The whole community was in an uproar, wailing all night long. All the People of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The entire community was in on it: "Why didn't we die in Egypt? Or in this wilderness? Why has GOD brought us to this country to kill us? Our wives and children are about to become plunder. Why don't we just head back to Egypt? And right now!" (Numbers 14:1-3 MSG).
There was no water there for the community, so they ganged up on Moses and Aaron. They attacked Moses: "We wish we'd died when the rest of our brothers died before GOD. Why did you haul this congregation of GOD out here into this wilderness to die, people and cattle alike? And why did you take us out of Egypt in the first place, dragging us into this miserable country? No grain, no figs, no grapevines, no pomegranates—and now not even any water!" (Numbers 20:2-5 MSG).
On the other hand, seven times Moses directly encounters the glory of God in this journey.** Moses ascended into the glory of God on the mountain to receive the tablets of Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:1-18). Moses wouldn't lead without knowing God's glory went with them (Exodus 33:12-23). Moses experienced the glory of God in the Tent of Meeting (Leviticus 9:23; Numbers 16:42; Numbers 20:6). The book of Deuteronomy ends with this incredible description of Moses:
There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. The LORD sent him to perform all the miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, and all his servants, and his entire land. With mighty power, Moses performed terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel (Deuteronomy 34:10-12 NLT).
Moses experienced the glory of God. Moses knew the glory God had planned for his people. Moses longed to see God's glorious plans come true in them and for them. Yet, Moses found much of his time spent with people who were unappreciative, constantly complaining, and repeatedly grumbling about their problems rather than being willing to follow God and do what God asks of them. Moses spent most of his life living where most of our church leaders live today: caught between glory and grumbling.
So let me ask you a simple question. When was the last time you…
- Complimented a church leader?
- Praised your church leaders to your family?
- Thanked God for your church leaders and asked God's blessing on them in your private prayers?
- Spoke up about good things your church leaders do in front of your friends and fellow church members?
We face a growing crisis in churches everywhere: godly, servant-hearted, God-intentioned leaders — and I'm especially talking about volunteer leaders versus paid ministers — are increasingly choosing not to serve because they know the toll it has taken on others or has already taken on them. This vacuum often leads to others less spiritually qualified taking control and working their own agendas and not serving out of God's call to serve.
Many of our best leaders, volunteers and vocational leaders are weary, discouraged, and beaten up from their time of service. Others who know their hearts and who might have served, simply choose not to do so, or do so unofficially so they are not "in the line of fire" of leadership because they have seen the toll it takes. They've seen leaders doing their best to honor God in challenging times, with complex situations, and controversial issues only to have their character assassinated and their motivation questioned.
Yes, most of us have seen our share of bad leaders. Yes, many of our church systems are desperately in need of overhaul. But, we've also been blessed by many good leaders over the years. The difference is that we have focused on the bad and we've seldom taken time to rejoice in the good. Our kids grow up on a steady diet of hearing their church leaders criticized and then we wonder why they don't want to commit to life in the organized church.
If Moses, the greatest godly leader other than Jesus, faced great discouragement because of all the belly-aching he had to put up with, imagine how spiritually exhausting it is to those who don't get to experience the full glory of God as he did! So let's make a commitment to compliment, bless, praise, support, and encourage those who are godly and trying to lead God's people. Who knows, we may find that our leaders are better than we thought and our leaders may discover what it's like to live closer to glory than to grumbling.