TODAY’S READING: Deuteronomy 17–20
Missional Moses was preaching away to his people—a people who were both a family and an army. Moses, heir to Abraham, had not forgotten the purposes or covenantal promises of Jehovah: We are blessed that all people groups of the world would be blessed. We must live in such a way that Jehovah can abide among us, and when we do so, we receive and pass on Jehovah’s blessings to His great delight and our further benefit—and that of the whole world.
In His speech, Moses laid out principles of missionary leadership—principles practical for his context and for today’s ongoing work among the unreached:
- Missionary leaders make better decisions when they are responsible for the consequences of those decisions. Witnesses who condemned others to death were to be the first to take up stones and enforce the punishment (Deut. 17:7). There is no room in missions for executives to hide behind their decisions, remote from the field in their ivory palaces. Every missionary leader should be a disciple maker. Our leadership decisions have to be grounded in the reality of our hands in the dirt and of our lives affected by what we decree.
- Missionary leaders are not to abuse their positions by amassing physical, relational, or financial resources for themselves (vv. 16–17). Subtle is the shift between Kingdom good and personal advancement. Missionary leaders are not exempt from building relational consortiums that either protect them from correction or blind them to what needs to be done.
- Missionary leaders are most fruitful when they remember the Lord is their inheritance (18:2). When we are consumed with legacy, we focus on programs over the presence of the Lord and end up losing both. When we as leaders focus on Jesus, He leads us to fruitful programs. Oh, that our leaders would leave us the legacy of simply having Jesus.
- Missionary leaders need to guide their colleagues to a robust, non-compromising missiology that makes no room for syncretism. There are abominations that we are not appointed to partner with, adapt, or mimic (vv. 9, 14). The “no” of missionary leadership is as important as the “yes.”
- Missionary leaders need to use their pulpit cautiously. To use position to speak presumptuously will not end well for speaker or listener (v. 20). But the leader who speaks what God puts in his mouth (v. 5), however unpopular, will give life. Missional leadership communication should be prophetic, flowing from what was heard while abiding in the presence of the Lord.
- Missionary leaders need to empower second chances for their hard-headed missionaries who make mistakes as well as for their tender-hearted missionaries who get chewed up by the hard-heads (19:1–13). Providing recourse, refuge, and restarts is one of the great gifts a missionary leader can give to his or her flock.
- Missionary leaders deal quickly and ruthlessly with those who cause disunion (v. 19). False witness and division are evil, and we should have a zero-tolerance policy for those who do not follow the dictates of Matthew 18 for peacemaking and reconciliation.
- Missionary leaders need to appoint missionaries who are unafraid to take on overwhelming odds and who are not afraid to die (20:1–9). In leadership, it is better we find the unafraid (of impossibilities or death) and position them for battle. We need missionaries who trust the Lord is with us (v. 1) and fighting for us (v. 4) despite appearances to the contrary.
- Missionary leaders need to have a sanctified ruthlessness. In order to have a single eye, some things can’t be allowed to live or breathe (v. 16). A tender toughness to recognize spirit-led deaths allows the focus of Spirit-led life and growth.
- Missionary leaders need to have a sanctified conservationism. Not all the trees of a local culture have to be destroyed (v. 19). Missionary leaders help their colleagues do the hard work of contextualization, seeing what the Bible can affirm and redeem, and planning for that cultural redemption early in the church planting process.