We concluded in the last article that delegation is a key component within the work of God’s redemptive plan. As the workers, we have received instructions and principles from Scripture to delegate effectively. We surveyed some of those passages and took a deeper dive into Exodus 18, where Moses’ father-in-law basically says, “Start delegating or you’ll work yourself to death.”
In part 3 of this series, we will explore why Moses had to be told to delegate. What obstacles stopped him from delegating before Jethro talked some sense into him? Why did he come to utter despair before he recognized the need to delegate? This will help us consider our own obstacles that must be overcome in order to delegate well in collegiate ministry.
Unfortunately, we won’t be able to find conclusive answers to these questions. Scripture doesn’t tell us why Moses seemed content to cater to endless lines of grumbling Israelites from dusk to dawn on his own (Exodus 18:13). Some might suggest that Moses, in his pride, didn’t want to delegate to the lowly Israelites who might rob him of his glory. Anyone familiar with Moses’s character will know that this was likely not the case. A quick look back at his humility during the burning bush incident will dispel such assumptions. Though there are a few theories we could discuss, there is one that seems plausible from the text and is also applicable to campus missionaries:
Moses was hesitant to delegate because he didn’t trust his people.
We are hesitant to delegate because we don’t trust our people.
I remember when I first read through the Old Testament, I was astounded by how often the Israelites blatantly messed up. They received signs, wonders, and even heard the audible voice of the Lord, yet failed to trust God and Moses at even the slightest hint of coming hardship. In chapter 18 of Exodus, we meet up with a burned-out Moses who has led an ungrateful, untrusting rabble since leaving Egypt. We can assume that it would have been difficult for Moses to trust any of these unfaithful people with leadership positions. When Jethro tells Moses in Exodus 18:21 to, “select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain…” I can almost hear Moses exclaim, “There are no such men!”
For campus missionaries, we sometimes find ourselves saying, “There are no such students!” Our students mess up, they lack maturity, and sometimes they grumble just as much as those Israelites. It’s difficult for us to view our students as adults who can be trusted, and when we do trust and delegate, some of our students sin and mess up in major ways. However, before your heads nod and an “amen” rolls off your lips, let’s remember our conclusion from Part 1 of this series: The real problem with delegation is not our students; it’s us.
Moses might tell us that he struggled with delegation because the Israelites were untrustworthy, but the counsel from Jethro indicates that Moses struggled with delegation because he didn’t trust the Israelites. This is circular reasoning, of course, but Moses is the one who was found at fault, not the Israelites. The real problem with delegation was Moses, not the Israelites. God had raised up and prepared leaders even within the unfaithful, untrusting, quick to go astray Israelites, and Moses’s task was to trust them—or at least trust God.
It’s unlikely that your students have melted down their jewelry, cast it into a golden calf, and engaged in pagan idol worship. If God raised up leaders within those idolatrous and unfaithful Israelites, God is certainly doing the same in your students who mess up sometimes. Or has the Lord not raised up you, campus minster, who indeed messes up sometimes as well?
My colleagues in campus ministry are humble and often say, “I would have never hired myself!” We acknowledge our mistakes and shortcomings that should have kept us from qualifying for service to the Lord, and we continue to make mistakes in service to Him, do we not? If God raised us up, campus ministers who were unworthy, some unqualified, and who continue to fall short, God is certainly doing the same in our students who we share much more in common with us than we would like to think."If God raised us up, campus ministers who were unworthy, some unqualified, and who continue to fall short, God is certainly doing the same in our students who we share much more in common with us than we would like the think."… Click To Tweet
Our Lord delegates, and His Word compels us to do the same. Jethro’s counsel was simple and obvious; “You will bring yourself and your people to ruin if you don’t delegate.” We have a desperate need for delegation, but how do we delegate when we, like Moses, find it difficult to trust our people? Our practical application is this: if you can’t trust your students, trust the One who saved them, sanctifies them, and perfects their sometimes messy faith.
The first step in trusting our students is trusting the Lord. The source of our struggle to delegate is no different than any other in the Christian life—we don’t trust the Lord. The solution to this struggle is no different than any other in the Christian life—trust the Lord.