One of the marks of Saul’s leadership was that he attached himself to the strong. David, now an outlaw seems to have a very different approach. In 1 Samuel 21 and 22 we see him make good his escape and establish for himself a base in a cave. In some ways this former darling of the royal court makes a pitiful sight. He is described as “alone” as the small group of people with him in 1 Samuel 21 seems that way compared to his usual traveling companions. When established in the cave, a small group of people begin to gather to his leadership. The way they are described is fascinating:
And when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men. (1 Samuel 22:1-2)
Not exactly inspiring is it? How many churches when they are starting out feel a bit like that? How many church leaders secretly complain about the people God has sent them? It is so easy for us to moan that “if only God sent better people, I could achieve so much more!” But that kind of response fails to appreciate the role of the leader, or the kind of Kingdom God is calling us to play our part in building. The leader is supposed to equip and help people, and inspire them to become better people (see for example Ephesians 4). It is this very ragtag group that David transforms into an army of strongmen. God’s kingdom doesn’t reject the weak, but welcomes them and transforms them. In the New Testament we see what the raw recruits of the Church are meant to be like:
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, tobring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
I am convinced that one of the greatest lies that the church has imbibed through the church growth movement is the so-called “homogenous unit principle.” The argument goes, if you want to grow your church focus it clearly on one group of like-minded people. Normally the group young church leaders choose to target is the young, hip, trendy. Jesus has other ideas for his church. He wants to take people who don’t seem to have much promise and transform them, using them for his glory. He tells us to go into the world and make disciples of ALL types of people. It can be messy, it can be challenging, but when God gets ahold of ordinary people who know they are not anything special the results can be remarkable.