One of the great Scriptural responsibilities of those who lead is to enable others to function in the local assembly, using their abilities to further the welfare of the assembly and the gospel. This is the clear teaching of Ephesians 4:12: “For the perfecting of the saints, with a view to the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Newb). The types of responsibilities delegated in a local assembly include everything from Sunday school work, gospel preaching, opening Bible readings, to visitation which may be done by a younger couple who have an interest in young believers and others who are newly married. The Word of God does not pre-suppose a situation in which one man rules; nor does it entertain the concept that only leaders serve. Every believer is to be a servant-disciple. Leadership is meant to facilitate that development.
Leaders have difficulty delegating; type A personalities feel they can do everything and accomplish it better than others. But when they do delegate, they face two dangers in seeking to give responsibility to others: micro-managing the assignment, and total indifference and non-involvement once it has been assigned. The dangers are real; leaders have a responsibility to be sure that methods are Scriptural and that work entrusted is being done for God’s glory. They cannot be totally aloof from it. They also have the burden of allowing those delegated to carry out their tasks with their own particular abilities and personalities. How then can this fine line be walked? What are the principles involved in delegating responsibility to others?
The life of Hezekiah affords many valuable lessons running the gamut from recovery and restoration, faith under fire, and prayer, to delegation of responsibility. This latter principle is seen in 2 Chronicles 29 in a very marked way. What are the elements then of wise and Scriptural delegation?
Hezekiah was burdened about the repair of the Temple. At the very outset of his reign, he opened the doors of the Temple (v 3). But work needed to be done beyond the doors; the defilement and corruption were deep. In light of this, he appointed the Levites and priests to begin the task of housecleaning. His instructions were clear; they knew exactly what was expected. There was nothing nebulous about their task. His motive, and the significance of what they were doing, was made clear to them (vv 6-10). Clear instructions of expectations and goals are vital to those appointed to a task. Everyone given a task wants to know, “What is expected of me?”
Notice that Hezekiah chose the right men for the task. Here were men who had the moral right (Levites by birth) and interest to carry out the job assigned. They were “born” for the task at hand and Hezekiah wisely brought them to it. He encouraged them by reminding them that God had chosen them for the task as well (v 11).
When an assignment is given, the individuals involved must know that they have the support of those who are in leadership. To sense a lack of confidence, a feeling of being on trial and that every mistake will lead to demotion, does not inspire excellence. Hezekiah wisely reminds them of their authority to carry out the work (v 11). God had given them this authority and Hezekiah was simply the means of acknowledging it. Those given a task want to feel, “Are you behind me?”
In another context (ch 31:4, 5) Hezekiah also provided all that was needed to enable those assigned to carry out their function. In a practical way, this may mean giving a young believer a book about Sunday school work, giving young men some time in discussion about how to present the gospel; it may mean spending an evening with a young man as he prepares to open a Bible reading, not telling him how to do it or imposing your style on him, but giving guidelines and broad principles to help him.
Linked with this is the need to be available for advice and encouragement. When they kept the Passover (30:22), Hezekiah was foremost in encouraging them in their work. Leaders need to be available for advice and encouragement. Those new to a task, feeling the burden of a new responsibility, need encouragement and help. There may be the rare individual who soars on his first step from the nest, but the majority need support and encouragement. Those given a task want to know “Are you there for me if I need you?”
Those carrying out a task, once delegated, must be allowed to carry the burden of the task and be allowed to function without micro-management. Hezekiah did not make daily trips to the Temple to inspect what the Levites and priests were doing. Yet accountability is an important issue. Those laboring are accountable to the leadership of the assembly. When the work of the Levites was finished, they reported back to Hezekiah and gave a report of their labor (2 Chron 29:18, 19). Their accountability to Hezekiah did not mean the freedom for him to criticize them and find fault. When tasks are delegated, mistakes may be made; things may not be done exactly as you would have had them done. But delegation always carries with it the risk of failure on the way to success. When the Lord Jesus gathered 12 disciples and commissioned them (Matt 28), it was not with the starry-eyed optimism that He was sending out 12 perfect men. The learning curve for all of us is very real and at times costly.
But accountability is still a critical principle and necessary for the well-being of the assembly and the growth of the worker. Those assigned a task want to know, “Will you let me know how I am doing?”
Appreciation and Affirmation
All those who serve look to the Lord for their ultimate affirmation and appreciation. But leaders can nurture growth and usefulness by acknowledging when those assigned to a task are doing well and accomplishing what was in the mind of the leadership. Hezekiah acknowledged the labor and work of the Levites and priests by gathering all Israel together and recommencing worship in the House of the Lord (29:20-26).
It may be that this appreciation and affirmation was what led to the Levites being exercised to purify themselves and to be ready for further work (v 34). Growth in usefulness is a direct result of appreciation expressed. Because, those assigned a task want to know, “Did I do it well?”