Sunday, September 06, 2015

The Preparation For Leadership

Generally, people ascribe the success or failure of a leader to their qualification or fitness to lead. For this reason when leaders are sought in the secular world, the qualifications of the individuals are usually given primary considerations. On the contrary, a close examination of the call of great leaders God used in the Bible reveals that God was not primarily concerned about qualifications. Eims Leroy, observed that Leaders like Moses, Gideon and Jeremiah openly confessed their inadequacy to perform the task God called them to do.1 If God was looking for qualified men then he would not have called them. Does it then mean that preparations are not necessary for Leadership? According to Gottfried Osei-Mensah, there are prerequisites for spiritual leadership.2 This statement implies that some form of preparation is necessary. In addition, it is clear from scripture that every leader that God used had certain qualities or abilities that were necessary in performing their task. This observation however poses a question: Were those leaders prepared for their calling or did they just happen to have the qualities God required? With God, things do not happen by chance, therefore the thesis of this article is, those whom God used in the Bible as leaders were always prepared for their task. To clarify this thesis statement selected leaders in the Bible are examined. The goal is, first to prove that the leaders were prepared for leadership and second, to determine the nature of the preparation and its importance to the leaders' call. The following three categories of leaders have been selected for this study: a) Those whose call and commission came as a surprise to them b) Those who were mentored by their predecessor c) Those who assumed leadership as a result of a crisis. Under each leader the presentation will also be divided into three sections: a) His life history before his call to leadership; b) His leadership role and achievements; c) Summary of the specific ways he was prepared for leadership. Finally an evaluation would be made and conclusions drawn. A. LEADERS WHOSE CALL AND COMMISSION CAME AS A SURPRISE Among the leaders whose call and commission came as a surprise were Moses and Paul. These were leaders who had personal encounter with God whilst they were pursuing their own goals in life. These leaders would now be discussed individually to determine how each of them was prepared for leadership. Moses a) His life history before his call to leadership The Bible, in Exodus Chapter 2-5, discusses the life of Moses from the time of his birth to that of his call. According to this section, Moses was born in Egypt by Hebrew parents. But because of an edict by Pharaoh to kill all the Hebrew baby boys, his mother was unable to raise him up from childhood to adulthood. However, by what can be termed divine providence, Howard F. Vos stated that Moses probably spent the first two or three 'years of his life with his own mother.3 The remaining period of his first forty years was spent in the palace as an adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter. Commenting on the years Moses spent in Pharaoh's palace, John C. Maxwell observed that he received the best of what Egypt offered both physically as well as intellectually. Maxwell cited Acts 7:22 which states that Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was mighty in words and deeds.4 In spite of the fact that he was raised up in Pharaoh's palace Moses acknowledged his Hebrew identity. He had to flee Egypt because he killed an Egyptian to protect an oppressed Hebrew. The next forty years of his life he spent in Midian tending the flock of Jethro. It was in Midian, at about 80 years of age that God made the surprised call to him. b) His leadership role and achievements In this section the goal is just to make a brief reflection of Moses' main task and achievements. According to John D. Hannah, in his commentary on Exodus, God commissioned Moses to deliver the children of Israel out of Egypt. He showed how that call and commission came as a complete surprise to Moses.5 Although God also promised to take the Israelites to a good and spacious land, that commission, according to Hannah, was not given to Moses. To support his point, he made reference to Stephen's statement about Moses' mission in Acts 7:35-36, implying that there was no indication that Moses was supposed to take the Israelites to the promise land.6 Moses indeed accomplished the task God gave him in spite of all his objections about his inability when God called him. This was because he accepted in faith God's assuring words that he would be with him to accomplish that mission and also because of his ambition to deliver the Israelites from slavery. Commenting on the aspect of his ambition, Ted Engstrom pointed out that "he never lost sight of his ambition and calling in life which made it possible".7 Throughout his mission these words of assurance had been a motivation for him. In addition, Maxwell rightly observed, over the course of the years in the desert, Moses' leadership improved. He cited Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, as one person who helped to make that difference in his life. Moses also accomplished something else that was not explicitly stated in scripture. D.A. Hubbard, in his article on the Pentateuch said that both Judaism and Christianity accepted without question the biblical tradition that Moses wrote the Pentateuch.8 These writings had been great materials not just for spiritual purpose but also for academic purpose. Paul a) His life history before his call to leadership According to Act 21:39;22:3, Paul was a native of Tarsus, a city of Cilicia. He was of pure Jewish descent and of the tribe of Benjamin (Phil 3:5). He was a Hebrew and a Pharisee. He spoke Greek and was familiar with Aramaic (Acts 22:2). Paul, learned tent making because it was customary that all Jewish boys learn a trade. In his book, 'Paul the Leader', Oswald J. Sanders made this observation about Paul: "all the formative years were calculated, to prepare him to be an eminent Pharisee and Rabbi like his great mentor Gamaliel".9 Paul studied under Gamaliel, a distinguished teacher of the law and of the school of Hillel. Sanders also observe that the school of Hillel embraced a broader and more liberal view in education than that of Shammai - the other distinguished school.10 In addition, Sanders stated that unlike the school of Shammai, the school of Hillel was interested in Greek literature. In that school, Paul learned to use works of Gentile authors. He surpassed his fellow-students in both academic achievements and in zeal for both God and the tradition of his fathers. He was almost a member of the Sanhedrin, the supreme legal and civil court.11 b) His leadership role and achievements Oswald Sanders, noted that Paul became a great spiritual leader when his heart and mind were captured by Jesus.12 Such statements could not have been made if Paul had not made great achievements in the role God gave him to perform. Another writer, Ted E. Engstrom gave the background to Paul's success: "a Jew living in a Greek city, and with a Roman citizenship. Both by birth and training Paul possessed the tenacity of the Jews, the culture of the Greeks and the practicality of the Romans, and these qualities enabled him to adapt to the people among whom he was to move"13. According to Acts Chapter 9, when Paul encountered the Lord Jesus he was commissioned to take the gospel message to the gentiles. Records of Paul's accomplishments of his commission can be found in Acts Chapters 13-28. These included missionary journeys to gentile territories, Church planting, training or teaching ministries among the gentiles and successful debates with secular philosophers. In addition Paul also wrote thirteen of the New Testament Epistles. In these epistles he dealt with important theological concepts like justification, sanctification and the resurrection of Christ. Various portions of defense of the Christian faith against secular philosophies are also included in these epistles. According to 2Tim. 4:7, Paul was sure he accomplished God's mission for his life when he stated that he has fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith. B. LEADERS WHO WERE MENTORED BY THEIR PREDECESSOR The second categories of leaders to be examined are those who were mentored by their predecessor. Among such leaders are Joshua, who succeeded Moses and Samuel, who succeeded Eli. These two leaders will be examined individually in this section. Joshua a) His life history before his call to leadership The Bible gave a brief family background of Joshua in Exodus 33:11; Num. 1:10. He was the son of Nun, the son of Elishama, head of the tribe of Ephraim. Apart from this background, there is no other information about him before he met Moses. The scriptures gave much focus to Joshua's mentoring relationship with Moses. This close working relationship between them can be traced in scripture. According to exodus 24:13, when Moses went up Sinai to receive the two tablets for the first time Joshua accompanied him part of the way and was the first to meet him on his return (32:17). Also when the Israelites sinned by worshiping the golden calf, Moses moved the tabernacle outside the camp and left the congregation in charge of Joshua. In addition, Joshua was one of the twelve spies sent by Moses to explore the land of Canaan. It was only after about forty years of mentoring by Moses in the desert that God directed Moses to give Joshua leadership authority over the people. In his book, 'Leadership Images from the New Testament', David Bennett mentioned four steps in developing a leader from the example of Jesus. These are: a) To develop leaders who have learned to follow b) To train within the context of personal apprenticeship. c) To make commitment to the community as well as training for a task. d) To stress on the spiritual aspects of leadership.14 These four steps can be found in the almost forty years mentoring relationship between Moses and Joshua. As Engstrom rightly puts it "Moses had the right attitude, when he knew it was time to train someone else for leadership. He was fearful of being a paternal leader and pleaded with God to give the Israelite a successor".15 This might have been one of the reasons why he devoted himself to mentor Joshua. b) His leadership role and achievements Joshua's role was made clear to him when he was commissioned as the leader of Israel. His call and commission was mediated through Moses. In Numbers 27:12-22 the Lord reminded Moses that he would not enter the promise Land and that Joshua would replace him. Moses obeyed the Lord's instructions and commissioned Joshua before the whole Israelite assembly. This commission kept Joshua in focus throughout his mission and he kept his faith in the one who called him. As Donald K. Campbell rightly observed, Joshua interceded for the nation when the Israelites sinned and were defeated.16 God's mandate was that Joshua would lead the Israelites to the Promise Land and he depended on him to accomplish that mandate. Commenting on the charge given to Joshua to be strong and courageous in Josh. 1:6, Campbell also said it was an affirmation that God would not let Joshua down.17 However this may also be seen as an indication that prior to the time he became Israel's leader he had potentials, which he needed to build up in leadership. Details of how Joshua accomplished his mission have been recorded in the book of Joshua. The conquest of Canaan was however not an easy one but Joshua's training as a military leader and his dependence upon God gave him added advantage. He made mistakes but he learned from his mistakes. Samuel a) His life history before his call to leadership According to John C. Maxwell, Samuel was special from the time he was born because he was an answer to prayer. He further commented that, as young child, Samuel was placed in the care of Eli the High priest and Judge of Israel.18 This revealed that the mentoring relationship between Eli and Samuel started quite early in Samuel's life. Like Joshua, Samuel stayed in the same place with his mentor. In addition, at a very early age, God began to speak directly to him and that motivated him to reverence and serve God faithfully. The role played by Hannah in initiating this mentoring relationship should not be overlooked. McChesney and Unger said that it was a vow that Hannah made to dedicate Samuel to the Lord as a Nazarite.19 b) His Leadership Role and Achievements To better understand and appreciate Samuel's achievements, one should first examine the religious, political and social situations prior to his assumption to leadership. Eugene H, Merrill rightly observed that "the 300 or so years of the history of Israel under the Judges were marked by political, moral, and spiritual anarchy and deterioration". It was in this background, where all seemed to have failed that Samuel was groomed and also took up leadership.20 With reference to his achievements, "Samuel's level of influence with the people continued to increase throughout his lifetime. As a prophet, he was respected because he spoke from God. But in time Samuel also became Israel's Judge, a position similar to that of a king. He was the nation's civil and military leader. Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life".21 Indeed, only leaders with certain qualities can achieve what Samuel achieved. It was that kind of excellent leadership that God was looking for in order to address the deteriorating situation in Israel. Israel enjoyed a time of peace during Samuel's reign. C. LEADERS WHO ASSUME LEADERSHIP AS A RESULT OF A CRISIS During the period between the death of Joshua and the start of Samuel's leadership, many people ruled Israel as Judges. All of them came to leadership as a result of a crisis need. Gideon and Samson were two of the Judges who ruled Israel at that time. They will be examined in this section, as representatives of the Judges, to determine whether they were prepared for their leadership roles. Gideon a) His life history before his call to leadership In Judges chapter 6-8 the Bible gave a brief historic account of Gideon's family background. He was the son of Joash the Abiezrite. He was also of the tribe of Manasseh. One may want to suggest that Gideon had no quality or potential for leadership before he became a leader. This assumption is proved wrong in the light of the angel's greetings to Gideon - "mighty man of valor" (Judg. 6:12). As Joyce Peel rightly said, "the angel calls out his hidden qualities which we see developing in the rest of the story".22 It can be seen that Gideon already had faith in God from a question he asked the angel - where are all the wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, "Did not the lord bring us up out of Egypt?" His parents have made him realize that in the past they have depended on God for survival. However, Gideon wanted an assurance that it was the God of his fathers talking to him, so he asked God to give him a sign (:17). Joyce Peel's comment on Gideon's request is that "it isn't for the sort of sign an unbeliever asks to evade a challenge but for a sign to confirm to a believer who is ready to obey".23 Gideon was convinced that God was speaking to him and based on that fact he responded to the call to meet the Midianite crisis. b) His Leadership Role and Achievements Gideon was called to perform a specific role and that was to deliver Israel from the Midianites. He had a clear vision in mind as to what he had to do. He also believed that he could accomplish his goal because he had the assurance of God. In addition he had inner qualities, which gave him enough courage to move into action, even though he started at night. Gideon delivered the Israelites from the Midianites' oppression but he first brought them back to faith in God. However, immediately after his death the people turned back to their foreign gods. Samson a) His life history before his call to leadership In Judges Chapter 13-16 the Bible gave an account of Samson's life. Samson was the son of Manoah of Zorah and of the tribe of Dan. His birth was foretold to his parents by an angel. They were also told that he would be a Nazarite to God from the womb Iudg. 13:2-5,24). The Bible also says in Judg 3:24-25 that God blessed him and that the spirit of God began to stir him up while he was in Mahaneh Dan. From this account it can be observed that Samson was a man of unusual strength. In Hebrews 11:32 he was recognized as of the great men of faith. During Samson's time the philistines were suppressing the Israelites. b) His leadership role and achievements Samson's call and commission was mediated through his parents. According to Judges 13:5 he was to start the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the philistines. As John Mazwell rightly points out, "despite his good start, Samson got himself into trouble many times, and in the end he finished poorly: he was weak, blind and enslaved by the enemy from whom he was supposed to deliver his people."24 Samson had the opportunity of becoming a great leader but his despicable character destroyed his leadership. Conclusion Three categories of leaders have been examined in this chapter to prove that the people that God called to leadership in the Bible were always prepared for their tasks. The first category of leaders were those whose call came as a surprise to them. The second were those who were mentored by their predecessor and the third, were those who responded to a crisis. It was proved that all of these leaders had some form of preparation necessary for their particular calling. These preparations may come from God, their parents, religious background, formal education or a mentor. Therefore one could conclude that God does not call any person to leadership who had not been prepared. God's call or one preparation does not guarantee success because the preparation for effective leadership does not end with one's call.

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