Killing Moses: Why old leadership models have to die

Most leaders are not opposed to change. In fact, the desire for change is what makes a leader a leader. However, the margin to absorb change is what keeps leaders from actually changing. In other words, the busyness of the day creates a lack of mental capacity to embrace new opportunities that are often hiding in plain sight.

Instead, we tend to spend our time reacting to circumstances in order to keep our organizations stable in the midst of a changing context. This “default” setting has the ability to leave us emotionally, mentally and even physically bankrupt, resulting in an inability to recognize the need and the opportunity that change can bring.

Change comes at a price. Often a high price. And when circumstances seem to stabilize, our fatigued minds tend to rush back to familiar places in an attempt to “catch our breath.” However, it’s often in these moments that the benefits of change present themselves to us in unexpected ways.

In fact, I’ve come to believe that God Himself puts us in situations where our status quo and “safe place” is disrupted in order for us to see opportunities beyond our current reality. The Bible is loaded with stories of leaders who rose to the occasion in the midst of changing circumstances.


After disruption or crisis, our environment tends to normalize, and there is a tendency to go back to business as usual simply because that seems to be the road of least resistance. Instead, I want to encourage you to leverage this moment to ascend to a new echelon of leadership. Now is the time to rise up and move forward into the new opportunities that bring us higher as leaders. If we want to benefit from this moment, we’ll have to create enough mental margin in our life to be able to see the opportunities that are right in front of us.

These new opportunities require the type of change that may forever impact the way we lead. In fact, we may be asked to let certain leadership models die in order to fully reap the reward of what’s ahead. Moving forward, we simply can’t continue to lead the same way—the way we led that got us to where we are today.

In order to experience new life, something always has to die first. It’s a universal principle in Scripture that we must understand in order to lead on that next level.


What I’ve described above is not a new concept. It’s something that has repeated itself throughout history. God always pushes creation to advance. His kingdom is ever increasing. As a result, there is a frequent demand for change. The death of something that has served its purpose creates the pathway to new life.

The story of Moses provides us with a prophetic picture of what we’re going through today. We can extract many principles and ideas from the life (and death) of Moses that provide us leaders with perspective and clarity.

So here we go!


Throughout history, Joshua has inspired many leaders with his courage and accomplishments. As a leader, he had the ability to navigate and lead God’s people into a place of promise and abundance.

I believe that the key to his great achievements is found in something that God declared to him at the offset of his leadership journey in Joshua 1:2: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River …”

In order for Joshua to break through into the opportunities available to him across the Jordan, he had to understand the meaning of something that he was already aware of: the fact that Moses was dead.

Of course, Joshua knew that Moses was dead. Yet God chose to state the obvious in His first instruction to Joshua as he prepared to move into new territory.

Why would God choose to declare something so obvious at the genesis of Joshua’s career?

Could it be that Moses had become the epitome of leadership throughout his 40-plus-year career—a career in which he demonstrated success after success to those who followed him?

Let’s not forget that it was Moses who showed up in Egypt and confronted Pharaoh with signs and wonders, demanding him to let God’s people go.

It was Moses who ascended on the mountain and met with God so he could return with fresh revelation to be shared with the people.

It was Moses who was able to lead God’s people successfully for 40 years in unfavorable circumstances.

Many of us would kill for a resume like that of Moses. He was a model leader everyone looked up to.

Yet Moses had to die in order for God’s people to reach that next echelon. Not just physically, but also mentally. After spending 40 years under Moses’ leadership, Joshua had to accept both Moses’ physical death as well as the death of the model of leadership he represented. It had fulfilled its purpose. “Moses” had become obsolete for the season they were in. The Moses way of thinking had to be removed from Joshua’s mind in order to enter the promises God had for him.

This new season required a whole new way of thinking and leading. Moses could no longer be used as a point of reference for what successful leadership looked like.

If we allow ourselves to step back and create some mental margin to hear what God has to say to us as leaders, we may hear those same words Joshua heard.

Moses my servant is dead!

Whether we like it or not, whatever got us to where we are can’t get us to where we are going!

Sooner or later, we’ve got to align ourselves with the death of the old, even if the old got us to where we are today.


When we dive a little deeper into the Moses/Joshua transition, we’ll discover several keys that will help us unlock the mindsets needed in order to embrace the same type of change Joshua had to embrace in order to be successful.

  1. Moses had to be at peace with his death.

“‘Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and … die and be gathered to your people’” (Deuteronomy 32:49-50).

Remember, Moses was still alive and kicking while they arrived at the river Jordan. Moses could have been stubborn and kept the reigns of his leadership exactly where they had been for the last 40 years. Yet God asked him to go up Mount Nebo to die—to voluntarily lay down his position to lead and venture into a place of certain death.

It took effort for Moses to climb Mount Nebo. Nothing about it was easy. He had to choose to die in order to position Joshua for success.

Moses had to be OK with dying. And so he spent the final moments of his life getting to a place that would ultimately kill him.

  1. The people had to be at peace with the new normal.

It’s one thing for us as leaders to embrace the changes needed to get to where we’re going. It’s another thing for the people we lead to do the same. After Joshua had come to peace with Moses’ death, his next priority was to get his people on the same page. As leaders we have to include the people we lead in the mental shifts we’re going through, in order to get them to follow us in the new season.

Joshua 1 communicates an account of Joshua doing this very effectively, resulting in total alignment of the people with the new vision and model of leadership.

“Then they answered Joshua, ‘Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses’” (Joshua 1:16-17).

  1. There was a reason God buried Moses.

Did you know that God himself buried Moses? You can read about it in Deuteronomy 34:5-6: “And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is.”

In fact, nobody knows where his grave is to this day.

Why is this so important? Well, could it be that if Israel had known where Moses’ dead body was, they would have applied their faith in an effort to resurrect what God had destined to die?

I believe they would have. For more than 40 years, Moses protected them from the dangers of the wilderness. So much so that “Moses” had become their safe place.

By burying Moses in an unknown place, God would keep Israel (and us) from trying to resurrect the old and would push us into applying that faith to new things He has in store for us.

This would explain why the devil was contending with the archangel Michael regarding the body of Moses, as we see in the book of Jude verse 9:

“But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses …”

The devil would love to present us with the body of Moses so we can be distracted by what will no longer serve us in the future.


As church leaders, we have arrived at a place where we can no longer deny the obvious. Moses God’s servant has died. Not only that, even if we try to find his dead body, in hopes of trying to resurrect him, we will be unable to find him. The sooner we allow ourselves to come into alignment with the fact that we’ve come to the end of an era, the faster we’ll reap the benefits of what lies ahead.

So let’s “kill Moses” by encouraging him to climb that mountain. Let’s create margin in our lives to fully embrace the level of change needed in order to move into that next level of command and authority to fully experience what God has in store for us.


This article was extracted from Issue 5 (Spring 2021) of the AVAIL Journal. Claim your free annual subscription here.

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