- Exodus 18:13-26
- Lyndol Loyd November 18, 2018
Those who know me know that I’m a loyal Texas Tech Red Raider. It is probably no great surprise that I’ve never been much of a Texas A&M fan and that from time to time I’ve been known to tell a good Aggie joke. However, in all seriousness, I have to give it to the Aggies that they have a cool story and tradition when it comes to the “12th Man tradition.”
On January 2, 1922, the heavily outgunned Aggies were facing the top-ranked Centre College Praying Colonels on the gridiron in the Dixie Classic in Dallas. An Aggie by the name of E. King Gill, a squad player for Texas A&M’s football team, was up in the press box helping reporters identify players on the field below — and what was happening on the field wasn’t pretty.
The Aggies found themselves plagued by injuries, with their reserves seemingly dwindling with every play. As Texas A&M Coach Dana Bible looked across his rapidly emptying bench, he suddenly remembered Gill’s presence in the stands. Bible waved Gill down to the sideline and told him to suit up. Gill ran under the bleachers and put on the uniform of injured running back Heine Weir, who had been knocked out of the game in the first quarter.
Gill returned to the sideline, where he stood ready to play for the entirety of the game. When the last play was run, the Aggies found that they had pulled off a great upset, winning the game 22-14. As the legend goes Gill remained standing, the only player left on the team’s bench.
Gill’s willingness to serve his team in 1922 has passed down from generation to generation of Aggies for more than nine decades, as Texas A&M’s student section stands together during entire football and basketball games, a symbol of the 12th Man on the team.
Even this Red Raider can admit that the idea of the12th Man is a cool tradition.
With the idea of the 12th Man in mind consider this, at every sporting event there are two kinds of people. There are the players, and there are the spectators. The games are in the hand of the players. Their gifts are what count. They develop and hone their skills over a lifetime. They are the ones who get written about and interviewed, and who know the deep joy of victory and the searing agony of defeat.
Spectators just watch. That’s all they do. Their gifts don’t matter at all. No one ever says to a young boy or girl, “I think you could be a tremendous spectator one day. Start by rooting for a minor league team, and someday you could be a bleacher bum in the the big leagues!”
I found a quote that read, “The church is like a football game, with fifty thousand people desperately in need of exercise watching twenty-two people who are in desperate need of rest.” When it comes to living out the Christian life God isn’t looking for spectators. God is looking for those who are willing to get in the game.
Every time a follower of Christ decides to leave the stands and get into the game, the heart of God rejoices. Whenever Christians commit to making their lives fully available for doing the work of God, they are instantly transported from the stands onto the playing field.
This morning we are going forward in our message series entitled, “Compass,” as we study the Old Testament book of Exodus together. It is the story of how Moses and the Israelites go on a journey with God. It is about how they live in relationship with Him and how they allow God to be the one who sets the direction for their lives.
This morning we pick up with the story of Exodus at a point that marks the beginning of the release of ministry to the people of God. By the time we reach the New Testament, we learn that God chooses every one of His people to be prophets and priests.
Those who can minister are Gentiles as well as Jews, slaves as well as free, females as well as males. God says there is no more distinction between priests and “common people.” In the new community, we find a gathering of Christ-followers who are profoundly aware that they called and gifted by God as ministers.
That whole concept has its origins back in Exodus with Moses and the Israelites. Exodus 18:13-26:
13The next day, Moses took his seat to hear the people’s disputes against each other. They waited before him from morning till evening.
14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, “What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?”
15 Moses replied, “Because the people come to me to get a ruling from God. 16 When a dispute arises, they come to me, and I am the one who settles the case between the quarreling parties. I inform the people of God’s decrees and give them his instructions.”
17 “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. 18 “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. 19 Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. 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. 25 He chose capable men from all over Israel and appointed them as leaders over the people. He put them in charge of groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. 26 These men were always available to solve the people’s common disputes. They brought the major cases to Moses, but they took care of the smaller matters themselves.
When Israel was in Egypt, everyone said to Pharaoh, “You da man.” Pharaoh replied, “That’s right, I da man.” This was the only leadership structure Israel had seen for four hundred years.
Now they were set free from Egypt, but they were still functioning with the same organizational chart. “You da man, Moses,” they all chanted. All day long they saw him busy with the work of God and they said, “You da man. Moses, you’re the expert, the mouthpiece of God, the only one wise enough to lead.” If you listen closely, you can almost hear the people of Israel cheering from the stands, “You da man!”
Think about this in relation to the way that we do church today. When churches still labor under the old “You da man” mentality, a tiny group of trained professionals does all the work, and the majority of the church members remain in a spectator role. The results of this model, or maybe we should say non-model, of ministry are disastrous.
This leads to burnout, even Moses’ own father-in-law was able to see it taking place with the way he was operating, and the people were behaving. He couldn’t stand to sit back and watch it anymore, and he just had to say something to Moses about it.
I wonder what Jethro would say to us at LakeRidge about the way that we do church? I do know this, in too many settings church’s simply hire staff members and then take the attitude that they have them around to do the ministry for them. This isn’t biblical.
Not only does a “You da man” philosophy of ministry lead to burnout for the leaders, but it also leads to resentment on the part of those who are not allowed to do ministry even though their hearts cry out to be on the playing field.
It also produces a weak and ineffective body of believers. Some are exhausted and fatigued and resentful because of being overworked. Others are spiritually out of shape and have no sense of calling, purpose or vision for their lives as a Christ-followers. Both of these hinder the church from being all God wants it to be.
In his book, The New Reformation, author Greg Ogden writes, “Nearly five hundred years after the Reformation there are rumblings in the church that appear to be creating a climate for something so powerful we can call it a New Reformation. The New Reformation seeks nothing less than the radical transformation of the self-perception of all believers so we see ourselves as vital channels through whom God mediates his life to other members of the body of Christ and the world.”
God longs for us to make the shift that Moses and the people of Israel made. No more wearing out a few leaders by making them do all the work. It is time to change our thinking and models for ministry.
Among some believers, there is a fundamental and tragic misunderstanding about the nature of the people of God. Some Christians divide the people of God into two categories.
The first group is the players. We call these people clergy, priests and ministers. They are in the business of doing ministry to and for the membership of the church. The second group is the spectators. These are the lay people, the masses who sit in church and receive ministry performed by the professionals.
This is not God’s vision for His Church. Listen to what the New Testament says about the community of Christ followers:
Acts 2:17-18 says, “17 ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike — and they will prophesy.’”
1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”
It is time for the people of God to get off the sidelines and start being the church. We are His people, a priesthood holy to God and filled with the Holy Spirit. We need to take hold of this truth with boldness and confidence.
Who can do ministry? The answer is no longer merely the professionals. The answer is every person who is a follower of Christ. Not only can we all do ministry, but it is expected of us.
Here at LakeRidge, we want to put in place a structure that calls out every follower of Christ for ministry. We have to establish training and equipping opportunities for God’s people to use their gifts. Our staff can be the ones who do the ministry. Instead, it becomes their role to help train, support and affirm all of God’s ministers.
At moments like this, it can be very easy for us to distance ourselves from the conversation. We can keep the whole discussion of the idea of the priesthood of all believers at arm’s length. I think it would be a sin for us to do that this morning.
What good does it do for us to study the book of Exodus, examine how God moves the needle on the compass for Moses and the Israelites if we don’t take time to make a personal application? The answer is – not much.
Here are some basic questions I believe each one of us needs to be asking ourselves today regardless of age:
- Do I perceive myself to be a minister of Christ?
We need to remember that the people of Israel had been in slavery for four hundred years. The leadership structure they knew was very simple. There was Pharaoh, who was on the top level, and then there was everyone else.
Moses was functioning as a judge. This meant he was a leader, a counselor, who gave advice and wisdom. The people stood around. The people were the spectators and Moses was the player. No one else thought in terms of being leaders, but then God turned everything on its head. He declared everyone a minister.
- Have I gotten in the game?
Are you actively serving the Body of Christ? Have you gotten out the stands and into the game?
- Am I growing in ministry?
To answer this, you probably need to ask yourself some additional questions: Am I more or less motivated to serve the body than I was a year ago? What is my plan for developing the gifts God has given to me?
- Am I helping other people grow as ministers?
Are you identifying, affirming, calling forth and celebrating the giftedness of others? Are you calling people out of the stands? The heart of Moses rejoiced to see people use their gifts for ministry.
- Have I eliminated every vestige of pride in my life?
Christian ministry must be marked by humility. Later on in the Old Testament book of Numbers Moses is referred to as being the most humble person to have lived at that point in history.
Jesus models ultimate humility for us in how he lived and served and gave His life for us. As we answer the call to serve we need to do so with pure and humble hearts.
Ever since the days of Exodus God has been calling His people forth out of the grandstands, out of living as spectators and into participating as players in His purposes and plans for the World. The question is: Will you answer the call?