Exodus 18:17-18 Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” (NIV)
Churches are volunteer organizations as well as faith worship centers. For congregations to exist, they need people in the pews to volunteer to help with the many projects and programs that each church presents. They also require spiritual leaders who are willing to give their time, talents, and prayers to the well-being of the whole congregation. Without such volunteers, churches are unable to minister to both the congregation and community; without the willing help of individuals, churches become ineffective and diminish.
In today’s Old Testament passage (Exodus 18:13-27), Moses is experiencing burn-out by making himself available to all the people on a daily basis. He wants to help each and every one of them, but there are too many disputes, issues, and concerns for one man to handle. We should also remember that Moses was eighty years old, so his energy and enthusiasm were both limited by what he could physically manage each day.
The solution to Moses’ dilemma comes through the words of wisdom that his father-in-law Jethro expresses. Moses has to learn to delegate more of his community responsibilities in order to be really effective. Without the help of others, Moses is doomed to fail because he will be unable to deal with all of the problems and divisions of his people. So, Moses takes Jethro’s sound advice and sets up district elders to deal with the people’s issues. The burden is shared and the responsibilities are widened. The end result is a far more effective system than a one-man-band. Moses can concentrate on all of the main issues affecting the whole community; the elders can lead the people as specialists among their own groups.
As Presbyterians, we continue this ministry through the practice of appointing elders to our congregations. People are called and chosen by God to give three years’ service to the local church in order to both sustain and advance its life and mission. Those who are asked to serve are sought because of their commitment to the church; their acceptance of such a sacred call is a beautiful act of faith and one which should bless their congregations. Eldership, then, is a direct calling from God to share the burdens of the people, plan the future ahead, and strengthen the faith, ministry, and purpose of the local church. Without these precious volunteers, a church can lose ground; with dedicated elders, a church can blossom and grow.
Point to ponder
Have I been asked to become an elder? Why was God asking for me?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we seek to serve You faithfully with our time, talents, and resources to enable Your Church flourish locally, nationally, and internationally. Prepare our hearts and minds to prayerfully consider a call to leadership and eldership in our congregations. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the Scottish pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can read the church website at www.erinpresbyterian.org.
Today’s image is one of John’s latest bulletin drawings for Trinity Sunday. The design is based on the banners in our sanctuary. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Trinity.