No Solo Act

by Elaine Maust
Exodus 18
February 12, 2006

Drama: “A Father-in-Law’s Advice”

(Props needed – large chair, two cell phones, lunch basket, pillow, watch, microphones…)

Reader 1 – (summary Exodus 18:1-12) Moses and God’s people were on their long hike from Egypt to the Promised Land. Moses sent his wife, Zipporah, and sons, Gershom and Eliezer, to stay with her father, Jethro, during part of the journey.

Now Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, returned with Moses’ family. (Moses and Jethro enter from opposite doors & embrace center stage) There was great celebration as the family reunited and Jethro heard about all the amazing things God had done for his people. (Moses appears to be telling Jethro stories. Jethro, amazed, shakes his head. Jethro exits)

Reader 1 – (Exodus 18:13-27 NIV) The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. (Moses sits on chair, center stage. The people line up down the center isle beginning at bottom of steps, stretching line as long as possible. First person in line approaches Moses and sits cross-legged in front of him, appears to speak with Moses. Jethro enters and observes.)

Israelite 1 – (last person in line calls Moses on cell phone)

Moses – Hello, this is Moses.

Israelite 1 – Hey Moses, this line is impossible. Any chance I’ll get to see you today? I’ve really got to talk with you today…

Moses – (stands to look down line and sighs) I’ll get to you just as soon as I can…

Israelite 1 – Okay… (hangs up, seems distressed)

Reader 1 – When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said,

Jethro – “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

Reader 1 – Moses answered him,

Moses – “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and laws.”

Israelite 1 – (notices there has been an interruption of services. Calls Moses again) Hey, Moses.

Moses – Yes, this is Moses.

Israelite 1 – Hey Moses, there seems to be some kind of hold up in the line. I just really have to talk to you today and if this keeps up, we’ll get to the Promised Land before you get to me!

Moses – Okay, okay, I hear you. It’s my father-in-law up here, okay? How about giving me a break. (Moses is tired and distressed. People all through the line realize this is going to take a while. They break out lunch, take a nap, and check their watches…)

Reader 1 – Moses’ father-in-law replied,

Jethro – “What you are doing is not good. 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. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. But select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain – and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.”

Israelite 1 – (calls back on cell phone, frustrated and impatient) Mooooseeesss!

Moses – (trying to be patient) Hang on, buddy, we are trying to get care groups started here. (turns attention back to Jethro)

Jethro – “Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

Reader 1 – Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. (Moses begins to go through the line and select people, then they select others to join them in small groups in front of sanctuary.) He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. (Moses sits down in the chair again, obviously relieved) They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, (group leader brings Israelite 1 to Moses) but the simple ones they decided themselves.

Reader 1 – (Moses and Jethro embrace. Jethro exits. Moses looks over care groups with pleased smile) Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country.

Thanks to Jubilee’s talented youth group for presenting the Scripture for us today!

If you don’t already have your Bibles open, I invite you to open them now to Exodus 18, our text for today. Let’s take a few minutes to see what we can learn from this passage.

Moses had quite a job, didn’t he? (v13) And what is he doing? Look down to verses 15-16 to see what the people were coming to Moses for (15-16). They came for spiritual direction, arbitration and education. What an overwhelming job. And it appears that he was doing all of this for the approximately 1,000,000 Israelites, single-handedly.

No wonder Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law said in verse 17, “What you are doing is not good.” Jethro went on to say in verse 18, that Moses leadership style wasn’t healthy for him or for the people. (18) According to Jethro, things were going to have to change or the whole outfit was destined for burnout.

It didn’t take Jethro long to suggest an entirely new shared leadership style. (21b-22a) Instead of Moses as a solo act, the community would share leadership. So leaders were appointed and more people were served. I am impressed that Jethro, who had a good idea and knew he did, submitted it to God’s will (v 23).

To make this new leadership paradigm work for the peoplei n the wilderness it meant that everyone in the community had to adjust. First of all Moses needed to listen to his father-in-law’s advice.

Imagine that you are at work one day and your father-in-law walks up and watches for a few minutes. Then, although you have been doing this job for ages and he’s only watched you for a little while, he says to you, “What you are doing is not good!” You might be tempted to say, “Look Pops, I appreciate the advice, but I know what I’m doing here.” I’ve heard that here are some people (none that I know of course) who are so stubborn they refuse to take advice even when they know it would make their lives easier.

Not Moses. Instead of sending Jethro packing back to Midian where he came from, Moses had the grace to accept a good idea, to accept God’s leading, even when it came from his father-in-law. The Bible says that Moses was the most humble man that ever lived. (Numbers 12:3)

It’s not easy to accept help. When someone offers to help us, it’s easy to say, “Oh, no, thank you. We’re just fine.” What if Moses had done that? What would it have meant for him and for the people.

Moses accepted help. Both advice from his father-in-law and assistance in leading the people from the newly appointed team of judges. I wonder what the hard parts were for Moses. Do you suppose Moses ever walked past one of their tents and heard a judge giving advice that Moses didn’t approve of? How do you suppose Moses felt when the people began to turn to others, beside him for help? It takes a lot of grace to share leadership and I respect Moses for even trying it.

And what about the new team of judges? There were big changes in their lives too. I suppose one day some of those fellows were in line themselves and the next day, they were the officials who others sought out.

Jethro gave a pretty impressive list of qualifications for these officials. (21) How many phone calls did Moses have to make before he found enough willing folks? “Well Moses, I’m flattered that you asked, but you know, I’m young and well, I’m just not sure I’m your man.” Or how about this one? “Now Moses, you know my past, how I used to act back in Egypt. I’m ready to follow God now, but man, I’m not sure I should lead other people…”

You know, Jethro’s advice was great, but if no one was willing to serve, could the change have been made? There had to have been dozens and dozens of these officials. I wonder how many, maybe hundreds, who heard God’s call through Moses’s call and led the people.

Speaking of the people, they had to change too, didn’t they? I can just hear them now. “Well, it is just great that you’ve put me in Joshua’s group… Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great guy and all. But really, I’m supposed to go to him for counsel? I don’t think so…” If the people had not been willing to accept the new structure, the next morning, the people, like it says in verse 13, would still have been standing around Moses, “from morning till evening,” dark to dark.

As you have been hearing the last few weeks, Jubilee’s Elders/Pastors team, Dianna, Jeff, Duane and I have been wondering if God is leading Jubilee to a new pastoral care structure. In the new framework we are considering, everyone at Jubilee would have the opportunity to be part of a care group. A group of friends who would offer counsel, support and friendship. Each group would be led by a person or couple who would be trained to lead and care. Duane and I would be the group leaders for the group leaders. Are you with me here?

We imagine that care groups could improve the quality of care will improve and that more people will be trained to be church leaders.

Think about it this way. Though she might argue with this, I think Bonnie Opel could provide Christian Education for every person in this congregation. In a sense that’s exactly what she does as Sunday School Coordinator. But imagine if she did this one on one. How often would each person in the church receive Christian Education? Instead Bonnie asks people to teach Sunday School. These Sunday School classes are a much more effective model for Christian Education.

Several years ago when we were talking about small groups, someone said to me, “Jubilee is a small group.” That was true, and in some ways we are still a small church, aren’t we? But as Paul Shelly discovered when he moved back to Meridian, there are more than twice as many people who claim this as their church than there were when he moved to Tupelo. And we believe that God is calling even more people to become part of this church family.

It’s time for us to step back and consider how we can provide the best care for the most people.

If Jubilee follows the care group paradigm, it will mean adjustments. Duane and I will need to be sure that we don’t attempt to do all the pastoral care at Jubilee. I hope that we would be as open and flexible as Moses was. Many of you all already offer that kind of care and more of you could if you were called and blessed and trained. If this model could work in any church, it ought to work at Jubilee, where we have a long history of shared leadership. In this church where all of you care for each other and the good of the whole congregation!

Just like the new judges in Exodus 18 needed to be open to God’s call, many of you all will need to say yes to leading groups. It may be frightening and you may not feel qualified. Duane talked about that last week in his sermon from Acts 6. But God will bless and we will train and support.

The people in Exodus 18 were flexible enough to accept a new leadership style. Any changes here at Jubilee will require flexibility from all of us.

Pray with us. Ask us questions. Challenge us with the possible obstacles. Tell us what sounds hopeful and what sounds frightening. Listen to God. Join the Elder/Pastor Team as we consider how best to provide pastoral care and leadership training to our growing congregation.

Let’s look back at Exodus 18:22b-23. This is what we hope could happen…

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