You can only lead people to the extent they want to be lead – 1 Samuel 8

“Obey their voice and make them a king.” So says God to Samuel in 1 Samuel 8:22. But what of dynamic anointed by God leadership? What of setting the tone of your people? What of hearing from God and not allowing objectors to derail the resultant vision?

It seems that there are times when even the best leader must allow themselves to be lead, even if they know the decision is the wrong one. A wise old pastor once said to me, “You can only pastor people to the extent they want to be pastored.” Or according to an old English proverb, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.”

I do believe that pastors should hear from God and lead the Church in a clear direction. But perhaps there may be a time when God says, “do what the people say.” Many pastors will quite rightly pray that such a time doesn’t come to them. For surely in this situation God’s willingness to allow the people to effectively lead their leader was a sign of judgement.

In many churches if the people are allowed to make decisions in a democratic manner, no change will ever be agreed on. But the point is clear, whatever your form of church government, leaders can only lead by the consent of the people.

This is a challenge to every father also. There have been times when I have simply tried to impose my own will on my family. That is not real leadership. A major skill of all leadership is surely the ability to listen. I need to strengthen that ability. Christian leadership is about listening to the people, and listening to God. But surely our goal, even if it is not always realized, is that the people become persuaded by God’s will, rather than God is persuaded by them.

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