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Leadership lessons from Jethro

Post by Pastor Demetrius Hicks

I was reading Exodus 18 in my one year bible plan as I do yearly and the short story of Jethro’s visit to Moses impacted me and stood out. As I read it, I was encouraged in my leadership so I decided to write my thoughts from what I read to hopefully encourage some leaders today. I have a few words that stood out to me as I read through the passage. I’ve listed them below and shared some insight I received.

Relationships & Accountability: Everyone, especially leaders, need a Jethro-like figure in their life. Jethro visits moses in the “wilderness” (the low place, the process, where things feel unproductive), celebrates with Moses all God has done in worship, observed Moses life and wasn’t afraid to speak truth into his life. Jethro really cared about Moses and vice versa. You can see that in their interactions through Exodus 18.

One of my favorite truths that was spoken to Moses was when Jethro said “you’re gonna wear yourself out and the people to.” Moses was trying to handle everything by himself when God had capable people around Moses to help him. That’s a principle to leaders. When you try to do everything yourself and you have capable people in your organization they’ll become frustrated and you’ll wear yourself out and eventually become frustrated also. God didn’t design us to do life alone in any capacity.

Exodus 18:20-24 NLT

20 Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. 21 But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. 22 They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. 23 If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.”

24 Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions.

So listed below is what Jethro advised Moses to do as he appointed leaders. This is taken from Ex 18:20-24:

Teach: Knowledge is power. Unfortunately there are leaders who desire to hold this power for themselves instead of passing wisdom and knowledge to those who lead alongside them. Insecurities and fear of being replaced often motivate this but Jethro advised Moses to share that which he knew! It's so important as a leader to empower others and equip them for ministry as it states in Ephesians!

Show: When we model and live out what we say we see things in cultures change. Jethro advised Moses to show them how to conduct their lives and not just say it. This word takes intentionality and relationship. Often times when frustrated with leadership I found they were doing what I was "showing" them.

Select: I like this word choice because when picking leaders it’s very important to pick the right ones. Jethro advised Moses to pick capable men, honest men and those who fear God and hate bribes. Men of integrity. In the selection process character matters. We don’t just want people to get the job done but we want to select those who love God and others well AND who can get the tasks accomplished. This is a slow process. This is pretty hard for leaders who unfortunately live rushed lives and make decisions too quickly without counting the cost. Also, the encouragement here is that the leaders were amongst the people. All we need is around us! God builds his church! He places in the body where and how he sees fit!

Appoint: The appointing portion deals with placing them exactly where they need to be and what honors their personhood and limits. Notice how Jethro advised Moses to appoint them as leaders over the different numbered groups based on what they could handle. Some of us have people who are leaders but they are either functioning above or beneath their limits. It's wise to pray for discernment during this process.

Let: This is the smallest word but has such an impact. Once you’ve done the hard work of selecting leaders you have to allow them to lead. Let them make mistakes and learn. This is very hard for leaders most leaders because we have a view of how we want it done. Leadership is messy. Good news is the mess is what helps us grow. We can’t micromanage and fear mistakes because although we are our biggest fans, we have and will continue to mess up often. So grateful for God’s Grace and goodness!

Final Thoughts and Prayer:

Verse 24 says Moses listened to the advice of Jethro and followed his suggestions. I’m grateful for that verse because it brings up another good thought:

Always be a good listener to your team and those around you who care about you. Had Moses not listened to Jethro I’m positive things would have gone downward at some point. God has amazing things for us to accomplish through him on earth! Let's lead leaders well!

Father I thank you for leaders around the world who said “yes” to your call to lead. We recognize you as the chief shepherd and ask for your continued guidance on this journey of leadership. Help us to discern and recognize the gifts you sent to assist us in obeying your great commission of loving you and others well. Strengthen us in Jesus name! Amen


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