I know I’ve used these verses before, but I’ve been thinking about discipleship and preparing folks for service in ministry.
Then Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, “May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD will not be like sheep which have no shepherd.”
So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; and have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and commission him in their sight. You shall put some of your authority on him, in order that all the congregation of the sons of Israel may obey him.”
– Numbers 27:15-20, NASB
Moses was already old. He knew he would not lead the Israelites forever. He would need someone to take up the mantle of leadership. So Moses went to the only one capable of making that decision: God. And God gave him a name: Joshua. What’s also notable is that God instructed Moses to give Joshua some of his authority so that the Israelites would listen to and obey Joshua. Before handing over the full reigns of leadership, Moses was to start Joseph off with some of it. This would also imply mentoring. Moses would give Joshua a portion to do, ensured he learned what needed to be done, and made sure everyone knew to go to Joseph for those things. That’s a great model for preparing someone for service. That allows the person to grow. And once that person is ready, we must let him or her take on the role:
‘But charge Joshua and encourage him and strengthen him, for he shall go across at the head of this people, and he will give them as an inheritance the land which you will see.’ – Deuteronomy 3:28, NASB
As the time came for the Israelites to cross into the land of Canaan, the time came to turn over full leadership to Joshua. God’s instruction was for Moses to encourage and strengthen Joshua. This makes sense. Though Joshua had worn part of the responsibility of leading the Israelites, he hadn’t bore the full weight on his own shoulders. That’s a lot of pressure. That’s a lot of stress. Certainly Joshua would benefit from the encouragement. And so will everyone who is trained for service as the responsibility is given to them. Taking on a new role can be both exciting and frightening at the same time. When we prepare the next group of leaders, we need to encourage them and strengthen them for the task at hand.
So let’s put all that together. We know we must prepare people for service. God should show us who those people are. Like Moses, we need to seek God in prayer as to who is the right fit for what. By doing so we’ll make sure we’re not wasting our efforts on someone who is either not ready or not right for the ministry at hand. And when we start preparing those folks for service, we need to give them some responsibility. This gives them the ability to practice, make mistakes, and learn. We also need to come along side them to ensure they know they have our support. They need to know there is someone they can turn to for advice. They also need mentoring, so that lessons we’ve learned get passed down. As they grow into the role, we need to be prepared to let go and let them take charge. However, as we do that, we need to encourage them and strengthen them. Holding on to the ministry or area of service means they don’t continue to grow. And neither do we, because likely we’re supposed to move on to something else. I think if we intentionally disciple others in the Church in this manner our ministries will be better led and our leaders will have more confidence. They won’t be playing things by ear. They’ll know what it takes. They’ll know where the pain points are. And they’ll know that they have support from us. Ultimately every ministry relies on God, but it still behooves us to be as prepared and ready as possible. Proper training of our next leaders ensures we do just that.