Sticks, Stones, and Swords
“Then Saul gave David his own armor—a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before. “I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again. He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.”
(1 Samuel 17:38-40 New Living Translation)
So it was, with literally nothing more than sticks and stones, David went to fight Goliath. It may not have looked like David was well resourced for the fight, but he took what he knew would work for him. He took weapons that he knew, not what others were using or thought he should take.
Had David taken Saul’s armor to fight the giant, he might have looked like Saul, been armed like Saul, but he wouldn’t have fought like Saul, for Saul’s weapons were not familiar to David. It just wasn’t who David was.
Yet churches all across the country will endeavor to win battles against their giants using weapons that have worked for others but do not fit their own particular context. Their intentions are no doubt noble, wanting only to get the advantage and accomplish the task to which God has called them and to win their city for Christ.
It’s an all too common affliction in the church; someone visits another ministry in another city where breakthrough has occurred and they bring back borrowed methods, trying to replicate the same results in their community. They get up in front of their church, full of zeal, showing off Saul’s latest suit of armor to a group of wide-eyed church members, and declare that the day of God’s victory has arrived. Some in the congregation may scratch their heads, as they still have the sermon notes stuck in their Bible from the last fresh idea brought back from yet another ministry, located somewhere else in the world.
You likely know where the story is going. Seldom does the borrowed strategy work. The reasons for this are numerable, but what we should understand from this today is that we cannot implement by structure what we have not integrated into our culture. Simply slipping on a different suit of armor does not make us Saul. We might find a great soul winning strategy in another church, but if we have not developed a soul winning culture, no program will magically make us soul winners. Likewise, other churches may have raised funds toward ministry projects using a fund-raising method or an appeal that worked for them, but if we’ve not developed a culture of liberality and generosity in our church, no amount of campaigning will make our people generous.
Starting programs is easy. Changing a culture is not. It takes time to invest into people, building into them the scriptural values that serve as the foundation for accomplishing any vision God has given us. God is not as interested in what we’re doing as He is in what we’re becoming, and nowhere is it written that God’ purposes have to be accomplished in a day. Leaders, as a rule, adapt more quickly and are more open to change than most of those whom they lead. Demanding that people see the light and follow blindly, with no understanding or conviction to support their allegiance, is naive at best and controlling at worst.
That’s not to say that God’s doesn’t speak to leaders, or that we cannot learn from others. He does, and we do. But we need to be listening for God in what others are saying. Let others inspire you to hear from God for your city as they did for theirs. Whether the methods are similar or different is not the issue. Results don’t follow methods, they follow obedience, and you will only effectively communicate to others the vision that is genuine and real in you. The fact of the matter is, you make a great original, but a poor copy. Don’t just follow methods; follow God, and let him hand you the weapon, the strategy, and the vision, that will accomplish His purpose in your place. It may not be fancy or elaborate, but we know from the story that a single, simple stone can take a giant down.