My last posting highlighted two characteristics of spiritual leaders found in 1 Chronicles 12:32, namely that spiritual leaders understand the times and know what God’s people should do. Considering this passage in its context, a third characteristic of spiritual leaders emerges: spiritual leaders must first of all pursue God’s agenda. So let’s see how this idea emerges from the passage.
1 Chronicles 12:23, which introduces the entire passage, says: “Now these are the numbers of the divisions equipped for war, who came to David at Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the LORD” (NASB). The last few words are key, as they provide insight into why these leaders of Israel took the action they did. They understood that it was God’s revealed will to make David king.
The fact that David was chosen by God to rule over all Israel was not new news. More than a decade had passed since God revealed to the prophet Samuel that David was to rule instead of Saul and Samuel anointed David as king (1 Samuel 13:14; 16:13). So the fact that David was God’s choice to rule all Israel had been known for some time.
Instead, we see that for a period, Israel’s leaders pursued a different agenda. At this point in time, seven and a half years passed since the death of Saul, from which time David reigned over only the tribe of Judah. These seven and a half years were characterized by conflict and civil war as the leaders of the other eleven tribes attempted to maintain the kingship of Saul’s house, whom God had rejected, instead of making David king, as God directed. Thus we have a significant amount of time where un-spiritual leaders were seeking to do their own will rather than pursuing God’s revealed agenda.
So the action that we see here in 1 Chronicles 12 was not immediate action based on a new revelation, but rather the leaders and people finally (!) coming into alignment with God’s long ago revealed will.
Henry and Richard Blackaby, in their book Spiritual Leadership, state that effective spiritual leaders move God’s people into alignment with God’s agenda. I find this description of spiritual leadership very helpful. But this passage in 1 Chronicles 12 brings to light the problematic issues that emerge when the majority of spiritual leaders choose to not pursue God’s revealed agenda. The intervening seven and a half years between Saul’s death and David being made king over all Israel involved civil war, assassinations and needless death and suffering, all because Israel’s leaders would not accept God’s revealed word. Instead they pursued their own agenda – to their own detriment. In this context, spiritual leaders must first choose to pursue God’s agenda; then they are able to move God’s people into alignment with God’s agenda.
In my experience two plus decades of working with Christian leaders, I have observed that it is frequently necessary to persuade spiritual leaders to pursue God’s revealed agenda. One would think that this should not be an issue; but it is. There are many possibilities of why this is so. Some may be ignorant of God’s revealed agenda. Others have forgotten or neglected the pursuit of God’s will or have a list of excuses of why God’s revealed will does not apply. A few have outright rejected God’s word in order to pursue a self-seeking agenda. Maybe the pursuit of God’s agenda is “politically incorrect” or challenges the status quo of those who are positional church leaders. So the first task is to help spiritual leaders wrestle with what God wants, to take God’s revealed word seriously, to lay down their own agendas to pursue God’s agenda in unity. I ‘ve observed that a primary factor that derails church planting and disciple making initiatives is that leaders are unable to come together in unity to pursue God’s agenda. Is it any wonder that there is so much disunity in the Body of Christ when its leaders are unwilling to pursue God’s agenda?
So this is the key point: spiritual leaders must first of all pursue God’s agenda in unity; then they will be able to move the rest of God’s people to accomplish what is on God’s agenda. We see this happening in 1 Chronicles 12, where hundreds of thousands of people come into alignment with God’s agenda to make David King of all Israel. Would it not be more wonderful to see hundreds of thousands – even millions – of God’s people working together today to make Jesus king of the whole earth!
Adding this perspective to our previous observations from 1 Chronicles 12 about spiritual leadership it is seen that spiritual leaders must: (1) pursue God’s agenda in unity, (2) understand the times and (3) know what God’s people should do.
I see that several practical applications that follow from these observations. So the next piece will focus on three practical questions every spiritual leader must be able to answer. Subscribe if you wish to follow the conversation.