After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it.4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.”
5 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”
6 Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.
7 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8
Leaders are in short supply in the church. Oh, there are plenty of people in positions of leadership — pastors, deacons, elders, etc. But many of churches are governed by committees, driven by small programmatic goals, maintaining the status quo, tweaking programs, following the latest church growth trend and attending more church conferences.
Another way to put it is this: Many churches are doing a bunch of stuff, but they aren’t going anywhere exciting together. We need to recapture the sense of mission and movement that we read about in this story of Joshua and his large community of people-on-the-move.
1. The people are given orders and they obey (“you are to move out from your positions and follow it”). This congregation of God’s people have a soldier’s mentality; they hear their commanding officers marching orders and they obey. Few churches have this mindset as we look at our mission as a church. We operate more like country clubs, trying to please our constituency and appease our members. I wonder how much more kingdom work might be accomplished if we saw ourselves as soldiers for Christ, and we obeyed every time we heard an order — even if it didn’t feel comfortable and safe.
2. Some lead and some follow. This story clearly shows that God’s congregation is comprised of leaders who go first and followers who follow. Not all are called to lead and it is okay to be a loyal follower of the leader. It’s not a sign of weakness or inferiority. It’s an understanding of one’s role in God’s community. Likewise, leaders will step out and take initiative when duty calls. Joshua and the priests are given a prominent role in this story: They will take the first step into the water, they will carry the presence of the LORD on their shoulders (in the Ark) and the people will follow them to the other side.
It’s been fun to watch God raise up leaders at MainStreet. It’s scary to step out and take the first step.
It’s also been fun to watch others faithfully follow leadership onward in our journey.
Finally, God uses this moment to exalt Joshua in the eyes of the people and to increase his leadership credibility. This is his moment to shine and be used mightily as a leader of God’s people.
Lord, may you grant me the grace and wisdom to rise up at this moment in MainStreet’s journey and prove myself an able leader of your people for such a time as this! Amen.
3. God always gets the glory! I hope MainStreet is always a church where we’re expecting God to do amazing things among us — every time we gather, every new season, every turning point. May we never see the day when MainStreet gets settled into a routine and are content with church-as-usual. God, we’re waiting and watching, praying and expecting you to do amazing things among us at MainStreet in the coming days!