Woody Allen said, “80 per cent of success is showing up.”
In Numbers chapter 11, Moses was tasked by the Lord to gather 70 elders from the people of Israel. The Holy Spirit came upon the elders and they prophesied. “But two of the seventy — Eldad and Medad — were still in the camp, and when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied there. Some young men ran and told Moses what was happening, and Joshua (the son of Nun), one of Moses’ personally chosen assistants, protested, ‘Sir, make them stop!’ But Moses replied, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? I only wish that all of the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them all!’ ” (Numbers 11:26-29, Living Bible)
Over the years when I worked in Yunnan, I had the opportunity to witness the transformation of the place that I was living in, from a laid-back town to a busy city. In earlier times, the church leaders could walk over to meet for Bible studies on Tuesdays, prayer meetings on Wednesdays and planning for the coming Sunday service on Thursdays. But with an increase in daily tempo, and as people moved to newer housing resulting in more time spent on the roads, attendances at these meetings dropped.
One day, the leader of the church said that if any of the fellow leaders missed three meetings, they would no longer be considered leaders. One of them, a caring Christian lady, told me that she was tasked to be her company’s regional marketing manager and had to travel, so she would certainly miss meetings.
Joshua urged Moses to stop the two absentees from prophesying, but Moses rebuked him.
Many of us in church leadership will have to walk this delicate balance of leading teams that are physically present and affirming leaders that are only sometimes able to attend meetings. Our churches have to develop community leadership models that allow for diversity yet finding our uniformity in Christ. In this passage in Numbers, there is one obvious fact and one subtle truth that give clues to Moses’ decision.
1) The Holy Spirit rested on all the 70 leaders – even the two who did not come for the gathering.
2) The names of the two who did not turn up were Eldad and Medad. Their names literally mean “God has loved” and “Love” in Hebrew, respectively.
Their roles as elders and certainly their ability to prophesy did not arise from their own qualifications, but Eldad and Medad, along with the other 68, were able to serve the Lord because the Holy Spirit rested upon them – and because God is Love. Service is about us being channels of God’s love. Our call to service rests on the presence of the Holy Spirit and the experience of God’s love in our lives.
In the context of Numbers chapter 11, we see that the Lord who brought the thousands of quail over the distant lands to give the Israelites the meat they craved, could just as easily have brought Eldad and Medad a few hundred metres to the meeting place. But the Holy Spirit is confined by neither geography nor uniformity.
In our church community, we are thus different from Woody Allen – for we are not measured by success nor by just showing up. Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit comes and that our very human nature is transformed by God’s love. And the Cross is evidence that God has loved us indeed.
Reprinted with permission from Impact magazine, June/ July 2014, Vol.38, No. 3
Dr Tan Lai Yong enjoys camping and the slow pace of life of the outdoors. His colleagues know him as one who could quite easily forget to come to meetings. He and his family attend Bethesda (Frankel Estate) Church.