2015: Joshua and the Promised Land: Nurturing New Leaders

First Sunday in Lent

2015: Joshua and the Promised Land: Nurturing New Leaders
Giovanni Lanfranco, Moses and the Messengers from Canaan, 1621-1624


On this first Sunday of Lent, God of all Creation, open our hearts to new leaders. Let our efforts be shared. Make our faith contagious. As your Son, Jesus, said, “… the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father…” (John 14:12)

Today we pray for the Crossroad Urban Center in Salt Lake City, Utah; for Diana Laureano; and Diamond Pate. Amen.


United Methodist Women produced a study called Joshua and the Promised Land in 1997 to address the juxtaposition that faith and colonization take on. The book opens with an introduction to the problematic “two sides” of Joshua. “The image of the Promised Land with walls tumbling down has been compelling for oppressed peoples. It has stimulated their hopes for freedom (p. vii).” It is an image used by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At the same time, the book reminds us “… some Native Americans hear the biblical stories of Joshua and the Promised Land as stories of land theft and cultural oppression (p. viii).” Both are important aspects of racial justice.

But what role does Joshua himself play in all this? Joshua is a story of leadership. Take a moment to read Joshua 1:1-9. Thinking about these opening verses, Joshua stands at the edge of the Promised Land, poised to bring God’s people there. In the absence of their great leader, Moses, essentially the mantle has been passed on to him. He has learned from Moses, walked with Moses and now must lead. It is his turn, but he must still hold to what his faith had been grounded in —
 developing not a faith like Moses, but faith in the God of Moses, and develop it so he can lead in his own strength and gifts.

Moses was in direct relationship to God in ways no other, except Jesus, have been. He was the spiritual leader of the people. How does Joshua follow that? Joshua is a true believer, but he is also a warrior. What background does he bring? We see from verse 1 that Joshua is called an “assistant” to Moses. See also in Exodus 24:13; 33:11; Numbers 11:28; and Deuteronomy 1:38 that Joshua is named as Moses’ assistant while Moses was alive. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance lists this Hebrew word as sharath, meaning to minister, or serve. Joshua put in his time with Moses, a ready helper to the celebrated leader.

He was also part of the 12 spies sent into the Promised Land to bring back a report before the Hebrew people could enter (See Numbers 13 , 14). His report, substantiated by Caleb, was one of hope and reality and faith. The other spies spoke of  insurmountable odds and their own discouragement. As a result, it would be 40 long years before the people were ready; 40 years before all the other spies, save he and Caleb — really the entire generation whose fear prevented them from entering Canaan — would finally be prepared to receive the promise. Joshua had already learned his faith from Moses as he aided him. It made him bold, it made him confident, it made him courageous, no matter the odds before him.

These first verses of Joshua remind us that this new leader is now ready to move from his time in service to a time of his own leadership with the Hebrew people. His guidance was different but no less spectacular (see Joshua 3 and 4 for another amazing parting of the waters). The last two verses of this chosen passage (8, 9) are his mandate and his promise from God.


How have you worked to help build new leadership in your church, conference or unit from upcoming generations across lines of race and culture? In this week’s scripture, Joshua is guided, challenged and mentored with dedication and caring by his community’s elders. Think about which role you most identify with in the story. Are you the elder, making intentional and practical commitments to nurture the next generation of leaders? Are you Joshua, feeling too intimidated by the position and success of his elders to step more fully into leadership?

The issues surrounding whom we do and do not think of as leaders are complex. Race, class, ability, age and more play crucial roles in all aspects of all of our lives, and how we decide on leadership is no different. United Methodist Women has from its beginnings encouraged and provided tools for members to explore how to cultivate the leadership of a wide range of voices. And this work must continue. Whether we are merging conferences and want to create new structures and nurture new leaders, or if we are nominating our leaders: Deciding who leads are decisions about how we equitably share power across differences. Equity is godly and so is our work to fully achieve it.


With your Lenten mentorship partner, group or unit use the Resources for Racial Justice Manual to host a discussion on the scenario on page 73. This scenario provides an opportunity to reflect on how we can create meaningful and equitable space to: (a) value the leadership of different groups and (b) enable new leaders to thrive within United Methodist Women. Use the following questions to facilitate your analysis of the scenario.

Racial Justice Scenario Reflection Questions:

  • Whom do you most identify with in this scenario?
  • What do you think are the challenges for Y Conference in identifying and cultivating new leadership across racial/cultural lines?
  • What are practical and intentional ways new streams of leaders can be nurtured in Y Conference?
  • What sacrifices will Y Conference (and its members) have to make to cultivate new leadership?  

The Rev. Dionne P. Boissière is chaplain at the Church Center for the United Nations. Janis Rosheuvel is executive for racial justice for United Methodist Women. Julie Taylor served as United Methodist Women’s executive for Spiritual Growth.

Posted or updated: 2/19/2015 12:00:00 AM