Below is a summary of the message I preached on May 13 from 1 Samuel 11:12-12:25 that did not get recorded. I surveyed five principles of biblical leadership from the passage and addressed them to the recent events concerning Paige Patterson's comments on domestic abuse that recently came to light and the response of the SBC.
1.) Godly leaders are secure in their identity and position in Christ and thus do not seek retribution against their critics (1 Samuel 11:12-15).
It is true that Saul does not get much right in his reign as Israel's king, and his greatest strength, humility, becomes a weakness of hesitancy. In this instance, however, when there is a cry to execute those who had questioned his rule, he cites God's deliverance as all the vindication he needed and that to execute them to prove a point would be gratuitous. Contrast this with the firing of a Ph.D. student from SWTS for criticizing Dr. Patterson's defense of his remarks. As followers of Christ, defensiveness is a toxic trait that undercuts our faith and our witness
2.) Godly leaders are transparent and invite accountability (1 Samuel 12:1-5).
Samuel goes a step further than Saul and actually invites charges of wrongdoing against him. This is not for the purpose of defending himself against such charges, but in order to make right any potential wrongs he committed against the people he had led. In the discussions in the SBC the past coupe of weeks, it is clear that in many circles the major problem is not what Dr. Patterson said, but that people are criticizing him for it. The highest good is the reputation of the leader, not how his words and actions might harm those he leads. Samuel models the sort of transparency and accountability that is unconcerned with how it might make them look to the public. It is significant that after decades of public service, no one brought any charges against Samuel. Where there is a lack of transparency, it is often because there is something that needs to be hidden.
3.) Godly leaders plead God's righteous case when confronting sin (1 Samuel 12:6-12).
Having re-established his leadership, Samuel proceeds to lay out his plea to the people of Israel. While their faithlessness and idolatry are certainly a concern to him, the way the text portrays this is that Samuel catalogs God's righteousness, not their wickedness. Samuel does not set himself up as an adversary of the people but as an advocate for God and His goodness. It is a plea for the people to be enthralled with God's faithful lovingkindness and to turn from the empty gods they have been serving. This has been one of the encouraging things in recent weeks for me to see. There are numerous voices in the SBC that are not taking the easy path of simply condemning Dr. Patterson for his remarks, but pleading with their brothers and sisters on behalf of God's goodness and for the sake of His reputation. Rather than posturing as vicious critics, these voices are winsome witnesses that are drawing the church back to righteousness.
4.) Godly leaders are followers first (1 Samuel 12:13-18).
This principle underlies all the rest. Samuel makes it clear that the people and their king must al be following God. He further seems to hold both king and people accountable for the other to follow. Then most dramatically, he demonstrates that he speaks not on his own but as a follower of God by asking God to speak to all of them in a mighty way. This shows that Samuel too, is under authority. Part if the challenge not only in the SBC but in the broader church as well, is that we still have an unhealthy view of leadership as being about positional authority. That tends to discourage the characteristics outlined in the first three points and creates a culture where leader are not followers first, and followers are tempted to simply follow a human authority rather than following Christ and being able to lead others themselves. The biblical vision is that all of God's people would be leaders in some capacity through relational influence grounded in their following of Jesus. When we lose sight of that, we see authorities abusing their positions to the hurt of those they lead.
5.) Godly leaders compassionately seek the good of those they lead (1 Samuel 12:19-25).
Samuel closes his address by indicating that although the people have rejected God as king by choosing a king for themselves, he will not cease to serve them in prayer and instruction. This is remarkable since they have also implicitly rejected Samuel as a leader and he could have simply washed his hands of them. Instead, far from being a farewell address (as it has often been called), Samuel's words indicate a fortitude to continue to love this stubborn people in the best way, by praying for them and showing them the good and right way. When Dr. Patterson's comments came to light he showed a remarkable lack of sensitivity when he indicated that he did not need to apologize because he had done nothing wrong. Having told a woman in an abusive marriage to stay in it, when she came to church later with two black eyes she asked him if he were happy. He replied that he was since her husband had come to church with her that week. He told this story as an illustration of biblical counsel regarding marriage. I can only imagine the tremendous damage his words did to that woman and to many who heard him share the story as a positive example. Thus, when he wrote an apology several days after insisting he had nothing to apologize for, he did not apologize to that woman and certainly did not seek to make right what he had done. This kind of callousness towards the under his leadership is the most egregious shortcoming he has displayed. More troubling is that many leaders who were quick to applaud his "apology" had been silent when others were insisting there was something to apologize for. This kind of self-protection of leaders is exactly the reverse of what Samuel models and the rest of Scripture holds up as "servant leadership". My prayer for the SBC and all other churches, including my own, is that we will witness a renewal of commitment to godly, biblical leadership so that as we follow our Lord and Savior we might lead others towards Him.
Marcus Little is the Senior Pastor of Berean Baptist Church. This blog is a place where he can share his thoughts and reflections on how Scripture intersects with life, work, community, culture and the events of our times.