March 29, 2012 Tony Morgan

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.”

Tomorrow we’ll look at someone who ignored the advice from others. As we’ll see, this contrasting story hits very close to home.

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Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group, theunstuckgroup.com. 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). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.
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