Thursday, October 1, 2020

Mobilizing the Church

"He [Moses] chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people" (Exodus 18:25a).

In Ephesians 4:11–13, the Holy Spirit tells us the reason God has set up officers and leaders in the church: so that the entire population of the church can be built up to do the church’s work. There has been a tendency over the ages, however, to let the pastor or preacher do it all, and the result has been that after nearly 2,000 years, the church has still not carried out the Great Commission.

For centuries, worship consisted of the priest or pastor doing everything. Only recently has congregational participation in worship begun to be recovered. For centuries, evangelism was seen as the task of specialists. Only recently has a vision of mobilizing the laity for evangelism been recovered. We can say the same thing about counselling and other works of the church.

In Exodus 18, we see how God organized the church of the Old Testament. We find that Moses was spending all his time hearing the disputes of the people. His godly father-in-law, Jethro, advised him to set up captains over tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands who would serve as judges for the people and as an ascending series of courts of appeal, with Moses as supreme judge. With this system of elders in place, Moses was able to devote himself to teaching the Word of God to the people.

The passage implies that Moses taught the people by meeting with these elders and teaching them. They in turn communicated the information to their groups. After all, it was impossible for Moses to stand up and lecture a body of more than two million people.

In addition to being judges and teachers, these men were war captains. The organization was a military organization, and military terms were used. Also, the account of Jethro’s advice in Exodus 18 comes right after the battle against Amalek in Exodus 17. In that account, Moses was war chief, and he fought by holding up God’s staff. When his arms grew weary, Aaron and Hur supported him. Similarly, the captains over tens, fifties, etc. would support Moses. The primary form of warfare, as we see in Exodus 17, is prayer (lifting God up), and so the elders were to be prayer captains as well as battle chiefs.

The three tasks of the officer in Exodus 17–18 are to teach the people, to lead them in the holy war of prayer, and to judge disputes. This is the task of the elder. This is how the church is organized and the laity mobilized. As you look at this model, do you see improvements that could be made in your own situation?