Jethro Principles: Structures for Organized Relationship (Part 1)

Central Thought: The Lord provides a structure in which intimacy with God is nurtured through a system of organized relationships.

Central Theme: The practice of multiple shepherds; the concept of communal shepherding.

Central Culture: A sense of ‘connection’ among members of the Body.
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When I say ‘Jethro’ what immediately comes to mind? A husky high priest embracing Moses, guiding him from fugitive to family? A fatherly shepherd in the middle of nowhere?

Perhaps you recall that ‘Prince of Egypt‘ scene when a jovial Jethro leads the Midianites in a festive (“you must learn to join the”) dance around the campfire.

To be honest, I imagine most first impressions of Jethro involves at least one of these things.

But what if I told you Jethro wasn’t just a hospitable father-in-law but a strategic advisor with a depth of business savvy? Would the idea of him being more than a pastoral shepherd cross your mind?

If not, dare to consider Exodus 18 where Jethro advises Moses how to manage two million people, essentially giving him a promised way to the Promised Land.

Let’s set the stage:

After wondering to the wilderness, Jethro finds a swamped Moses settling disputes among the thousands of freshly delivered Israelites. Cloaked in experience, Jethro asks Moses what he’s doing knowing full well what is going on. Moses then replies he’s judging the people as they come to him inquiring God’s will. Immediately, Jethro responds by giving Moses a system and structure for accountable relationship:

Look for able men…who fear God, who are trustworthy…and place them over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So, it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.” ~ Exodus 18:21-22 (ESV)

Heeding Jethro’s advice, Moses appoints a team of elders for each group size in v. 24-26. From there, a relieved Moses finds the flexibility and mobility he needs to meet God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) and receive the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20).

Now, I know what you’re thinking: But Cam, I’m low on the totem pole in my not-so-large company. How can this possibly apply to me?

Good news! These Jethro principles, while ancient, are timelessly paramount to the foundations of leadership and character. For starters, not only do they serve as a template for stewarding organized relationships, but also reveal how we, as Kingdom influencers, are to preserve our margins to experience and facilitate intimacy with God. In Moses’ case, he knew God was with him; he just didn’t know how this intimacy needed to be fostered. And I think for many of us, that’s the hardest part: While we may have the discernment, we can’t steer into the unforced rhythms of grace until we embrace our limitations (Matthew 11:20-24) and trust God’s entrusted.

As for Jethro, it’s interesting to note how his counsel reflects the Trinity in an organized relational context where each role is co-equal in value, diverse in function. One could say because of the Godhead, there’s always been a template on how responsibility, accountability, and stewardship operate since one can’t exist without the other. Either way…

…for God so loved the world, He gave us communal systems to be institutionalized so His mission could be realized.

Knowing this, we can see the heart of Jethro more clearly. While delegating authority was crucial in the moment, the intent of his objective wasn’t to establish hierarchy, but to help people discover God and to…

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Selah.

Study Questions

  1. As Jethro modeled, we serve community as we provide others what they need to receive life and godliness. While the church is a primary outlet, for most, our jobs are the hubs for our social interaction. That said, do you see Jethro principles at work? If so, how are they succeeding and/or where can they improve?
  2. How can one’s concept of authority benefit from the Jethro principles? How can one’s concept of hierarchy benefit from the Jethro principles?
  3. How to Jethro principles help us deal with conflict management and resolution?
Cover photos creds: Simplify the Message; written as mini-devotional for The Gate Community Church (request at or under 500 words)

Integrating Ministry & Marketplace: The Temple Template

The vocational life is hard work.

Early mornings, long days, rough nights…if you wear many hats and juggle multiple responsibilities…you know the drill.

Yet, as tempting survival/‘just get ‘er done’ mode may be, truth is: we were never meant to live this way.

Yes, strategic compartmentalization can center the gravity of focus and break busy days into doable, bite-sized moments; however, when we consider our identity as effective influencers in light of Jesus’ ministry,  we ultimately find…

a) Work (what we commit our hands and minds to) and faith (what we commit our beliefs to) were never meant to be mutually exclusive.

b) The marketplace can be just as much a hub of powerful, life-changing ministry as the church1.

Take Matthew 21:12-17 for instance…

After Jesus kicks off the triumphal entry (v. 1-11), note the first place he targets (i.e. the temple – v. 12) and the reason why (i.e. to cleanse it).

I don’t know about you, but when I consider the fact Jesus deliberately went to the temple to make its original intent known as opposed to simply stopping for a cup of coffee and the ‘Daily Jerusalem’…that speaks to me.

Granted, Jesus channels his inner Adele for time, turning tables and all (v. 12b), but the key here isn’t so much Jesus reacting in frustration as much as Jesus setting things right, being fearlessly intentional in speaking truth and breathing life into what had become a lifeless environment.

So while this passage reference may seem random, when we talk about what pastoral ministry in the marketplace looks like and how to rightfully use our spiritual gifts in similar arenas, I believe there’s important application to be found.

First off, to be an effective marketplace minister, we must be courageous and purposeful with the truth. Yes, we can be highly skilled with the gifts God has given us; yes, we can be articulate, persuasive, and emit confidence, but if what we’re divinely given is utilized with limited integrity, it’s like trying to build a sturdy structure on quicksand.

Secondly, when we consider what grieved Jesus most, we deduce how wise marketplace leaders understand the time and place to deal with financial affairs as they understand the providence of God (i.e. the difference between a love for money and a love for God who provides the money2 ;more on this in future posts).

And finally, when we consider Jesus straight up calls the temple “my house(v. 13 – “My house will be called a house of prayer…”), we find the a) confirmation of marketplace as an extension of sanctuary and b) value in declaring God’s original design over an establishment intended for our good.

In this case, Jesus calls the temple a “house of prayer” not only to reveal the truth of its purpose3 (i.e. a place of dwelling, influence, and vertical communication), but to set the stage for the spiritually/physically impaired to better know that purpose (v. 14).

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Hence, it should be no surprise to see a completely transformed temple by the time Jesus peaces out in v. 17.

Bottom line: when we reflect on how Jesus integrated his ministry and spiritual gifts into the marketplace, we see…

  1. Jesus was intentional (in going to the temple courts)…
  2. Jesus was bold with the truth and how he handled conflict…
  3. Jesus lived out the identity he declared over the temple…
  4. Jesus loved at every opportunity…

Thus, I submit if we’re going to thrive in employing our spiritual gifts in our areas of business, we must be willing to live on purpose, be bold with the truth, pray without ceasing, be the change we long for…and most importantly…love at all cost, at all times.

Next time, I’ll look to build upon this foundation with more specifics, more real-life application, but for now, if any of this hits home with you (or if you want to add a point to the list above), feel free to comment below. And as always, if you have a prayer request/praise report, you’re more than welcome to drop us a line.

‘Til then, may you find peace and joy in abundance as you go about your week…

~ Cameron

Footnotes

  1. Sure, the church may be the heart of the operation, but what’s to say the marketplace can’t be the hands and feet?
  2. Seriously…how often are good leaders corrupted by sneaky, under-the-table, ‘will do anything to get an advantage’ maneuvers? More than we’d like to admit, right?
  3. As well as His authority

Photo creds: gospelmovements.org (edited by Cameron Fry) & lds.net