You’re Not That Smart: Avoiding the Moses Complex

As I was reading the Bible in YouVersion this morning, I was reminded of an article I wrote a few years ago about seeking the counsel of others. I think it’s worth a refresh, so here’s part one of the series.

I’ve always found it fascinating that Solomon, the wisest king to ever rule Israel, understood the value of getting advice from other people. If God had already gifted him with wisdom, why did he pursue advice from others? It seems like it would have been appropriate for Solomon to say, “My wisdom and understanding comes directly from God. I will make decisions about my next steps based on that wisdom alone.”

The Moses Complex

There’s a dangerous trend I’m seeing in churches today that embraces this theology of leadership. I refer to it as the “Moses Complex.” In these environments, only the senior pastor can receive a vision from God and it only happens through a Mount Sinai-type experience.

In churches that embrace this theology, everyone waits for the pastor to receive a vision, and then all the staff “leaders” are responsible for executing the vision God gives the senior pastor. Many times I see this approach in the same churches that function using the “culture of honor” that I’ve written about previously.

The problem with this theology is that it discounts many passages of Scripture that offer contrary perspective on attaining wisdom. It’s based on broken theology and, in practice, it leads to an unhealthy and dysfunctional leadership culture.

Are you seeking advice from others?

Ironically, in the wisdom that God granted Solomon, the wisest man in the world understood the value of receiving advice from others. For example, Solomon offered:

  • “Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more” (Proverbs 9:9).
  • “Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers” (Proverbs 11:14).
  • “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others” (Proverbs 12:15).
  • “Plans go wrong for the lack of advice; many advisers bring success” (Proverbs 15:22).
  • “Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life” (Proverbs 19:20).
  • “Plans succeed through good counsel; don’t go to war without wise advice” (Proverbs 20:18).

 

God granted Solomon wisdom, and part of that wisdom from God was that we need to seek wise advice from others. That’s not how I would have handled that if I was God. If I was God, I would say, “Wisdom comes from me alone. Don’t listen to the advice of others.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of TonyMorganLive.com. He’s a consultant, leadership coach and writer who helps churches get unstuck and have a bigger impact. More important, he has a passion for people. He’s all about helping people meet Jesus and take steps in their faith. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). With Tim Stevens, Tony has co-authored Simply Strategic Stuff, Simply Strategic Volunteers and Simply Strategic Growth – each of which offers valuable, practical solutions for different aspects of church ministry. His book, Killing Cockroaches (B&H Publishing) challenges leaders to focus on the priorities in life and ministry. His most recent books on leadership and ministry strategy are available on Kindle. Tony has also written several articles on staffing, technology, strategic planning and leadership published by organizations like Outreach Magazine, Catalyst and Pastors.com. Tony and his wife, Emily, live near Atlanta, Georgia with their four children — Kayla, Jacob, Abby and Brooke.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Mr. Steven Finkill — 11/29/12 8:42 am

Love this article from Tony Morgan. There is freedom in not having to be the one with all the answers as a leader.

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree with your 3 must-haves. I would add that the rectors have to call on every member who attends, at least once a year. The existence of a "calling commitee" is just an excuse to avoid making the effort. This is part of #3. If a rector does not like to call on parishioners, then she/he should not be a rector, but should find a different ministry. Carter Kerns, former senior warden, Diocese of Eastern Oregon and lifelong Episcopalian Tel# 541-379-3124
 
— Carter Kerns
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 

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