Recently, this passage of scripture has come up in a couple of conversations. Today, it comes up in our reading schedule. I give you 1 Samuel 16:1-13.
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2 And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do. And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you.” 4 Samuel did what the Lord commanded and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
If you were Samuel, tasked with finding the next king of Israel, do you think you would have discovered him? People tend to look at the outward, or most obvious, qualities of candidates that they choose as leaders. For example, it's a fact that most American presidents have been above average in height. In an article entitled "Short Changed: Why to Tall People Make More Money?" Steven E Lansburg writes: reports:
Of 43 American presidents, only five have been more than a smidgeon below average height, and the last of those was Benjamin Harrison, elected in 1888. (Another three, most recently Jimmy Carter, were just a hair below average.) Most presidents have been several inches above the norm for their times, with the five tallest being Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, Thomas Jefferson, and Franklin Roosevelt—suggesting, incidentally, that height predicts not just electoral success but a propensity to subvert the Constitution. (This statistical anomaly works in the other direction as well; the shortest of American presidents was James Madison, who largely wrote the Constitution.) (Click here to read the entire fascinating article.)
In selecting leaders, we take many external characteristics into account: height, weight, gender, attractiveness, etc. We also consider past accomplishments, current employment, and a variety of factors by which we expect our leaders to "make the grade." But God considers other things. Things like faith, obedience, availability to the Holy Spirit's promptings, and humility. So I ask you, if you were Samuel, would you have discovered the next king? Would you have listened to God's promptings, or would you have picked eliab, Abinadab, or Shammah?
In July, Antioch will be selecting deacons. In addition, they will soon be creating a pastor search committee. Perhaps your church will be selecting servant/leaders as well. What criteria will you use, to determine whether a person is qualified for the job? Unfortunately, people are often asked to serve in church if they are more distinguished than others, or if they happen to be male rather than female. The first names that come to mind are the last names that goes back for generations in the church or community. But where do we leave room in our decision process for discovering little David? In your church's selection process, do you simply choose the obvious people, or do you search for the ruddy-faced kid who's working among the sheep? I hope that you'll consider little David in two ways:
- I hope that you'll consider the non-obvious choices, in the way you vote.
- I hope your church will consider a method of evaluating nominations, that makes more room for the non-obvious choices. In other words, does your church have a mechanism built into your process that acknowledges that those who receive the most nominations aren't always the most spiritually qualified? Consider whether there's a way you could put on the ballot some names that are obvious, and some were less obvious.
The next time you need to choose a leader or leaders, consider Little David. This just might be the person who is after God's own heart.