Disciplemaking, Church Multiplication and the Wisdom of Jethro

Church planter? Disciplemaker? COVID-19 pastor? All three have much to learn from an ancient multiplication leader/driver.

We tend to romanticize modernity. This social evolution paradigm mistakenly confuses technical developments with elements of civilization and social constructs. Sure, democracy as we know it is relatively new, but some things never change (Solomon said that, I think).

Take distribution of effort, for example. Humans have been busy gathering power, control and stress for eons. That Pharaoh who might have been Moses’ step-brother didn’t trust his advisors. Neither would Saul wait for Samuel. And you might be a little too central to your own game to trust the very people who could lighten your load and broaden your footprint. You are not Superman. Me either!

Moses was a lot like too many pastors I know. He was diligent, responsible and a great candidate for an emotional blowout. His rescue came in the form of his father-in-law.

Un-crushing a Superpastor

Noticing his daughter’s husband straining under a load too heavy to bear, he intervened. Not that Moses did a bad job at his job—somehow the disputes among a half-million people were being resolved. The problem was in the crushing load on Moses and the better-than-that service that could have been if only Moses had understood what a roadblock to relationships he presented to his people. Think of Moses as a superpastor in two ways. He led a lot of people and what he asked of himself was superhuman–and bound to break.

Perhaps Moses was effective as a judge, perhaps not. We’ll never know for sure. What we do know is that A. he was going to break B. he stood in the way of multiplied leadership in ancient Israel. Not unlike some who will read these words.

Rather than focus on visible resources, like logistics and perhaps a pillow for Moses backache, Jethro looked to what was yet unseen. His advice was a strong bet on the leadership skills of people he had never met. He must have trusted the Creator to imprint himself on his creation. God is a leader whom we constantly ask to guide us. He made us in his image. Therefore, humans come with built-in leadership qualities. Qualities that they, themselves, may overlook—a single mom herding three kids through Walmart comes to mind.

Jethro believed that there were thousands of people capable of most of what Moses did for the people. More leaders, less burden for the guy in the middle. More leaders, better service for those they serve. It’s a simple equation.

Once Moses implemented Jethro’s advice all that was left for him was finding several thousand leaders, empowering and releasing them to the task and teaching God’s laws from his central position.

Online Church that Maintains a Building, Not the Other Way Around

So, why am I going on about this? Because yesterday I spoke with one of my disciples, now surpassing me in many ways. This guy is reaching more than 50,000 people through COVID-driven video services and hastily organized Zoom microchurches. The kicker is twofold.

The church has decided to become an online entity while maintaining a brick-and-mortar presence rather than a big box with a TV camera. This turnabout, by itself, is a massive decision. It’s made possible by the wisdom of Jethro—a willingness to quickly engage, process and release semi-strangers into the harvest. Did I mention that they now operate in every time zone on the planet? Or that they lead this church from the most remote set of islands in the world? Hawaii is further from a land mass than any other such paradise.

Would you call this multi-site? Multi-mini-site? Or, what? I don’t know. I do know that one goal is to turn many locations (if you can call an online entity in a particular city a “location”) into autonomous congregations. Whatever it is, the harvesters are many—yet still too few. And, we can all learn to trust God in people we may not know that well, certainly those with whom we have the benefit of face-to-face contact.

Technology and training systems aside. What I just described looks a lot more like Moses, post Jethro than pre. It feels more like churches stemming from Antioch and Ephesus than the crowd in Jerusalem. Is there a lesson here for you? I hope so.

I love it when you send emails about the insights on this blog. Love it more when you say those nice (sometimes even nasty) things in the comment box below. Your thoughts encourage me. Why not share them with the rest of the folks who build community around this site? I’m pretty sure not many congregations have flipped to online as the mainframe with whatever happens in buildings as a side note. Would be interested to know your responses, or you may know a story that the rest of us should hear. Just saying…