Often we look at King David for examples of leadership, faithfulness to God and humility rarely do we look at the way in which his leadership built community. He built community not with those that were only peers or those in top socio-economic standing; he built it with the marginalized. Why build community with the marginalized, was it a ploy or some way of solidifying his support base- Nope. In 1 Samuel 22:1-3 we learn that the marginalized came to David and made him their leader. This was after David fled King Saul’s court. Scripture tells us that they were people in distress, debt or discontent modern translation: socially marginalized. Why did they seek out David? Because they lacked security, wanted continuity in daily life and a support system. David and his relatives were in a similar situation but unlike the marginalized, they were wanted not for petty crimes but because Saul was jealous of David’s popularity and personally feared him. While David and this community were out in the desert a transformation began, people who doubted themselves or were dependent upon no one else learned that each of them was valuable to David and God. David did not treat them as second-class citizens or outlaws as they were accustomed to instead he treated them as equals even – family. What happened in the desert with David, his relatives and the people referred to as distressed and in debt was a precursor to what Jesus would do with the apostles and what each church leader is called to accomplish – bind up the wounded and love on them in such a way that no longer do they feel estranged from the local community but embraced by it. Transformation happened, not the type based upon a 5-step plan in some how to book on Christian leadership but the type all of us hear about and even dream of, the type that comes from the working of the Holy Spirit.
The author of 1 & 2 Samuel doesn’t give us details about the transformation nor attempt to document the length of this process. Instead he provides us with a description of the fruit of this transformation- it was out of this tightly knit desert community that the Mighty men arise. In 2 Samuel 23:8-23 we learn about the level of devotion and love the Mighty Men had for David; that at one point while David was in the caves of Adullam and the Philistines were encamped in the valley of Rephaim three of the mighty men sneak past the Philistines and retrieve water from a well in Bethlehem for David. If that isn’t devotion and loyalty then what is it? David’s response is easily seen as disapproval because of the impulsiveness demonstrated by some of his best warriors. I believe that his response was also out of concern that these men who have been with him from the desert and were loners now relatives through combat were of more value to him than a thousand wells of water. He valued them not merely as warriors but as friends.
You might wonder what David’s mighty men have to do with Good Works. Several decades ago Keith Wassermann was not known as an advocate for the homeless and socially marginalized. Nor was he known as a Christian man whose integrity, ministry and devotion to God molded his life. Like David who was in hiding from King Saul, Keith had a support system of friends and heard from God. Slowly resulting from these two factors in Keith’s life, the local homeless began to be attracted to Keith. Like the mighty men, they were in need of a community that valued, loved, befriend and cried with them. A community that over time smoothed some of the rough edges they walked in with and helped them to recognize that community needs them. In the community created around David like the one created around Keith those who belong learned that they have something to give, something that maybe only they can impart into the community.
Over the years many of us on staff have been there when our neighbors and friends have their own aha moment. That is when the twinkle in their eye gets brighter because they release what we have been doing all along- loving on them and inviting them to do ministry with us. They finally understand that we are not doing ministry “to” or “for” them but “with” them. This revelation does more than brighten the look on their faces; it removes the curtain that has been hiding the radiance of God’s image in them. Once the curtain has been removed our neighbors understand that like God we strive to make no distinction between them and ourselves; breathing life into the apostle Paul’s words that in Christ there is neither Greek nor Jew, free or slave, man or woman for we all belong to God and are co-heirs with Jesus.
Like David, the prophets, apostles and Jesus- each of us will find ourselves with opportunities to participate in creating a community that meets the needs of its members. Sure there are underlying traits of successful Christian communities but those traits are adjusted to the unique personality (gifting, skills, experiences and future) of those communities. Some of you might call this contextualization others might just call it a reminder that God never intended for a square peg to go in a round hole. Like the body of Christ that has come before us and will come after us, the communities that we build are never a finished product or stagnant rather the adaptation of communities to the society around them are a way in which they do more than survive but remain relevant and serve the needs of the marginalized while calling all of society to join in the life giving process of actively participating in an intentional Christian Community.
1 Samuel 22:1-3 & 2 Samuel 23:8-23
— Chip Guyton