The following is an excerpt from Dr. John’s book, BIBLICAL HEADSHIP: Making Sense Of Submission To Authority. Follow this link to obtain your copy of BIBLICAL HEADSHIP today.

God’s authority is supreme, but not all people are willing to submit to His authority. In a theocracy, however, no one should question His authority. 

Authority is the right or power to establish order and enforce standards. Delegated authority is the responsibility to act on behalf of a superior actual authority. With these definitions in place, we can easily see how the principle of delegation operates. Authority is assigned to individual leaders who oversee the well-being of others. In the family and in the church, the delegation of authority directly affects the spiritual development and ministry of others. 

Authority within the church is established by appointment rather than by election, or it should be. Of course, most denominational churches operate through some form of electoral process. Still, true authority comes from the top down, from God to men. 

In the story of Moses, the Bible provides a very revealing look into how delegation works. It is found in EXODUS 18:13–27

It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening. Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?” Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do. Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.” So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. They judged the people at all times; the difficult dispute they would bring to Moses, but every minor dispute they themselves would judge. (NASB) 

Moses was the delegated leader of Israel, handpicked by God to deliver the children of Israel from the bondage of slavery. The Bible uses the term judge to define his role. Perhaps a better word would be pastor or apostle, though neither is used in this context. 

Beyond leading the entire nation, Moses also served as the arbiter in disputes, the counselor in crises, the voice of spiritual reason, and the administrator of strategy, logistics, and implementation. He was also the go-between and the designated travel agent—too many responsibilities for any man, even Moses. It was pastoral ministry to the max. From morning until evening, he was consumed with petty disputes, chaotic struggles, family arguments . . . whatever. What pastor cannot relate to this scenario? 

Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, who was old and wise and well acquainted with Moses, saw the problem and spoke up. “You will surely wear out,” or, using twenty-first- century lingo, “You’ll burn out if you try to do everything by yourself.” 

Fathers-in-law cannot always speak to their daughters’ husbands easily. But Moses had lived in Jethro’s household for forty years. After defeating Egypt and traipsing around in the desert, Moses was probably not prepared to receive counsel from anyone else. His unique calling was without precedent in history. His role was too large, too demanding for him to listen to just anyone. But Jethro had his ear and could speak to him in his burned-out condition. “I will give you counsel and God be with you.” 

What an encouraging way to gain Moses’ ear: “and God be with you.” It is a vital understanding for any delegated authority to know that God is with you. You are His called and chosen leader. He must be with you. 

So Jethro offered counsel. “You be the people’s representative before God.” That should be a primary function of a pastor, to pray and intercede for the people. But he or she must also teach them the way and equip them for ministry. Perhaps Jethro had a revelation of a New Testament pastor before anyone else. 

Stop and consider. Moses, the mighty apostolic figure, the man called of God to lead a nation, was burned out. He split the Red Sea but struggled at pastoring the people. So his father-in-law, who was a priest of Midian, had a revelation from God. What other authority figure was in Moses’ life whom he could respect or submit to? 

“Hey, Moses, you’re messing up. Let me give you some fatherly advice.” Moses recognized the truth when he heard it and took the advice. That is one of the things that made him a great leader. He could change the way he did things when he realized what he was doing wasn’t right. 

There have been times when I have discovered I’m not doing something exactly right. When I make such a discovery, I change. That’s why I am connected with a broad-based group of apostles. They help me recognize when I’m making mistakes. Everyone needs to be connected to others who can help them to identify weaknesses, flaws, or problems in their lives. If not, people become blind to them and just keep making the same mistakes. 


Although Jethro was a priest in Midian, he was also a shepherd and understood sheep. The Greek word for pastor is poimen, which actually means shepherd. Throughout the Bible, sheep are used as an analogy for people, and rightly so. We often act more like sheep than like people. 

Moses was doing many things right, but as a judge, he was not doing well. And this is the point where Jethro had a revelation of the pastoral side of Moses’ ministry. What a blessing for Moses that his father-in-law could see what he could not and provide a solution that Moses could understand. “Don’t try to do everything by yourself; you have leaders who can help you.” Delegate authority to others. Let them carry the burden with you.

What you just read is an excerpt from Dr. John’s book, BIBLICAL HEADSHIP: Making Sense Of Submission To Authority. Follow this link to obtain your copy of BIBLICAL HEADSHIP today.


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