“Both you and these people with you shall certainly wear yourselves out. For the matter is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it by yourself….”
This week’s Torah Portion included Exodus 18, in which Mosheh’s father-in-law, Yithro (Jethro) watches Mosheh (Moses) handle civil matters that arise in Israel. In a nation of over 600,000 able men and their families, anyone seeking Elohim goes to Moses for right-ruling. Issues big and small are brought to one man to bear.
After witnessing Mosheh’s full day of judging, Yithro suggests some delegation for the job. Perhaps, Elohim willing, Mosheh should teach all the people Torah, and “…seek out from all the people able men, who fear Elohim, men of truth, hating unfair gain. And place these over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” If a ruler over tens could not handle a matter, the issue went before the ruler of fifties and beyond until it was resolved. The people could take responsibility to learn Torah for themselves, and the community structure could provide accountability to each other. Ultimately, YHWH was the head of this system with Mosheh as his mediator to the congregation, but Mosheh would not experience burn-out because the people could handle small matters on their own according the Word. Mosheh listens to his father-in-law to “make it lighter for yourself, for they shall bear with you,” and the system sustains Israel through the desert years.
Fast forward. In the 21st Century, the “Body of Christ” is still headed by Messiah, but the pastor is expected to take responsibility and perform the function of every limb and organ. Instead of mediating to the congregation, as Mosheh did, the clergy is compelled to handle every service, teaching, music selection, church event, disagreement between members, public relation, community outreach, committee meeting, etc. Even mega-churches have recognized the need for several ministers to manage their multiple functions. Though, what we truly need are not more clergymen. We need personal responsibility for our spiritual welfare.
Over the Christian radio station and on the internet, the pastor is described as the burnt-out martyr that must be thanked for performing our holy living for us. They do all the sacrifices necessary to keep the church going. What? Aren’t we the Body? Hasn’t YHWH shown us a simple and good system for dealing with our matters? He commanded each of us to take up our cross; did he command our leaders to also carry our crosses on our behalf? Did he tell pastors that they must work themselves to exhaustion or else they haven’t fulfilled their calling? Did He ever require a single man to handle the issues of two hundred other souls by himself? Didn’t Paul tell us to bear one another’s burdens? A leader may be the nervous system to bring the Head’s messages to the Body, but I doubt the nervous system can ever manage to function as eyes, ears, or legs. It isn’t designed that way. One man was not designed to bear the problems of so many on his own.
Before the Congregation was a club full of segregated classes, it was a family, with each clan attending to its small business and bringing the big issues to the higher authorities in the Congregation. The head of a household was responsible for the instruction of his wife and children, and the patriarch of the clan had authority over a few households, while a rabbi or teacher was responsible for teaching the Word to all the men in a congregation.
Nowadays, we do not function as a family. Men do not instruct their own children from the Bible. Nowadays, we are separated by age and relationship status into classes. If the old are to influence the young, or if the married are to advise the courting couple, it must be by pre-arranged program started by the pastor and approved by a committee. Nowadays, if a pastor dies or leaves, the congregation changes entirely. People join, and others leave as a new leader’s beliefs and personality infuses every function of the church. If each heart is intently seeking the heart of YHWH in their every step, wouldn’t the direction of a church remain the same, regardless of whose face speaks from behind the pulpit?
My heart aches for the clergy that believe they must control all, bear all, and be all. I pity the individuals who shirk their spiritual growth, engrossed with labor and entertainment, except that one morning each week where they expect one fellow, fallen human grow their faith for them. The King of the Universe, Infinite and Eternal, has marvelous plans for His church! However, if the eyes refuse to open, the hands refuse to reach, and the legs refuse to walk, because they expect the nervous system to do all the work, the Body of Messiah cannot rise to the occasion He has for us.
Let us place the burden of our lives on our Redeemer. Let us bear the responsibility of our growth and character. Let us look for ways to function as a family, a body, and lighten the load of our leaders.