Leading Slow Movers

Several years ago, I did a lengthy study in the book of Joshua. As I went through the book, one of my areas of focus centered on discovering leadership lessons from Joshua’s life.

I wasn’t surprised to learn many valuable leadership lessons in the opening chapters of the book. In these action-packed chapters, Joshua demonstrates God-given courage and wisdom as he directs the Israelites to face the Canaanite armies.

What surprised me most was what I learned about leadership in the back half of the book. In these lesser-known chapters (13-24), the action grinds to a painful halt. Joshua’s leadership is tested by a sluggish group of Israelites. As I studied how Joshua motivated and mobilized his reluctant people, I discovered some valuable lessons about leading the lethargic.

I presented some of these leadership lessons in a series of blog posts. Over the months, these posts have continued to be searched out by those who visit our website. So we’ve compiled the posts into an eBook called Leading the Lethargic: Pastoral Leadership Lessons from the Lesser Known Chapters in Joshua.

You can read the introduction to the eBook below. You can also download a copy of the eBook here.


The first half of the book of Joshua is well traveled by preachers and God’s people.  These opening chapters contain the dramatic account of Israel’s conquest of the land of Canaan.  Some of the best-known stories in Scripture are recorded in the first twelve chapters:  the commissioning of Joshua to courageously lead the conquest (1); Rahab hiding the two spies (2); the crossing of the Jordan river at flood stage (3-5); the miraculous collapse of the walls of Jericho (6); the trouble with Ai and Achan (7-8); the Gibeonite deception (9);, the sun standing still during the battle during the battle at Gibeon (10); the defeat the Canaanite coalition (11-12). 

The back half of the book of Joshua is a road less traveled. The fast-paced action of the opening twelve chapters slows to a standstill.  Having defeated numerous Canaanite armies, the Israelites suddenly stall.  They lose energy and seem lethargic.  Rather than rushing to occupy their new homeland, they huddle together near Shiloh.  In fact, the setting for the final twelve chapters (13-24) barely changes.  For most of the final chapters of the book, the people of Israel encamp at Shiloh while Joshua divides up the land for the various tribes and seeks to motivate them to possess their territories.

No wonder preachers lose steam in the back half of Joshua when expositing their way through the book.  We may conclude there’s not much to notice in chapters 13-24.  But that’s not the case.

Several years ago, I spent half a year working through the book of Joshua, one chapter a week.  One of the things I did as I studied each chapter was to look for leadership lessons I could learn from Joshua’s example.  Afterall, Joshua proved to be a “strong and courageous” leader of God’s people.  I realized my own need to grow in strength and courage as a ministry leader and hoped to glean insights from his example.   For the opening twelve chapters, leadership lessons from Joshua’s life proved easy to find. 

Then I hit the back half of the book.  What was I supposed to learn from these chapters where Israel seemed more intent on huddling together than possessing their new homeland?

But the more I studied these chapters, the more I discovered subtle but significant leadership lessons from Joshua’s example.  Surprisingly, these chapters detail some of his finest moments as a leader of God’s people.  It’s one thing to direct those who are ready to move and willing to embrace the challenge of taking new ground.  It’s another thing to try and lead those who have stalled and become lethargic, self-absorbed, complaining, and critical.  Yet that’s the leadership challenge Joshua faces in chapter 13-24.

How he handles this stalled situation demonstrates leadership wisdom and courage every bit as much as what we see in the front half of the book.  Some of Joshua’s most stellar moments as a leader emerge from the difficult days recorded in chapters 13-24.

In the following pages, I will lead you through the final twelve chapters in the book of Joshua.  For each chapter, I’ll provide a very brief summary of the chapter and then highlight several leadership lessons I learned from Joshua’s example. 

If you find yourself seeking to lead those who seem lethargic, timid or resistance, here are leadership lessons that can help you to be strong and courageous as you lead God’s people.

To read or download Leading the Lethargic, visit our Books, eBooks and Study Guides page: click here.

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