Lead like Moses: Dealing with Resistance

lead like MosesI’ve been thinking about Moses’ leadership. I love the Bible: It doesn’t tie things up into a neat little package. Moses’ story is not like a church leadership manual. No quick fixes – it takes 40 years! I was talking with a coaching client just this week and discovered he had been thinking about Moses, too, after reading Exodus in his daily lectionary. He was struck by the fact that Moses doesn’t actually make it to the Promised Land, and said that was helping him let go of outcome in his own ministry.

I have been writing about leadership and resistance lately, and Moses certainly faced plenty. In fact, there were three kinds of resistance he faced:

  1. External. There were plenty of outside forces preventing them from reaching their goal. For one thing, the Egyptians did not want them to leave and sent an army to stop them. They had to travel through the wilderness and faced hunger and thirst.

In leading churches today, we’ve got plenty of outside forces: changes in how people relate to institutions, broad forces of secularization and a post-Christendom world, the simple increase in busyness which means people don’t have as much time to give to church. I’m sure you’ve got your own list unique to your setting.

What to do in one sentence: Instead of bemoaning “today’s world,” think of five –or 20—creative ideas for doing ministry in your current context.

  1. Internal to the community. If you want great examples of resistance and sabotage, just read Exodus. The people were happy as long as it was easy, but when things got hard, they just wanted to go back to the way things used to be. (Sound familiar?) He even faced sabotage from his own brother, Aaron, who gave in to the people’s desire for their own god when Moses was away talking to the real God.

Substitute 1950 and 1960s America for Egypt, and we could be talking about many of our churches. Some people are still harking back to the days when the pews were full and Sunday School classrooms overflowing. The wilderness of having to step beyond our doors instead of waiting for people to come to us is a challenge for many church folks. Some dig in their heels at new mission efforts.

What to do in one sentence: Instead of trying to convince others, focus on your own clarity about where you want to go.

  1. Internal (to Moses). Moses had his own issues. He had a temper (see Exodus 2). He was impatient. It seems sometimes he had good cause, but the text tells us he even lost it on one occasion when God told him to do something (Numbers 20).

Each one of us has our own internal resistance. We’ve got issues that get in the way of our leadership. We are impatient, conflict-averse, money-phobic, oversensitive.

What to do in one sentence: Instead of blaming others, find one area of personal growth and work on it.

Big questions for you to mull over:

Where am I heading in my ministry? How can I develop myself to help me get there?

Immediate question to answer in the comments below:

What’s an idea you have for creative ministry where you are right now?

And here’s a post on the best way to improve your leadership at church.

2 replies on “Lead like Moses: Dealing with Resistance

  • Jim Ketcham

    Very good! I’ve preached on how Moses resists God’s call (for 2 entire chapters!). I might have told you what my Dad always said: “There was an 11th Commandment, one that Moses forgot when he killed the overseer in Egypt and when he smashed the first set of tablets: ‘Thou shalt not take thyself quite so damn seriously!'” Wise words for would be leaders.


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