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Summary: Message 15 shows Jethro's advice to Mose about his administration as a warning to pastors who try to do too much, without delegating some of the work to others,, especially lay church leaders



Exodus 18

D. The Steps to Sinai

3. The Management Problem

There was a certain pastor who disappeared every Friday afternoon around four o’clock. He would get in his car, drive off, and come back in about an hour. His wife was a little worried and was more than a little curious. And so, one Friday, she followed him.

He drove up a mountain on a small winding road, got out of his car and sat on a huge rock overlooking the valley below. In a little while he walked back to his car and there stood his wife. Honey, what in the world are you doing?, asked his wife. He pointed in the distance to the train that had just passed through the valley and said – every week I like to see something move without me having to promote and push it,

Like most modern ministers he spent a lot of time and effort getting nowhere except to the verge of a nervous breakdown or the trash dump of burnout. Well, this problem is far from modern. Moses, God’s pastor for Israel, was headed in the same direction, until he was confronted with some sound advice from Jethro, his father-in-law.

You remember the setting. Moses had led the people of God out of Israel. They had passed through the Red Sea, defeated the Amalekites, and were on their way south to Sinai. Jethro brought Moses’ wife and two sons - his daughter and grandsons - to be with Moses. Moses told him about the mighty acts of God and this Midianite priest (Ex. 2:7) became a believer and sacrificed to the Lord (Ex. 18:1-13).

The next day Jethro saw something that disturbed him. He saw Moses, the leader of several million people, sit down and from morning until night, settle disputes and make judgments, as the people came to him with their problems.

Now most in-laws are wise to keep their opinions to themselves, but this was one time when advice was needed and wisely heeded. Jethro said, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out” (18:17-18). Then he went on and told him to select some good and godly men to help him.

He could judge the serious matters, but he should delegate most of what he was doing to others. Moses did just that. And what a tribute to him! Here was a wise pastor with the humility and the common sense to listen not only to his father-in-law, but to a new convert. We pastors who are so slow to take advice should remember the words of Harry Truman - it’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.

Now an amazing thing about this passage is that the same thing happened again in the New Testament. When the church, led by the Apostles, moved out to turn the world right side up, the devil saw to it that the Apostles, like Moses, were burdened down with things other people could and should be doing.

You remember the setting in Acts six. The huge Jerusalem church, numbering probably in the thousands, had a ministry of distributing food to poorer widows. One group, the Greek speaking widows, felt they were not being treated fairly and brought their complaints to the church.

The Apostles did not correct the problem, they delegated it to others. They said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2b-4).

The men elected may not have been deacons in the strict meaning of the word, but certainly they were the forerunners of deacons, teachers, committee members and all other laymen who work with the Pastor to fulfill the ministries of the church. Many a burdened pastor, like that poor man watching the train, would be wise to follow the principles and practices of these two passages.


The first thing these passages reveal is a serious problem. These are not trivial. Ministerial burnout is a life and death matter. It leaves in its trail, broken hearts, broken homes, blasted dreams, and broken bodies. Even with the help of his mighty men, the ministry was almost too much for Moses to bear.

Listen to his agony in Numbers 11: “Moses said to the Lord, Why pick on me to give me the burden of a people like this? . . . I can’t carry this nation by myself. The load is far too heavy. If you are going to treat me like this, please tell me right now; it will be a kindness! Let me out of this impossible situation!” (Nu. 11:11; 14-15, Living Bible).

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Mr. Loren D

commented on Jun 22, 2017

I am enjoying reading your series on the life of Moses. Good job! I noticed that a couple say __of 20 sermons... I was just wondering if you are still working on this series or did you stop at 15?

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