“Sharing the Burdens We Bear” — A meditation for pastors and other leaders


“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”
— Ralph Nader 

Before proceeding, take a minute to read Exodus 18:13-23.

In my devotions recently, this passage from Exodus 18 caused me to pause and reflect. I am sure you remember the story: Moses serves as the judge of the Israelite community and settles the disputes of the people from morning until night. It is a huge responsibility and a sacred calling. The people need Moses, and, in return, Moses feels called to serve the people. Maybe you can resonate with Moses.

One day Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, comes to visit and sees throngs of people lined up around the tent. And Jethro says to Moses: “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?   …What you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you.”

Really listen to what Jethro says to Moses. He not only warms Moses that his mode of operation will cause harm to Moses himself, but he also warns that it will have repercussions for those whom Moses serves.

Of course, Moses, at first, is unwilling to hear the words of Jethro. He gives Jethro a list of reasons why he must be the one to be the one to judge the people: “When they have a dispute, they come to me…”   But Jethro refutes Moses’ indispensability complex: “the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone…” Find others who can help you, Jethro tells Moses.

God has created us dependent on one another. Jesus didn’t do all the work of the Gospel. Jesus called together 12 disciples and equipped them for the work of ministry. Those disciples, in turn, equipped others. And 2 by 2 they went, sharing the work of ministry.

Remember Jethro’s words: “they will bear the burden with you.” Jethro refuses to let us sacrifice ourselves or our churches in our false belief that we need to do everything on our own.

Moses was on a course to burnout. And likely, if Moses had not listened to Jethro, he would have caused harm to himself and to his whole community. I give thanks for the Jethro’s of my life who keep me accountable. Jethro is willing to ask me if I take time each day for spiritual disciplines. Jethro asks me when I last went on vacation. Jethro questions my mode of operation and Jethro calls me to account when I get stuck in my own ego.

I hope you have a Jethro in your life. Someone who can remind you that your worth is not found in what you do, but in who you are as God’s own. And when you hear Jethro speak, I pray you will listen. Go out and find others to bear the burden with you. It will not only save you; it may save the whole faith community as well.

Together in Ministry, Dawn

By the Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, Southeast District Superintendent
Copied with permission from The Southeast District E-News, July 22, 2015