5 When they came to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant[a] who was with him, “Come, let us go back, lest my father cease to care about the donkeys and become anxious about us.” 6 But he said to him, “Behold, there is a man of God in this city, and he is a man who is held in honor; all that he says comes true. So now let us go there. Perhaps he can tell us the way we should go.” 7 Then Saul said to his servant, “But if we go, what can we bring the man? For the bread in our sacks is gone, and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What do we have?” 8 The servant answered Saul again, “Here, I have with me a quarter of a shekel[b] of silver, and I will give it to the man of God to tell us our way.” 9 (Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he said, “Come, let us go to the seer,” for today’s “prophet” was formerly called a seer.) 10 And Saul said to his servant, “Well said; come, let us go.” So they went to the city where the man of God was.–I Samuel 9:5-9, ESV
A few years ago, I wrote my doctoral project on returning church leadership to a Biblical understanding. I was in a church context that was challenged with a past that had pastoral and lay leadership not holding the people in care. Individuals told me that they experience moments of embarrassment when private matters were made public. Furthermore, individuals did not feel safe in address real issues in a place/institution that is supposed to be inherently a safe space.
When leadership proves to be toxic, it is a difficult proposition to assist someone through the ebb and flow of life’s journey. People have a difficult time trusting that leaders are capable of handling the real challenges that are before individuals on a daily basis. That reason was the prompt for the subject matter of my project.
Now, I find myself in the midst of people attempting to articulate their faith in the midst of trying times. When I speak of trying times, I am really addressing the demon of indifference to the human condition. The same one that has constantly found methods of separation, platform establishment, and selective piety. This moment in time has caused me to examine myself and consider my place as a pastor and leader.
For many years, I have wrestled with the thought of extremism in the Christian faith. Life, seminary, personal study, and experiences have pulled out of me the truest form of who and what I am as a person. I realize that living and attempting to follow the example of Christ is the most radical thing that a person can do. But it is not for the reasons that many might think.
Being a follower of Christ, a true observer of God requires much more than a surface idea of the Biblical text. We must be in tune with God to such an extent that we accept the thought that we might not know everything. Furthermore, we must possess the mental, emotional, and spiritual dexterity necessary to understand that people arrive at very different experiences with God. Greater still, the arguments for what people call foundational/traditional must pass the God test every time.
What I am saying is that we must be prepared to give real answers in a real world about a real God is sits higher than us. Yet, that concept is not taking place. People are lost. People are frustrated. People are functioning to be on the winning side. People are willing to do harm to others to prove that God does not want them.
We are in need more than ever of having Samuel like leaders. What do I mean? We need leaders that possess shepherd qualities with prophetic edge. We need people that are not looking only in the scope today’s benefit. We need people that can see the larger picture that reaches everyone on every level.
When Saul was lost chasing his father’s donkeys, he and his servant were in need of finding someone to help them get back on track going towards their home. When asking for a seer (another name for prophet), a person told them about Samuel. The recommendation was associated with a guarantee. Behold, there is a man of God in this city, and he is a man who is held in honor; all that he says comes true. The indication is that Samuel was not only in sync with God, but was able to navigate the challenges of the moment.
I do not care what the issues might be (human sexuality, race, gender, etc). We are in a season that requires more than people fighting for their specific corner of their world. We must finally accept that God is much bigger than our thoughts and understanding. We must accept that at best we are attempting to navigate imperfect people toward the best way to love God and others. We must accept that we can not limit God’s reach in matters of faith formation and direction.
I was not always vocal in this manner. I arrived at this place not because of the current debates regarding human sexuality and leadership in the life of the church. I came to this place when I finally saw God differently and recognized that Christ looks more like me. In other words, I was finally liberated to experience the God that loves me through the lens of my challenges, difficulties, uniqueness, and experienced bias.
I understand more than ever that it was necessary to have people in my life with the heart of a shepherd to aide me through facing my emotional health through more than laying on of hands. I needed prophetic voices to remind me to challenge the notion that white supremacist created image of Jesus was not my Christ. I was called to challenge the notion that we are to be divine bouncers when Christ has called us to draw unto Him.
Dr. E. Dewey Smith said many things from a sermon from almost three years ago that still resonates in my soul. However, this statement changed my approach to ministry and people. You can not evangelize and antagonize at the same time. For my personal walk, I am called to not to judge what I see. I am called to present the full counsel of the Savior I love and serve. Furthermore, God has not deputized me to keep anyone away for the genuine encounter of God’s presence and love.
We are not to pick and choose how people get the opportunity to experience radical change within their soul and spirit. We definitely don’t get to pick and choose what is sinful and what can be tolerated. We definitely can not speak for a larger body who longs to share the beauty of the relationship with God.
If we take on the challenge of becoming like Samuel, we will be asking God for certain tools to aid us.
- Vision: We must have to ability to see what is to come. Samuel was shown before Saul arrived that he would have to anoint Saul as the new king of Israel. God revealed that Samuel had to be prepared for the one to come, not how that one would come. We must see that our ability to see what God sees allows us to remove the guess work in how to operate for the Kingdom of God.
- Relationship: Samuel was in tune with God from childhood. Samuel knew the voice of God from his initial calling as a child as a priest intern. Samuel cultivated that relationship with God to the extent that he was able to move when God wanted to move. Nothing God said was accidental. Nothing Samuel did was without purpose.
- Spirit-Led: We must be prepared to allow the Holy Spirit to guide how we execute the Will of God in the Earth. God will allow us to gain all the information possible to understand as much as our minds can conceive in that moment. Yet, we still need the Spirit to activate every gift of grace that rest within us to usher the proper environment for elevation in experiencing God.
When you are a Samuel, a payoff comes. Samuel met Saul and revealed to him that he was chosen to be king of Israel. Saul could not believe what was happening, but the destiny was set in motion by God. Samuel would walk with Saul as the future king would experience and witness the affirmation of his call.
When we trust God with what has been given to us, we can walk out the necessary elements of comfort and truth to power. We must rise to in both veins (priest and prophet) in this season of life. Otherwise, we will have a future of wanderers seeking a voice. They will be like sheep without a shepherd. A people without love or hope. I refuse to face that judgment for a temporary platform.