I never studied management theory during my undergraduate days at UW. However, I've always possessed a logical mind, an affinity for numbers, and a concern for Justice, ... so reading Exodus 18 certainly grabbed my attention.
Moses successfully led the Israelites out of Egypt, but their problems didn't simply evaporate into thin desert air. People had disputes with others, neighbors with neighbors. "Hey, that's my camel!" "No, it's mine!" "She stole my manna!" "But he stole my quail!"
Moses' wise father-in-law (Jethro) visits the Israelite camp and sees Moses run ragged by the peoples' haranguing demands for justice over minor disputes. Jethro offers sage advice, something like this:
"Moses, what you're doing isn't good... it'll only wear you out. The task is too large for you. Do this instead: Set up leaders over 1000's, 100's, 50's, and 10's. That way, the simpler disputes can be settled by these leaders; the more difficult cases can rise up through the system to you."
That is Management 101, at Mt. Sinai University.
What It Looks Like
Below is a diagram I created (and spent entirely too much time on!) to illustrate the Organizational Chart of Moses leading God's people in the desert. You will notice a thick black line that traces the connection between Moses and every individual, by way of various leaders who oversee groups of 1000's, 100's, 50's, and 10's:
Note the following from the chart:
- While the "Yellow Circle Man" oversees 1,000 people, his primary concern are the 10 Blue Leaders below him (in the chart). Similarly, while the "Blue Leader Man" oversees 100 people, his primary concern are the two Orange Leaders below him. While the "Orange Leader Man" oversees 50 people, his primary concern are the five Green Leaders below him. And finally, the "Green Leader Man" oversees 10 Purple People.
- Logistically, this makes caring for 1,000 doable.
- No leader's direct charges every rise above 10 individuals, though the higher on the organizational chart, the greater the responsibility the leader has for everyone.
- Only the biggest needs will rise to Moses; most will be adjudicated at lower levels of leadership.
- The effect? Moses won't wear out by being reactive to every emergency grievance of the people, but will have margin to be proactive in teaching the people God's ways and praying for them.
The New Testament Model
In the early church, a dispute spun up between new Christians, some of Jewish descent and others of Greek descent (Acts 6). The apostles were called in and made a very "Jethro-like" decision. They recognized that this matter could be solved better by putting some other men in charge – delegation – to meet the needs. Those men were called 'Deacons' and seven were chosen to handle the situation.
What's most notable is the Apostles' reasoning for the decision: "We will turn this responsibility over to them (the deacons), and will give our attention to Prayer and the ministry of the Word." Just like Moses did. The Apostles recognized that their primary calling was to be proactive to teaching God's Word to his people and praying for them ... not to be reactive to every minor crisis that came along.
Finally, there is a tangential sense in which Jesus actually turned this idea of leadership upside-down. I don't mean to suggest that Jesus was more reactive than proactive in bringing justice to the earth (He certainly was fully both, to the perfect degree). But I do mean that he introduced a new view of leadership entirely, essentially flipping every organizational chart on its head. The true leader will be the servant ... of all. Anything less isn't leadership. How to do that in 21st century America isn't crystal clear, but is the standard to strive for, for every servant-leader today.