Leadership isn’t easy. Somehow our minds have latched on to the idea that to be the leader is to oversee, kick back, and watch as everything falls into place. When the Word of God is clear, people will follow. If troubles arise, people will trust. And the leader gets to enjoy what is accomplished.
This is nothing like real leadership. Real leadership understands that difficulties will come. Enemies will need to be fought off. Obstacles will have to be crossed. Struggles will affect the lives of individuals and of the whole. The leader has to remain steadfast through the difficulties as he/she points to the unchangeable Word.
It is important for the leader to keep his/her eye on that Word at all times, because there will be days when that Word will be challenged. When his gaze is focused the leader will be able to stand against those voices. When his gaze wanders, so will his resolve. And doing the right thing will fall to the will of the masses.
One of the most difficult situations a leader will face does not come from a competitor or oversight committee. It isn’t overt until it builds enough steam to try and roll you over. It is the push from the people called to follow the leader. Because of difficulty or unbelief or insubordination, the followers gather together to push the leader in their direction.
Some might call it the mob mentality. The more people you get to rally around a purpose or cause the more will join in and increase the following. It always has the sound of accomplishing something needed or morally right or fair. In politics it is called lobbying. At election time it is called the will of the people.
Taking A Vote
Have you ever noticed that God never asked His people for a vote? They were always given clear direction through a prophet, a judge, or a king. Each time the people sought to change the plan of God through popular opinion, it led them into corporate failure and disappointment.
The people of God were witnesses to the power of God at work as He brought devastation to the nation of Egypt in ten plagues. When they were freed from slavery God filled their hands and carts with Egypt’s riches. As the Egyptian army sought to drag them back to slavery God opened the Red Sea so they could cross on dry ground. And at the mountain of God, He spoke to them clearly and boldly from the cloud.
There should not have been any question in the hearts of the men, women and children gathered at the foot of that mountain. God was as real as any one among them. Moses had served as the mouthpiece of God, so when he took Joshua up the mountain to receive the Law from God, no one thought anything of it at first.
Hours went by and no one heard from Moses. Days and nights passed. A week, and then two. The people began to get restless. “Maybe God killed him up there. Maybe Moses was taken to Heaven. Maybe He isn’t coming back.”
Finally the people began to doubt God and His plan for their lives. They were deathly afraid when He spoke to them, so much so that they asked Moses to be the only to speak with Him directly. Now, weeks after Moses went up the mountain, they lost hope in the God Who already gave them more than they could have hoped for. So they gathered all the support they could and went to Aaron for a change of pace.
Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” (Exodus 32:1 NKJV)
The popular vote, the will of the people, was to give up on God and the man who spoke to and for Him. They would rather step into blatant sin than trust that God would continue to speak and work for their benefit. Armed with a problem and a their solution to it, the people gathered and put Aaron on the spot.
The Assistant’s Failure
Having served as a staff pastor for nine years in three churches, I tend to see lessons for those who serve in those support roles. Scripture is full of staff leaders who both passed and failed tests of leadership. Here Aaron failed in a big way.
In the absence of Moses everyone looked to Aaron as the next in line. Remember that Moses’ father-in-law thought Moses was crazy for personally handling every question and concern of the people. Chances are that they began to do the same to Aaron. And when they came this day they were unified en masse.
It may seem like a lot of pressure, but Aaron’s job that day was to tell the people to stop thinking about themselves and point them to God. When the people asked for false gods to be made Aaron had to make his own choice. Would he remain faithful to God and to Moses, or would he go the way the people asked of him? Was his own faith strong enough to hold on to hope in God enough that he could point the people back to the Lord?
We know what happened. Aaron gave in to the push of the people and popular vote. He didn’t keep them from walking into sin. He didn’t even just join in their sin. Aaron became the leader of their sin. He came up with the idea to bring together all of the gold articles, melted them down and shaped the golden calf. He built the altar, proclaimed the feast to the idol, and offered sacrifices to it. And he was the one who lied to Moses about it all.
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Just like every other element of the spiritual life, the assistant or staff leader has to find faith in God’s Word for himself. He/she cannot rely on the primary leader’s faith in God and His Word. Otherwise, when push comes to shove, when it’s time to decide whether to follow the still small voice of God or the clamoring noise of the people, that staff leader will crumble under the pressure.
At some point every staff pastor or leader will have to decide whether to stand faithful to the organizational leader or give in to the voices that would separate them. It is about loyalty, serving and submission. But none of these come blindly. They are grounded in the foundation of the Word of God.
How have you handled the push of the people in your ministry?
Staff leaders, how have you fared in the struggle between serving God and your leader versus giving in to the voices of the people?