Joshua week 3: When to follow, when to flee

For whatever reason, whenever I hit a passage in the Bible that has something to do with leadership, my sermon goes long.   I am beginning to believe that people’s biggest passions are often born out of their biggest mistakes–or at least it drives their insatiable drive to not repeat the same mistakes. 

The second half of Joshua chapter one is one of those passages that most would read through without a second thought.  At first glance these eight verses appear to simply push the narrative forward when, in fact, they give us a lot of insight into the leadership and unity in the body. My intent is not to repeat the entire sermon, you can listen or read it here. Instead, I’d simply like emphasize one point.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad churches being led by bad men.  By “bad”  I mean men who are false teachers, men who abuse the Word of God, and men who by their bad leadership produce sick churches drinking the kool-aid they offer.  In Joshua 1, the people affirm their commitment to follow Joshua.  But it is not some BLIND “you are the leader we’ll-do-whatever-you-say”, kind of affirmation.  They quality what they mean:

16 And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! 18 Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.”
The people promise to follow Joshua as long as Joshua commits to following the Word of God–otherwise, deal’s off.  Godly leadership is biblical leadership, period.  When it isn’t biblical, it isn’t godlyWhen it isn’t godly or biblical it is at best misguided and in need of correction or, at worst, demonic and in need of destruction. Without doubt, good biblical godly leadership in churches should be trusted and followed, obeyed and submitted to (Hebrews 13.17).   God has commissioned these leaders, as he did Joshua, to shepherd the people.  I realize using words like obey or submit makes many people cringe or perhaps even nauseous as they remember harmful past experiences with bad leaders. If you feel this way, know that leaders are not worthy to be followed because they are simply “leaders”, but only when they are FIRST followers, submitted to Jesus in a way that everyone can see, hear, and believe.  The office of leadership gives them responsibility to lead, but the Scriptures give the office authority to exist.  In other words, test all leaders, test what they say, test what they do, test how they lead.
Without doubt, there is a time to follow and there is a time to flee. If a leader leads with his own wisdom and not the WORD of God, run.  If the leader leads as if he is a “lord” and not in submission to THE LORD, run.  If a leader leads through power and not meekness, run.  If a leader leads by demanding service without serving, run.  If  a leader leads the church but not his family, run.  If a leader leads in submission to no one, not other leaders and not Jesus, run.   Follow leaders who truly follow the WORD, because you will always be led to Jesus–and joyfully satisfied.  Run from leaders who follow themselves, because you will always be led to men–and woefully disappointed.
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Author: Sam Ford

Sam Ford is a preacher, planter, and pastor from the Pacific Northwest. He is currently pastoring Restoration Road Church in Snohomish, WA.

3 thoughts on “Joshua week 3: When to follow, when to flee”

  1. Thanks for a honest and clear view of what leadership and what submission to that leadership should look like. It is refreshing to say the least.

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  2. But when all is said and done and you’ve determined that this guy is not a leader, who will be called the ‘quitter’? It is likely the one that runs. It’s a tough call for those who do not like to ‘quit’ and who fight to the end. Oh, and how difficult it can be to determine the character of your leaders.

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  3. Good point Joel. Unfortunately, the person that “runs” usually gets questioned, accused, and ridiculed because they have chosen the path of non-conformity. That is not to say that everyone who runs does so justifiably–in the case of a false teacher, I will assume they do. Determining the character takes time. It is difficult, but not impossible if the right questions are asked. As leaders/teachers come under a stricter judgment, they knowingly step into the light where their lives are required to be “above reproach”–blameless. The implication is that they are transparent enough (not necessarily completely) that an accusation could be made should it be warranted (of course, Jesus was above reproach and falsely accused). That being said, I think you can determine a “good” leader, at least in a church, by looking at a few things:

    1. Look at his personal disciplines (his life and its relationship with Jesus)
    2. Look at his his bride (his marriage and its relationship with Jesus)
    3. Look at his his family (his first church and its relationship with Jesus)
    3. Look at his spiritual disciplines(his faith and its relationship with Jesus)
    4. Look at his beliefs (his theology and its relationship with God/Word)
    5. Look at his finances (his money and its relationship to Jesus)
    6. Look at his community (his friendship w/ world and its relationship with Jesus)
    7. Look at his leadership (his service and its relationship with Jesus)

    These are not necessarily in order, as one’s theology should overflow into all of these things. And when I say Jesus, I mean gospel, including all members of the Trinity. **This should probably be another blog.

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