David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him. – 1 Samuel 22:2
By the time I graduated college I had been teaching small groups for 4 years. I had taught mainly high school and middle school at that point, and as I found myself bold new world of adulthood one reality became increasingly clear: I couldn’t live life by myself, and the more I tried, the more I began to sink in my own walk with Christ. At every other point in my life, I had always been surrounded by people who loved and encouraged me to follow Christ, but I had reached a place where love, encouragement, and Christ followers were an increasingly rare commodity. I still had a great small group of high school students, but no one that could genuinely identify with my day to day struggles, or even have the same sense of humor and fun that I did. For a while I tried to convince myself that I was fine and that the strong were made to stand alone, and even though I was anchored to Christ, I knew that I was simply treading water while slowly trending downward.
Finally, after about a year, I joined a young singles small group at my church that met in the house of a pastor that I had grown up with. I struggled to even go because of the old church stigma that single’s groups were the places that high expectations came to die. The imaginary slogan running through my mind was “Can’t find a spouse? Neither can they! Join our group!” But I still went. Apprehensive, a little judgmental, but at the point that I wanted to share life with people who could simply identify with me. I had never been in an adult small group until that point. The leader was my age and married, not an old sage-like teacher, and the people that attended were really nothing like me. Some were older, some in totally different walks of life, others with careers in full swing, some had yet to find a career, and I was simply working a job to get me through grad school. It was nothing like what I expected and thank God it wasn’t. I began to realize as the weeks moved on that these people were more like me than my slogan allowed, and even their differences simply allowed me to see things from a perspective that God used to shape my life and vision to be more like Him. I even began to feel comfort in the fact that my leader was someone who could simply identify with me and walk alongside me. We may have been in slightly different stages, but we both struggled, and could walk alongside one another. I learned that leaders aren’t people who have it all figured out, they are simply chasing toward the answers faster than everyone else and encouraging them to come along.
I can’t help but think that David and his men felt the same way about each other as my I felt about my first adult small group. David was a great military commander, but at this point a fugitive from the king, and his band of men had one thing in common: they were all equally as alienated from society in one way or another. This isn’t the group I would have chosen if I were David, nor the commander I would have picked first if I was one of those 400 men, and it defiantly isn’t the situation anyone would want to be in. Yet it is amazing that these 400 distressed, indebted, discontented men became the bulk of David’s mighty men of great renown. They accomplished God sized tasks and reigned with David in the golden age of Israel. God took an unlikely crew and accomplished unprecedented tasks.
As a leader we often spend time thinking about what should be and what we want, but God has placed us in specific places, with specific people, with great purpose in mind. When you look at the group that God has given you to lead, the people he has opened up the doors to pursue, and yourself as a leader, the first inclination is to simply point out the flaws and resort to the what if’s that would improve your circumstances instead of realizing that God has gifted us with each of these things for a great and powerful purpose. So as you lead those God has entrusted to you, remember what this passage teaches us:
1. David was an anointed and wrongly accused felon, but still a felon on the run. We aren’t perfect and can’t be, but thankfully God doesn’t ask us to be. Our situations do not define us. Christ defines us so lead from that fact. Leaders who accomplish great things are often the last ones you would expect.
2. David identified with his men in, his own, brokenness and vulnerability, not in power and invulnerability. Followers know that leaders are not perfect and good leaders embrace that fact. When we are able to admit that we have struggles too, we allow others to find comfort that they are not inadequate, simply running with you.
3. The men that David had been given were a far cry from the armies he had previously led into battle. They were men on the fringes of society who struggled just like David, but God brought them together to do great things. Great leaders see the potential of what God has entrusted to them, and seek to develop it instead of simply looking for better stock to fit their mold.
Remember, you and your group were built to do things that you could scarcely imagine. The gates of Hell quake in fear when the purposes God has given us are realized! Don’t short sell what God picked specifically for you!