The Joshua Problem

Continuing my “Leadership Lessons” series that I’ve sorta unofficially been doing (and pulling from my youth ministry days for it), I want to talk about “The Joshua Problem” (this one is taken from the book series titled “Habitudes”)

How many of you guys have heard of a guy called Moses?

Moses was the guy who rescued an entire nation from slavery, put up with their whining, lead them around for 40 years in a desert, and was a phenomenal leader.

Moses led the Jewish people to the Promised Land, but was unable to cross over into it himself before he died. Luckily, he had trained Joshua to take his place, so when Moses died, there was a seamless transition from Moses to Joshua, and the Israelites were able to enter the Promised Land. But after they had the Promised Land, a problem arose…

Joshua had no Joshua. As far as anyone can tell, Joshua never trained anybody to take his place when he died. He never took a young leader and took him and trained him. So when Joshua died, they entered the time of the Judges, considered by many to be one of the worst times in Israel’s history. 2 times we see that it says “and there was no king in Israel in those days and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” ~ Judges 17:6, 21:25.

You have to take the time to train someone else. You should not be the only one who knows how to do what you do. Dwight Moody once said, “It’s better to train a hundred men than to do the work of a hundred men. But it’s harder.” Isn’t that crazy? It is harder to train a hundred men, than to do the work of one hundred men. Everyone seems to be looking for a Moses, and when they find one, they are irreplaceable. When a leader is brought in from the outside, you will run into a problem when that leader departs. 20 years ago, only 7% of CEO’s were hired outside of the company, now, it’s 50%. We are plugging holes rather than meeting the needs. We need to build a fence at the top of the cliff rather than a hospital at the bottom. A study done by Stanford researchers Jim Collins and Jerry Porras found that organizations that succeeded in the long run had a culture of succession management. Companies like Sony, General Electric, Wal-Mar, Procter and Gamble (Head and Shoulders, Aussie products, Cover Girl, Gillette, Herbal Essence, Mach3, Olay, and Old Spice), and 3M. Some of the most successful companies brought people up from inside, rather than in from the outside.

There is this great story about a guy named Dr. Nathaniel Bowditch. He became the captain of a ship by the age of twenty! But Nathaniel didn’t consider that his crowning achievement.  He was determined to fill the oceans with competent sailors. At twenty-one, he sailed on an East Indian voyage. On that trip, he took the time to train every crew member on board the art of navigation; he mentored them on how to lead a ship. Afterwards, every sailor on that voyage became a caption of his own ship. What’s more, many of those captains went on to train others. There was no “Joshua Problem” there. He built his life on this belief: “I start with the premise that the chief goal of the leader is not to build followers, but to build more leaders.” That is the principle we need to live by as well.

What about you? Where are you a leader? Are you a Moses, leading and training people to lead after you? or are you a Joshua, leading, but not planning for when you leave?


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