadership journey. This is part of what you will have to deal with. If you’ve been involved for a while, you will not need me to tell you!

And it matters if you are a follower. Your leaders are not super-humans (nor are they perfect). They face a tough task. You do well to seek to understand and to pray for them as you follow their leadership.

2 thoughts on “Why is spiritual leadership challenging?

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