The wonder of God’s delegation

Creation of Adam

“Creation of Adam” hanging in my office.

Having created humanity, what was God’s first interaction with us? Well, immediately after “male and female he created them” comes “fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea…”.

God’s very first recorded interaction with us is to delegate some of his authority. God is a delegator! And the way he delegates is both instructive and challenging for Christian leaders. We’ll look at both aspects of God’s delegation in this series. Today’s focus is on the implications for Christian ministry leaders of what God delegated. Another post sometime in the future will be about what God did so that he could delegate with confidence.

Any “Yes, but…” questions from this post will likely be answered in the next post.

What God delegates

It is a wonder that the Creator of all that is, the Lord of the universe, the One who simply speaks a thing and then it is, delegates at all. If anyone could say “Here, I can do it quicker than explaining it to you” or “I can do it better than you,” it would be God. It is even more of a wonder that he entrusts so much to us that is so vitally important to him.

He entrusts the earth and all that is in it to us:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen 1:28)

He entrusts us with a significant portion of his mission to bring all the people of the world back into his perfect rule:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mat 28:19-20)

And he entrusts us with real decision authority:

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Mat 16:19)

It is one thing to delegate tasks, but quite another to delegate authority. God doesn’t have to delegate authority, but he chooses to. For anyone who has trouble delegating authority, this is a powerful lesson that changes the question from “Why delegate?” to “Why not delegate?”

The learning point for ministry leaders is that God isn’t just delegating the easy tasks. He truly believes we are capable of handling significant challenges. He respects our ability to think and to act. In short, he believes in us. (Again, another post will address why he believes in our capabilities.)

 Application

God delegated a tremendous amount of authority to humanity, and Christian leaders should delegate the same way. However, any time we work together, personal authority is reduced because the group must coordinate its member’s activities and manage the group’s resources. That’s the nature of an organization; individuals simply do not have authority to reallocate budget or start new programs as they please. Choices are even further reduced as you move from the leadership team to the frontline staff, because at each step more and more choices are already made.

The dilemma for Christian leaders is how to give as much authority as we can to our staff members while preserving the benefits that an organization provides. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Think about what you delegate. If straight-forward, easy tasks are all you delegate, you underestimate your staff.
    • Delegate important projects
    • Delegate projects that engage the mind as well as the hands
    • Take a risk when delegating
  • Delegate as much decision authority as possible to a group. This gives more people a way to be included, to contribute, and to have a share in a higher level of authority than they have on their own. Leaders may have some reluctance to do this because they are on the hook for all decisions made under their delegation, so set whatever safeguards you truly need and then delegate. (We’ll see in the next post the safeguards that God set in place.)
  • Make group decisions by consensus, not by vote or decree.
  • Consult with as many people beyond the group as possible. Even if they don’t share in the authority, they can share in the discussion.
  • Leave as much room as possible for freedom of choice as you move from strategy to execution. If you are familiar with policy governance, this is its key principle: provide direction, set boundaries, and then leave people free to act within those parameters.

The joy of receiving delegated work

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:10)

I love the word handiwork. Other translations use workmanship, which is just as great. Both convey the idea of being fashioned, molded, or artistically formed – of being crafted exactly right to fulfill a purpose.

There is a state of being called flow, which is “a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task.” You get lost in the moment because you are doing something it seems you were made to do. Your strengths and gifts align perfectly with your project. Experiencing flow is one of the times when people are happiest and most satisfied.

Christians who do good works should regularly experience flow because we were designed to do good works, and the good works we do have been specifically prepared for us to perform – a perfect alignment!

Some of those good works are generic in nature and are intended for everyone to do, such as loving others, extending mercy to the poor, caring for widows and orphans, and so on.

But Ephesians 2:10 also carries the idea that there may be particular things that God wants specific people to do. God designs us with different personalities, talents, gifts, and interests so that each one is perfectly suited for the particular good work he wants us to do. I feel very blessed knowing that my “divine boss” gives me work which is exactly right for me and that gives me joy, and my life meaning and significance.

Application

When we hire people, we usually already have a job description that we try to fit them to. However, once someone is working for you, over time you may have opportunity to juggle the work between jobs so as to help people work in their areas of strength.

  • Do you have an inventory of all the strengths your staff could bring to the table? They may have strengths that their current job doesn’t require, but you should know about them anyway, because you might find ways to use their strengths once you know they exist.
  • Every job has a mundane aspect to it, but do you know the percentage of time that your staff experiences flow? If the job has nothing but the mundane, then consider revising the job description to add elements that the incumbent will enjoy and be challenged by.
  • Is there any way to use technology to minimize time spent on the mundane and transfer it to work that allows the person to make a greater contribution?

Thoughts?

Have you any insights into today’s topic? Please share.

  • The wonder of God’s delegation
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Thoughts on The wonder of God’s delegation

  1. Derek Ross

    Excellent thoughts, John! I like the new video format – the network should definitely pick up this pilot!

    Reply
  2. Wes Wong

    Thank you, John. This is good insight. I knew that delegation is Biblical. But I had thought that Jethro was the original proponent of delegation. However, your post indicates that ’twas God who is the delegator exemplar.

    By the way, you don’t have to send me a bonus. This post is good enough. Thanks.

    Reply

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