Moses’ Leadership

By Howard Burkhart

It could be worse. Moses spent 40 difficult and challenging years leading God’s people during what was, arguably, one of the most pivotal times in their history. He led them out of Egypt and slavery. He kept them together, journeying towards God’s purpose for them, up to the point of the Promised Land. He also prepared them for the next phase of the journey – entering the Promised Land. During these 40 years, Moses experienced times of great joy and wonder: as the Red Sea parted, when God’s protection and guidance was visible with the pillar of fire and clouds, every morning when manna showed up, and times when water miraculously flowed from rocks.

He also led them through some challenging times, to say the least. There were decisions to make, uprisings, challenges to his leadership, open rebellion against God, and grievous sin, extreme grumbling against him and his family, and even against God himself. Most estimates put the number of Israelites at over a million people. Some say it was more like 1.5 million. The conditions were harsh. It was hot, barren, and desolate. There were few resources. And they had a long, long way to go. Moses was often put in the untenable position of being the mediator between God and the people, and the future of the people depended on him. The burden was heavy — very heavy. There had to have been times when the promise of the land of milk and honey seemed too good to be true.

How did Moses lead in this environment and what may be of help to us these days?

1. He empowered leaders and delegated work to them. Moses felt like he had to do it all. His father-in-law, Jethro, told Moses, “What you are doing is not good, you will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you, you can’t do it alone.” Heed the words of Jethro. During this time of limited interaction with others, is there a way to coach or mentor potential leaders in your church? Can you train and empower families to lead their own family worship? Can you ask some of your people to intentionally check in with others via phone, a porch visit, or online? Can you find material, such as “Experiencing God” or “Experiencing God at Home”? NAMB also has the Multiplication Pipeline, a leadership development process that is online and great for times with limited interaction. Use this time of change to empower others. It’s good for you and your family, it’s good for the potential leaders, and it’s good for the church.

2. He stayed close to God. Most of us can remember God’s calling on our life. Some may have a more vivid experience than others, but we can all remember when God asked us to become a Shepherd Leader. When leading is hard, remember that God called you specifically and He is with you still. Throughout the journey, Moses encountered God, truly encountered God. Sometimes on the mountain, while away from the people, and sometimes in the tabernacle. Find time with God somewhere, somehow. Maybe it’s with a close friend or fellow pastor. Maybe it’s a drive to one of your favorite places in God’s creation, or maybe it’s in your empty church building at the altar. Without this time and relationship with the living God who cares for you and His people, you will become depleted and burn out.

3. He instructed the people with the word of God. Throughout their journey, Moses frequently told the people what God had instructed and how they should live. He also often reminded them of God’s promise and where their journey was taking them. One such example is found in Deuteronomy 6:1: “This is the command – the statues and ordinances – the Lord your God has instructed me to teach you, so that you may follow them in the land you are about to enter and possess.”

These days, like the people of Israel, it is easy to get consumed with the difficulties and challenges around us. Point the people in your care towards the teachings of God. Remind them of God’s provisions and care, and continue to speak of God’s promises.

4. Moses never gave up. The work of the Shepherd Leader is fun, enriching, and rewarding – at times. At other times, it is absolutely draining, frustrating, challenging, and just plain hard. Moses experienced this. Because of his deep relationship with God and the responsibility God had given him, he kept at it – for 40 years. Yes, these days are hard, perhaps among the hardest any of us have ever experienced. Pastor, God has called you and He is with you. He has given you this incredible responsibility for this time, for this journey.

Hopefully we don’t have another 39 more years to go in this COVID-19 desert. As we journey together leading God’s people as pastor-shepherds, may Moses be a continuing example and encouragement to you. Take care of yourself, love and teach the people, maintain your relationship with God, and serve faithfully.


Published August 11, 2020

Howard Burkhart

Howard served as a Church Planting Catalyst with NAMB for 36 years and now serves as a Replant Specialist covering several states in the West. He is a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (now Gateway). Howard lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.