Leaders Don’t Defend Themselves


When I was in seminary, I remember receiving counsel on several occasions that went something like this, “When you’re in the ministry, it doesn’t do any good to defend yourself. You’re going to be accused of wrongdoing and of mishandling situations and one of the worst things you can do is try to defend yourself.” I always wondered, then what on earth are you supposed to do? As the years have gone by and God has given me more and more experiences the local church, I’ve come to really appreciate this advice and find it to be absolutely true. A Pastor who is obsessed with defending himself and his own reputation will never be a good shepherd, because his focus is entirely inward on what people think of him.

I was reminded of this principle recently when reading through the book of Numbers. Numbers 16 contains the account of Korah’s rebellion against Moses in the wilderness, the account begins:

Now Korah…took men. And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” (vv. 1-3)

Apparently Korah did not like the fact that Moses was calling the shots in this congregation, so he gathered a group of malcontents and complained about the direction Moses was taking the congregation. Sound familiar? Korah was even able to appeal to the priesthood of believers in his argument against Moses’ leadership! The story continues:

When Moses heard it, he fell on his face, and he said to Korah and all his company, “In the morning the Lord will show who is his, and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. The one whom he chooses he will bring near to him.

What strikes me about Moses’ leadership is the fact that at no point during this entire ordeal does he defend himself. He simply refers the complainers back to God, who is the one they are really complaining about.

Apparently, Korah had gathered a substantial following because the next day when God does answer he very nearly destroys the entire congregation for their rebellion against Moses’ leadership. In fact, Moses’ has to intervene to stop God’s wrath from breaking out against the entire body. The story concludes with these words:

Then Moses rose…and he spoke to the congregation, saying, “Depart, please, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be swept away with all their sins.”…And Moses said, “Hereby you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord. If these men die as all men die, or if they are visited by the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the Lord.

And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly…And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men offering incense (vv. 25-35).

As I reflect back on this troy, here are a couple more leadership lessons that have been impressed upon me.

  • People will complain no matter what. The Israelites experienced miracle after miracle from the hand of Moses and yet they still grumbled against him. I’m convinced that as Larry Osborne says, “Some people would vote against the second coming if given the opportunity.” Some people will just complain no matter what.
  • When dealing with rebellion and complacency refer the complainers back to God. The worst thing you can do in the midst of church controversy is to take it personally. Ultimately, even your doctrine is not your own it is God’s and He is more than able to defend it.
  • Be Courageous. When speaking on behalf of God, it is good and right to be bold and courageous. We never want to shrink back from speaking the truth in love, even in the midst of controversy.
  • Entrust yourself to the sovereign care of God. God probably wont’ open the earth to swallow up the complainers in your office, but He has certainly proved Himself to be more than capable of taking care of His own.
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April 11 2011 04:00 am | Devotional

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