The "Saul Leader"

I may be a minister, but I gotta be honest: The church can be a messy, messy place.

I mean…I know we all like to think the church is a magical place with unicorns, double rainbows, and glittery flowers.

But truth is: the church is no family picnic…especially if its leaders lack unity and interdependence.

Now I admit: there are many exceptional church leaders out there; however, not all walk in their qualification.

Take the “Saul leader”, for instance (i.e. any leader who mars his leadership by catering to jealousy, fear, and/or a lack of humility).

If you’ve ever served under Saul leaders, chances are you know how challenging it is to submit and honor their authority. Perhaps you’ve been burned by a Saul leader unfairly blaming you, spreading gossip about you, or ignoring your counsel. Maybe you know the feeling of other people wanting to follow your lead as opposed to your higher-up.

At any rate, the topic is worth discussion, since many believers today are being intimidated by insecure leaders who have abandoned the call to own their mistakes.

In Saul’s case, these fatal flaws dominated his rulership. The more he cared about what others thought, the more he comprised his allegiance to God by vain comparisons and insubordination (see 1 Samuel 13:8-14; 18:6-16). Ultimately, Saul’s rebellion resulted in his rejection as king1 and set the stage for David’s reign.

Now I don’t know about you, but the story of Saul grips me. A decorated hero with strong intellect, charisma, and physique, Saul initially showed great potential as God’s choice to rule Israel. In fact, it was Saul’s bold raid to rescue the Tablets of the Ten Commandments from the Philistines that paved the way for David’s eventual triumph over them in 2 Samuel 5.

Yet, Saul had a critical problem – whenever courage called, he often withdrew2, trusting his own strength instead of taking his timidity captive. Thus, of all Saul’s vices, perhaps none were as self-destructive as his pride and unbelief3.

So when we talk about a Saul leader, we’re talking about anyone in a place of authority who lacks the confidence, maturity, and /or trust to shepherd effectively.

No doubt, many of us have experienced the damaging effects of what a Saul leader can do.

I know for me, I’ve seen family members manipulated by proud pastors foreign to meekness…and friends alienated by leaders who’d rather transpose their failure then own it.

Yet, whenever I’ve grieved in light of these trials, I’ve come to realize something.

As much as we hate the deceptions governing the Saul leaders in our lives, they’re only as good as what they know and sow.

After all, to loathe is easy, but to pray, contend…and turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39)? That’s when the rubber meets the road in our dealings with compromised authority.

At the end of the day, the best choice we can make is to trust God and surrender the desire to use pain as motivation.

Look at David, for example.

When we examine David’s leadership, we find a man after God’s own heart who not only respected Saul, but trusted God’s timing and sovereignty, even in the face of jealousy and persecution. Why? Because David believed no matter what happened, God was enough to get him through. Literally, there was nothing that could hinder David from believing God’s best, even when he was attacked by those he looked up to.

In the end, God raised David up to lead Israel in the way Saul couldn’t. All David had to do was trust God, surrender the desire to judge, and humbly submit to authority.

My encouragement to you, friends, is to keep contending for God’s best, even for the Saul leaders in your life. You may wonder why God appoints certain leaders in certain roles; you may question if their decision-making is right. But whatever you do, never stop prayingfor those who persecute you; never stop loving those who assail against you.

Think of this way: you don’t have to bear the weight of dealing with their sin. Or better yet…you don’t have to bear the weight of being them!

Can I hear an “Amen”?

So if you’re walking in greater freedom than your boss, pastor, or superior, rejoice, and rest in peace.

Apparently, they need the prayer more than you do.


1) The peak of Saul’s defiance takes place when he disobeys Samuel’s order to kill all the Amalekites       (1 Samuel 15:1-11)
2)  Perhaps most evident when he hides among the baggage (1 Samuel 10:9-26)
3)  This killer combo arguably kept Saul from embracing repentance as a lifestyle
4) A heartfelt text or letter (after emotions have settled, of course) may be wise in some cases as well

Photo from &; blog inspired by recent events

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