Keeping the Team Aligned with Your Vision

 

This past week I've been spending a considerable amount of my reading time studying Exodus chapters 24-32. To give you some context, Moses returns from a conversation with God and the people respond with tremendous devotion and a promise to obey God's commands. Moses takes his seventy trusted leaders part way up Mount Sinai and they can see a portion of God and really get the vision. God then calls Moses up the mountain and for forty days gives him more mentoring. Chapter 32, however, highlights what happens with the rest of the people during Moses' absence.

Vision

While Moses is up with God and after they promised God and Moses to follow the commandments, the people get antsy and need something new. In a short time they are ready to move on. "Where's Moses? Is he coming back?"

And, Aaron, Moses most trusted adviser and partner in the escape and exodus decides to mold a golden calf idol to appease the people. Amazing.

My first question is this: What was it about Moses' leadership that caused not only his people, but his trusted inner circle to turn away so quickly from the vision? I am really struggling with this because this is a core issue for any leader – how do I keep my people and my leadership team aligned with the vision in spite of the circumstances, challenges and craziness of today?

I'm not blaming these people, we do it all the time. Unless the leader is a micro-managing dictator, people stray from the vision and want something different or new if we're not effectively leading. Or, they get trapped into their own world and don't remember the forest for the umpteen urgent trees in front of them.

My second question:  Where were the seventy inner circle leaders? Scripture doesn't mention them. Why didn't they make a stand and hold firm to the vision? What was missing in Moses' leadership that caused them to fall away seemingly as quickly as the people?

I would really enjoy hearing from you. What do you do to help your people and your leaders (both above you and below you) hold firm to the vision?

I look forward to hearing from you.

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5 Responses to “Keeping the Team Aligned with Your Vision”

  1. Don O says:

    Thank you for sharing about your studies. It has been my experience to try and maintain relationships with those you lead in that you demonstrate your commitment to their success. In the absence of that connection, it is easy to lose sight of the vision.
    The same thing is true in our spiritual walk. Even though as believers we all have testimonies of God working in our lives just like in Exodus, we occasionally separate ourselves from God and our sinful nature can take over. All of us need to be encouraged and continually nudged in the right direction to stay focused on the overall plan. Thankfully, we serve a loving and forgiving God.
    In the end, it takes an on-going commitment to invest in the lives of others, and have a relationship that allows others to invest in you.

  2. Jeffrey McPheeters says:

    That’s a powerful observation. It occurred to me, at first, that Moses’ seventy just didn’t catch the vision for themselves; and maybe without God’s Spirit within them, it wasn’t possible. But then I remembered that David’s mighty men took complete ownership of David’s vision, in that they vanquished the giants in the land and did even greater deeds than David had done.
    Perhaps Moses eventually learned some of these lessons with the help of his father-in-law who instructed or advised him on other occasions to delegate some of the tasks and responsibilities before he wore himself out.

  3. don says:

    I don’t think the other people *had* the vision – not that the 70 hadn’t seen God, but that they didn’t know what to do with that vision, in order to renew their minds and change their behavior.
    They had just left Egypt, where there was a very sophisticated, polytheistic religion that also had some (dark) spiritual power available to it. Suddenly Moses comes back after 40 years, confronts the Egyptian leadership with demands, the people see some miracles, and they finally leave Egypt.
    We all know what God’s plan was: lead them to the Promised Land and, over 40 years (as it turned out) in the desert, burn out the polytheism in them, turn their allegiance to him as their only God, as well as kill their slave-victim mentality.
    But the people – even the 70 and likely Aaron – didn’t know that. I mean, they didn’t *know* that in their hearts. God was not yet their Good Shepherd, and it’s clear they really didn’t trust him at that point.
    There’s no indication in Exodus at that point of Moses taking the time to “cast the vision” to the people, so it’s likely the average person’s understanding of where and why they were going was pretty minimal. It’s easy for us to wonder why they didn’t buy-in to Moses and this YHWH deity, but I think if we’d been there we might have been shoving all our gold at Aaron, too. After all, Moses disappeared, leaving no instructions, for over a month. Apparently God didn’t send any updates to Aaron by angelic cellphone, so the people were left with an unsupported faith in Moses’ return.
    And who was this “I AM” God, anyway? Other than the miracles and what must’ve been an overwhelming, very confusing – though awesome – encounter with YHWH on a shaking mountain covered with clouds-thunder-lightning, the leaders and the people really didn’t know much about this God of their fathers. Certainly they didn’t know anywhere as much as they knew about the Egyptian deities and their powers/responsibilities. So when Moses disappeared for weeks with this mysterious YHWH, what assurance did they have that they could trust YHWH to return Moses and to lead them? They had no idea, at that point, of what God had planned for them, and of his boundless love for them.
    All this ignorance and anxiety cries out for the kind of mind-renewing teaching that Paul attempted for his churches via his teaching and letters. Look at how powerful the Corinithians were in the Spirit, yet still so clueless/worldly in their morals and actions. Apparently God was relying on Paul to use his own Spirit-given wisdom to teach them about Kingdom morals and lifestyle.
    I think the Israelites needed the same teaching, from the only Spirit-filled person around: Moses. Unfortunately, he was up on that mountain for 40 days, soaking up more of the wisdom and presence of YHWH!

  4. darrell a. harris says:

    first off, i’d encourage you to be prepared for some exasperation. god has given us volition and we have defiled ourselves with disobedience and drifting as a way of life.
    moses was exasperated. paul became exasperated. even jesus got exasperated (“how long must i bear with you?”)
    there is no substitute for the charismatic, the numinous, the true persuasive inspiration of vision. and for it to be shared in such a way for the appropriate contagion to ensue, the communicator must be completely and absolutely vulnerable. the lord jesus is the prototypical vision-caster.
    but however more or less persuasively charismatic our vision-casting, i believe there are some mechanics that can help.
    and they have to do with repetition and redundancy.
    john said he was not writing to his readers because they did not know the truth, but in fact because they already did know it. (1 john 2:21) he was being purposefully redundant. tell me the old, old story, indeed.
    this is repetition, but it is not vain. and it is particularly applicable in vision-casting. president-elect obama masterfully employed this device with his “yes we can” mantra. bill clinton achieved the same effect in his first campaign with his recurring “we can do better”.
    we who have come up the in the free church tradition often fear repetition because of our aversion to vain repetition. but the examination of the worship content of ancient israel and the early church discloses much repetition. the vanity can come from either false content being repeated or lack of intention in the execution of the repetition.
    but the worship of the ancients was not just repetitious in its declaration, it was also repetitious in its responses. it was always dialogical. (“the lord be with you”/”and also with you,” etc.)
    the children of israel got it right when they first voiced their communal response to moses’ declaration of god’s law. they said “all the words that the lord has spoken we will do” (exodus 24:3) and then they repeated this in short order in verse 7.
    i love envisioning how this may have played out. moses finishes his presentation. perhaps some young buck named abner or some such shouts out a response, “all the words that the lord has spoken we will do.” then i imagine some grandfather named judah taking up the theme, repeating the shouted response. then seven or eight shout it out in unison. the shout gains momentum. now the entire nation is shouting this affirmation and vow. it’s more powerful even than the unified thunder of the 12th man of texas a. & m. at kyle field on an autumn afternoon.
    and while the need for a persuasive vision should never by underestimated, it should be remembered that the hebrew word translated “vision” in proverbs 29:18 (“where there is no vision the people perish”,) might be better translated “revelation” or “word”. i wonder if a batter version might be, “where there is no message the people cast off restraint (or run amuck). that’s certainly what the section of exodus you’ve pointed to describes.
    so, i’d recommend:
    1) refine your vision into a clear message and repeat it often.
    2) let your people see how this vision burns in you as vilnerably as you can.
    3) give them some appropriate ways to verbally respond together (slogans, mantras, whatever.)
    4) prepare to be exasperated . . . but call on the loving lord who was also exasperated but who patiently persevered to sustain you in that same grace.
    you’ll be in my prayers, dear brother~

  5. don says:

    Darrell, I agree with your call for refining, repetition and response. I’d like to make an observation about one comment you made:
    “the children of israel got it right when they first voiced their communal response to moses’ declaration of god’s law. they said “all the words that the lord has spoken we will do” (exodus 24:3) and then they repeated this in short order in verse 7.”
    While I appreciate the Israelites’ desire to obey – and they repeated this desire both to Joshua and to Samuel, when each man reminded them of God’s requirements and prophesied their failure to live up to them – scripture and history show they failed miserably, again and again. All the Spirit-led prophets, through Jesus and the deacon Stephen, essentially told the nation they had failed to obey God.
    Obviously, we know now that this failure highlighted the futility of legalism/performance, and the total need to receive God’s mercy/grace. But it’s interesting to me that Israel clung stubbornly to their declaration of obedience, despite repeated prophetic warnings that they would be unable to do so. In fact, it was the Spirit’s reminder of this failure through Stephen, that led the crowd to stop their ears, gnash their teeth, and stone the man to death.
    What this reveals is an enormous pride – first expressed to Moses and passed down from generation to generation – in their unrealistic desire to perform in order to earn God’s blessing. It seems that only Daniel’s generation *truly* repented of this pride, admitted the depth of their sin, and looked to God for deliverance.
    The Holy Spirit has shown me this same pride in myself, and shown me his hatred of this pride. As a Christian in business, I’ve seen this same pride repeatedly in other Christians. We are inclined to look to God for salvation, but continue to trust in our own performance for our business success. I did that for years, until God mercifully let me fail in a spectacular way, which thankfully got my attention and my repentance.
    My reward for this was a Job-like revelation of God in his power, as well as a revelation of his love deep in my heart, which I’d never knew one could experience on earth. Those two revelations – of God’s unlimited power (plus my total puniness) and his unbelievable love for me – essentially killed that performance-driven life that didn’t bring peace or security.
    My whole point in saying all this is to say that I think the Israelites made a big mistake by answering “Yes we can!”, when Moses asked them if they could follow all of God’s commandments as explained. They should’ve looked at one another in horror, fallen to their knees, admitted their total inability to satisfy these requirements, and cried out for mercy and a better way.

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