With VOUS Conference behind us and VOUSCon in front of us, we are stepping into new territory this year. The key word: new.
Stepping into new territory brings unfamiliarity and uncertainty, and the need for leadership becomes much more apparent. People are looking for someone to help guide them through the new place, and we do that by asking the right questions and reframing our mindsets. Instead of wondering what worship will be like, leaders hold an excitement to worship no matter the environment. Instead of asking what preachers will be there, leaders expect to hear from God no matter who is sharing.
Leaders go first. We set the standard for those we lead. With VOUSCon just weeks away, we’re looking for leaders who are ready to pioneer something new.
No one did this better than David. In 1 Samuel 17, we see David as a shepherd boy. A teenager with no idea what was lying ahead of him. As we read through the story of David and Goliath, there are three leadership lessons we can take from the passage.
1. We lead to: Gain Ground
“So the Philistines and Israelites faced each other on opposite hills, with the valley between them.” — 1 Samuel 17:3
The story starts with the Israelites and Philistines preparing for battle. They are fighting over land. This is the perfect picture of what we, the Church, are always trying to do. We fight to gain ground because the enemy is always working to take ground.
In June, we are going to occupy territory in the Watsco Arena because we have a story to tell. We want to be heard loud and clear as we lift up the name and message of Jesus.
As the story continues, we see Goliath taunting Israel at the battlefield, shouting, “Send a man who will fight me!” and causing the Israelites to be terrified. After 40 days of this, the Bible tells us that David was sent to check on his brothers at the battlefield. Verse 17 says, “One day Jesse said to David, ‘Take this basket of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread, and carry them quickly to your brothers.’” David didn’t know it, but this would turn out to be one of the greatest battles of all time — thousands of years later and it’s still the story that secular news, sports, and storytellers use to showcase an upset. David was on his way to a history-making battle, and it was the bread that got him there. What he thought was an insignificant food delivery turned out to be an assignment to gain ground.
Wherever we find ourselves, we can trust that we aren’t here by coincidence but by divine assignment. God sends us with a bread basket but is really sending us for battle. We will never fully step into the authority that God has given us if we aren’t confident that we’re supposed to be here in the first place. Each of us are on a mission. We can’t afford to doubt our mission — there’s land on the line.
2. We lead with: Clear Conviction
“Don’t worry about this Philistine,’ David told Saul. ‘I’ll go fight him!’ ‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ Saul replied. ‘There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.’ But David persisted.” — 1 Samuel 17:32-34
David was persistent because he was passionate, willing to do whatever was necessary to be part of the fight. And he was persistent for good reason — there were great rewards at stake. But the rewards offered from the world are so different from the rewards offered by God.
We see in the story that King Saul offered a huge reward to anyone who could take down Goliath. The world offers promotion of ourselves, saying we can make our own names great, our churches look cool, and giving us points for being part of something big.
This is why we have to understand our motivations. Wrong motives come from a wrong spirit, while the right motives come from a right spirit.
David had the right motives. In verses 46-47, he says “‘Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!’” David fought with clear conviction not for his own gain, but so people could see God.
We host VOUSCon not to promote our church but so the world will know God. We’re in this so the kingdom of God can advance. We’re in this for souls, gaining eternally significant ground. We’re in this because of what Jesus did on the cross. We have the good news and are on assignment to share it.
3. We lead by: Fighting First
“As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.” — 1 Samuel 17:48-49
What’s beautiful about this scripture is that David, not knowing he was going into battle, was fully equipped for the fight. He showed up with his bread basket and shepherd’s bag and had everything he needed for victory.
So how do we fight? Out of our own bag. David didn’t reach for Saul’s armor. We can’t use the skills God has given us when we’re wearing armor that isn’t ours.
When David killed Goliath, everything changed for the Israelites. Look at this:
“Then the men of Israel and Judah gave a great shout of triumph and rushed after the Philistines, chasing them as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron. The bodies of the dead and wounded Philistines were strewn all along the road from Shaaraim, as far as Gath and Ekron.” — 1 Samuel 17:52
I always picture this story happening in one scene, on one battleground, but that’s not actually true. After David’s victory, the same Israelites who had spent 40 days paralyzed in fear were empowered to chase the Philistines for over 25 miles, all the way from the Valley of Elah to the gates of Ekron.
David was empowered by God and fought first, and his fight activated an army. His fight enabled the rest of them to fight. As leaders, the same is true for us. We aren’t fighting other people’s battles — we fight our own battles to give people the courage to fight theirs. Leaders go first.
Marriages on the brink of divorce — fight for them.
Church leaders who feel like they aren’t making a difference — fight for them.
College students being told a different truth — fight for them.
Pastors ready to call it quits — fight for them.
We fight so that everyone will know that the same God who brought us to victory will bring them to victory, too.