I’ve said this before–when I think of bad leadership, I think of King Saul from the Bible. I’ve blogged about his exploits before. He was hiding in the baggage not wanting to be seen (1 Samuel 10:22). He wasn’t the best king. He was anointed by God to rule the people of Israel. He was supposed to be the chosen one. He was supposed to be the great king. The people of Israel wanted a king like all the other nations and they got one.
But then something happened. King Saul lost his anointing. He lost his blessing from God to lead. Now this doesn’t mean he didn’t lead. He didn’t lead the nation of Israel. We read that he was 30 when he was made king (younger than me, geesh) and he ruled for 42 years. He died at 72, falling on his own sword (1 Samuel 31:4). He led badly for years. And his bad leadership caused havoc on his people.
So what happened? Saul stopped trusting in God. In 1 Samuel 13, right after he becomes king, he runs into a situation. He’s supposed to wait on God. He’s supposed to wait on God to act. All he has to do is trust. And he waits. And he waits. And he waits. All the soldiers he has with him begin to walk away. They don’t trust in God. They don’t trust that God acts. And Saul is supposed to go into action.
They are at war with the Philistines and waiting at a place called Gilgal, ready for the attack. They were waiting for Samuel to come to bring God’s word to them. And instead of trusting in God, Saul begins to trust in what he thinks is right. He is to wait in Gilgal until Samuel comes and then he’ll worship God with burnt offerings. Instead of waiting for Samuel to come, he offers burnt offerings not for God but to appease his soldiers who are leaving in droves.
He had created an idol in himself, in his pride. And in his idol, he worshiped it instead of God. Leadership is about following God’s leading, in worshiping God. And King Saul worshiped his own prowess and power not God’s.
Because of King Saul’s pride and wanting to do things for his own wants and desires, he loses his anointing. And a young man named David is anointed as king instead. And Saul wants to kill David. In fact, he does everything he can to kill David. His pride became his idol.
And idol is something we worship. An idol is something that we worship and place as important in place of God or on the same level as God. And this is what Saul was doing. He was placing his pride and his desire to rule above all else, above God himself.
How many times do we do that? We place our desire to lead over God’s own leading. As a pastor, I lead because I am lead. Pastor means shepherd. One who guides sheep. A leader is to guide not to focus on his own pride but to focus on those they are leading. And they are to offer room for the ones they are leading to follow in honest excitement.
David was a shepherd. He wasn’t always the best person but he did one thing first of all–he trusted in God. He was anointed to be king but it took a number of years before he became king. He trusted in God not in idols. Not in his pride but in the power of God.
As a leaders, as a pastor, I need to trust in the power of God. I need to follow him and his desires not my own. I need to place my pride aside and make room in my life for those I am leading.
As Henri Nouwen, in The Wounded Healer, says, part of leadership is hospitality, offering room for those you are leading and guiding to come into your life and be part of it. A shepherd spends time with their sheep, knows their sheep and their sheep know them. King Saul led by his own power and strength. And in the end he died by his own power and strength by falling on his sword. Kind David lived on, not just him but his whole family line. His descendants reigned on the throne of Israel.
And the epitome of leadership, good solid shepherd like leadership, is found in Jesus, the Son of David. Not only anointed by God to lead but God himself in the flesh. And Jesus leads. He guides. Jesus never turned his power against the people even though he could have if he wanted. He gently moved and guided.
And he still leads us and guides us. He doesn’t push us with his power but nudges us as a shepherd. He gives us the hospitality we need to be ourselves in his leadership in our lives. He is savior, lord, and friend. And in his hospitality, he allows us to grieve and to celebrate. he allows us to choose to follow him and be excited about following him.
When I think of good leadership, I think of him. I think of how he led his disciples while here on earth and later his apostles and the church itself by his Spirit.
I pray I can lead as he led. I pray I don’t lead as King Saul led placing pride above Jesus and making my own leadership an idol.
How can you lead like Jesus? How can you lead like a shepherd?