Exodus 18:1, 5, 15-27

In many churches, people look up to their leader, not only as the spiritual leader of their congregation, but as someone who is multi-skilled. Indeed, the expectation is that he or she will be everywhere, and do everything. Someone who will have time to visit everyone (and often). Someone who can be there to sort issues out and see to everybody’s needs. And someone who will be available to the churched and the unchurched, and have time to baptise babies, marry couples and bury the dead. Have I missed anything?

And yet, when we read the story of Moses in Exodus, we learn that even someone like Moses—who tried to be there for everyone—just couldn’t do it. Not only that, it was obvious he couldn’t do it. And even his father in law, within twenty-four hours of his arrival, could see that. Which is why Jethro suggested a way forward that was not only in Moses’s interests, but in the people’s interests too.

And what Jethro suggested was to create a sort of pyramid of carers. With Moses at the top, others underneath, and even more underneath them, and so on.

Now it’s interesting that these days “experts” tell us that one person cannot care properly for any more than eight to twelve people. And, yet, the formula that Jethro came up with, was that there should be “officials appointed over the people of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.” In other words, there should be one person appointed for every ten people.

Now this passage talks only in terms of people being appointed judges, to settle disputes. But if that kind of formula is required for the appointment of judges, then to expect one person to care for more than ten people—as well as doing a lot of other things besides—really doesn’t make sense. And, of course, that has great implications for the way we model our churches today.

So, what should our model be of the church? Well, we too may well need more people who are prepared to care for the people. We too may well need more people to ease the burden of the leaders of the church. And we too may well need more people to put their hands up, and say, “Yes I am willing to help.”

Fortunately for Moses, he got that help, and because of that he could take the people on a journey that might not otherwise have been possible. But have we got the people who are willing to help too?

Posted: 7th April 2017
© 2017, Brian A Curtis