I was reviewing Numbers 13-14 for our men's Bible study tomorrow morning and jotting down a few notes on leadership. I was struck again by the danger of influence. Numbers 13-14 is the story of the spies going into Canaan to spy out the land and report to the people. With all the power of the promises of God, and the power that had already been experienced in the Exodus, the power of influence waffled, and a generation died in the wilderness.
Ten spies doubted the promise of God, focused on the problems of the world, and undermined the God-ordained leadership of Moses and Aaron by causing the people to look for a different leader that would take them back to Egypt (14:1-4). Was that their intent? Did they really want to undermine Moses and Aaron? We will never know, but it is irrelevant what they wanted. It happened anyway.
Leadership often has unintended consequences, both for the good and the bad. To be sure, it is a fine line between good and bad leadership. The strongly authoritative leader with great passion for God and holiness can become a tyrant who creates fear in his children if he does not love them with God's love. The visionary leader can create a culture of dissension and discontent by pushing faster than people are ready to go. A recognized "power figure" (every church or organization has them) can be a tremendous force of undermining the God-ordained leadership by comments, body language, failure to participate, gossip, backbiting, and malcontentendess (am I making up my own words here???).
Good leadership is often ignored, as Caleb and Joshua were. Good leadership is committed to godly obedience even if they are the only ones. (You usually aren't, as Elijah learned in his self-pity.) Good leadership takes the time and effort to talk to God for people, as Moses and Aaron did. At the heart of it is Numbers 14:24: But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it (NASB). Good leaders have a different spirit, a different attitude about life. They are willing to do things God's way, to think about God's Word first, to love what God loves before they think about what the possible outcomes might be. Those who want to be good leaders must develop a "different spirit" that follow God fully.
God has invested all of us with leadership roles. You have a leadership circle, or what some have a called a "circle of influence." Your role might be the pastor of a church, the president of a company or organization. It might be a role as head of a ministry or a workgroup. It might be as head of a family. You might look at your life and wonder where your leadership circle is? It might be the power of example as a worker that sets the pace by working hard, the power of a teenager who sets a radical example of godliness around friends "on the bubble" of following God. Even children are being watched by younger brothers and sisters.