Joseph’s Bones

And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt… Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.”  -Exodus 13:18b-19

In her Advent devotional Lighted Windows, Margaret Silf suggests that the Israelites carried the bones of Joseph because “he was their dreamer, the symbol of their God-dream.” She goes on to encourage us to carry our dreams with us, too, because it gives us the energy we need to continue our journey. Ministry is hard work. Indeed, it is joyful work…but hard, nonetheless. When we get tired, it’s easy to lose our way, to forget why we began this journey in the first place. Our vision becomes cloudy and the Voice that called us seems so distant now.

Advent is a notoriously busy season for anyone in ministry.  For those serving on the staff of their church, there is a church to decorate, extra worship services to plan, Christmas celebrations to attend, and visits to the homebound and the sick. For those in ministry outside the church walls (i.e., all Christians!), there are angel trees to coordinate to provide gifts for the poor, Christmas banquets to feed the hungry, coats and blankets to collect to give some measure of warmth to the homeless. Add to all of that the decorating of our homes, the gifts we purchase and/or make, the extra baking for cookie exchanges… Suddenly we find ourselves tired and confused, wondering why we began this journey in the first place.

That’s when it’s time to take out Joseph’s bones.

Create space for some quiet reflection. Remember the times when God unmistakably touched your life, when he called you to this particular ministry path–whether it is in the church, in the home, in the community, or in the marketplace. Remember when you knew beyond a doubt that God was leading you purposefully. Margaret Silf refers to this place of remembering as “a sacred space and a still center in all our confusion,” and she encourages us to return to it regularly for replenishment.

God’s voice is still there, even in the midst of the busyness of this Advent season. We just need to remember the sound of that Voice in our ears, then wait quietly and listen patiently once again.

advent

Two wrong questions; One right answer

Where do you look for your leaders? Gotta have ’em, right? And too often we need them sooner rather than later! So we begin the search, which might look like this…

We need a strong leader for our finance committee. Who in the church is experienced in accounting or finance? Wrong question!

When I served on the staff of a large mainline denominational church, that’s the question that was most frequently asked during the nominations process. Who has marketplace experience in something directly related to the leadership role we need to fill? Who are the insurance brokers, builders, engineers who have exhibited marketplace success that we can nominate for trustees? Who among our congregation are teachers that we can nominate to lead discipleship? Who works in human resources that we can nominate to serve on this nominations committee? Wrong questions.

Or perhaps the search process might begin like this…

We need a leader for our finance committee. Who do we know that has the time to serve? Wrong question!

Smaller churches may not even be thinking about who is successful in the marketplace. They may simply be asking, “Who isn’t already serving in other areas? Who has the time to lead this committee? Who can we ask that we won’t have to strong-arm into saying “yes?” Wrong questions.

If you are honest, you know you’ve asked these same questions. When we are desperate for leadership, we can easily succumb to the temptation to ask the default questions, Who’s got experience? or Who’s got time?

Several years ago I read an article that asked, “What’s the most important quality to look for in a leader?” Now there’s a good question! The answer: Wisdom.

Scripture has quite a bit to say about wisdom. According to Proverbs, wisdom is supreme (4:7), worth far more than rubies (8:11), accompanies humility (11:2), is found in those who take advice (13:10), and brings joy (29:3). Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge above all else, and the Lord was so pleased that He granted the request–along with the wealth, riches, and honor that Solomon did not ask for! (2 Chronicles 1:8-12) What’s more, James tells us that God still honors that request (James 1:5). The first deacons were chosen because they were full of the Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3), and Paul includes wisdom in the list of spiritual gifts necessary for health and maturity in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:8). There are plenty more references to wisdom–pull out your concordance and see for yourself. A word study on wisdom might be a worthwhile expenditure of our time.

Marketplace experience is no match for godly wisdom. And having time to spare may be an indication of idleness (scripture has something to say about that, too!). Wisdom, on the other hand, is a “generalist.” A person who is wise will employ their wisdom in a leadership role on any team or committee. A wise person also knows how to manage their time, and values balance between work and rest. A person who is truly wise derives their wisdom from the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:17) and will lead accordingly. That sounds to me like the right person to fill the leadership role. What do you think?

I have some more thoughts on leadership to share in the coming days. I hope you will join in the conversation!