Choosing Your Teachers Wisely

I recently inquired about a personal development training program and spoke directly to the facilitator and owner of the program. During the 10 minute call, I experienced a visceral, strong, negative reaction to the instructor himself. I believe that the program itself would have given me serious benefit, but I came away from the conversation thinking that no matter how good the material
or the experience was going to be, I would be chafing under his arrogant persona. After speaking personally with his references, my suspicions were confirmed. The folks that he placed in his marketing materials as references vouched for the materials he presents, but would not vouch for him personally as an instructor or a person.


Can you and I learn from a teacher who is arrogant and doesn’t “walk his talk”? I think the short answer is “Yes”. But from a discernment perspective, I’ll suggest that you ask the Lord if that individual is someone from who you should be learning. It’s one thing to look at a seminar or training class or book or video series or <insert educational experience here> and say, “I need this content and think it will help me”. But it is quite another to say “this person is someone who should have teaching influence in my life, even if it is only for a few days”. The latter approach, I believe, is more Socratic and more discerning. In every instructional exchange, not only do you learn didactic information from a teacher, but you will also “catch” attitudes and ways of viewing the world. Who teaches you is just as important as what they teach. You will catch the who and learn the what. Some will disagree with me on this point, I understand that.

As I age, I want an instructor who is ahead of me. I want my teachers to be farther along with the Lord than I am. And I want honesty in marketing and humility in competence. I want to learn – but I also want to “catch” at least as much as I learn. Am I asking for too much?

I don’t think so.

Bill English, CEO

Comparisons, Hierarchies, Competition and Sin

I was recently struck by how relevant portions of the teachings in 1 Corinthians are to Christian Business Owners.

By way of background, the church in Corinth was by no means free from internal problems. This may have been due in part to the number and variety of the teachers. Apollos undoubtedly worked in Corinth (3:6). It is probable but not quite certain that Peter did so also. As a result of this, and no doubt because of their own imperfectly Christianized contentiousness too, the church membership, though not completely split into factions, tended to break down into groups, each appealing to the name of a Christian leader (1:11 f.). The disunity of the church manifested itself on these lines perhaps but on others also at the Lord’s Supper, where rich and poor were marked out in different groups (11:18–22). There were public litigation among the members (6:1–8), a notorious case of immorality (5:1–5), disputes over the legitimacy of eating food that had been sacrificed to idols (8:1–13; 10:14–11:1), and disagreements about the propriety of marriage (7:1–40), and the admissibility of sexual relations outside marriage (6:12–20). The Christian doctrine of resurrection appeared to have been denied (15:12), and Paul’s own apostleship questioned (4:3, 15; 9:1 f.).

Paul did visit Corinth and that visit ended in something nearing a disaster, but certainly in deep sorrow for him (2 Cor. 2:1; 12:14, 21; 13:2). He wrote a severe letter, which cost him many tears (2 Cor. 2:4; 7:8). He sent Titus to Corinth, and was overjoyed to hear good news from him (2 Cor. 7:6 f.). But seeds of bitterness had been sown; Paul was abused by those who should have defended him (2 Cor. 12:11), and his place was usurped by rivals who, though outwardly more impressive, lacked the inward authorization, and the conformity with the passion of Christ, that marked Paul’s apostolic work (2 Cor. 12:12 f.).

It is within this context that a couple of key passages are written. I’ll apply them to a business environment momentarily.

In chapter 3, Paul writes:

For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

It is clear that factions had developed within the body where some were following one teacher and some another. What is important to understand here is that normally when someone identifies with a particular teacher or line of thinking, they do so because they feel it is right or better than other teachers or lines of thinking. While arrogance is not always involved in such a decision, arrogance is often a long-term result of such an identification. I recall in seminary that some identified with John Calvin, others with John Wesley, still others with Charles Hodge and so forth. Sometimes, our “discussions” were little more than earthly debates where both sides tried to beat the other side. And in the end, no one was encouraged and some were just plain arrogant that they had won (at least in their minds) the debate. Such debates and arrogance also led to divisions – several times I witnessed how wedges were driven into relationships between seminary students because of debates in which they had engaged ended poorly.

In chapter 4, Paul writes:

6Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

This has echos of Deuteronomy 8.18, where Moses reminds us to “remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.” The larger point is that whatever we do have is from the Lord: either He gave us what we have or He gave us the ability to work for it and thus “create wealth”. Again, Paul is warning against arrogance.

Arrogance always divides. In our culture, this is most clearly seen in our political discourse. When we, as Christian Business Owners, engage in a political debate (regardless of what side you’re advocating) to the point of losing a brother’s fellowship or the credibility and permission to speak truth into another’s life, then we have lost the war. For decades, politicians have used race and economic classes to divide our country while mobilizing their “base” in their effort to be elected to office. They suppose the pursuit of power justifies the division of groups in our country. As Christian Business Owners, we should shun supporting such divisions. Yes, we can disagree and discuss our differences, but winning has its’ costs and we should be cognizant that some costs are not worth the win. Not in God’s economy, anyways.

It’s nearly impossible to divide without employing comparisons. When it comes to running a business, do we not compare ourselves to other owners and arrange a hierarchy of success that is completely worldly? Some business owners will generate more wealth than others – some will grow larger businesses than others. But God is the great equalizer: all that any of us have comes from the Lord, therefore, even if I build a $1 trillion business, I am no better or more valuable than the 93% of business owners who run privately-held businesses with annual sales of less than $250,000/year. Why? Because it was God who gave me that $1T business in the first place. I have no room to boast.

It’s not the size of the business or the dollar amount that is important. Instead, it is the owner’s devotion to Christ and his/her commitment to run their business God’s way. It’s about living out God’s purposes for business and ensuring I’m walking closely with God. His call on each of our lives is different. Fulfilling His call is “best” for each of us. Hence, while it is true that I could not fill the shoes of Bill Gates, it is equally true that he could not fill mine. At least not in God’s economy.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t compete – we do. Competition makes us better and matures us as businesses owners. But let’s not compete is such a way as to kill relationships with our competitors. As much as it is within your power, live at peace with everyone.

I will suggest that running a business God’s way assumes that we focus on following God’s specific plan for our lives, we seek God’s face more than anything else, we compete in the marketplace but do not get overly concerned when we are not as successful as the next guy, we keep our arrogance at bay and we learn to disengage from comparisons that do nothing but create divisions. Let’s remember that without God, we would have nothing and achieve nothing. In Christ, the hierarchies, comparisons and arrogance all grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

Bill English, CEO

As a Business Owner, Seek Advice Early and Often

It is not uncommon for business owners to seek advice. This is why they join groups like Vistage or other groups. Getting together with others who have similar positions and responsibilities is essential to learning from your peers. Seeking advice is encouraged in Scripture too. Now, it is true that counsel can be good or bad, depending on several factors, such as the source of the counsel or the circumstances in which the counsel is given.

When a business is going bad, usually an owner will withdraw and focus on the problem in an effort to turn around the decline. Sometimes, in spite of his best efforts, the owner finds him or herself rather isolated, absorbed in the details and not knowing what to do next. Rarely do they seek the counsel of someone who can help them turnaround their business until it is too late. Having been there myself, I can attest that the tendency to sever ties while working harder and harder is the opposite of what you should be doing. Reach out and seek help.

Here are some verses on what the Bible has to say about seeking counsel:

  • Psalm 1.1-2: How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor site in the sear of the scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law he mediates day and night.
  • Proverbs 1.5: A wise man will hear and increase in learning and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.
  • Proverbs 9.9: Give instruction to a wise man and he will be wiser still, teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.
  • Proverbs 11.14: Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.
  • Proverbs 12.1: Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.
  • Proverbs 27.6: Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
  • Proverbs 27.17: As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

There are many, many more verses about receiving both good and bad counsel. And the Old Testament is replete with examples of both. Gaining advice can be done informally over lunch or more formally from an advisory board. In my business, due to my travel schedule, I found it was better for me to use a board that met a couple of times each year. I learned that having people who invested in my person and business was a good way for me receive good advice. Now, how well I implemented that advice is a discussion for another day, but the Advisory Counsel, in and of itself, was very valuable.

Advisory Board

Our Board is compensated. The job description is minimal and is commensurate with their compensation. The job description contains these elements:

  1. Be available to meet 2x/year for a full day each time
  2. Hold everything you learn about our business in confidence
  3. Participate and offer suggestions and ideas on how we can improve our business as it relates to:
    1. Processes
    2. Products
    3. People
    4. Policies
    5. Profits

What we really look for in our advisory board are Christian Business leaders who know how to run a business. We try to find a mix of at least 50% who own their own business and are successful in their own right. We define “success” as consistently turning a profit year after year. But we also look for business leaders who are not business owners. And within these two broad categories, we look for people who bring different foci to the board. For example, in our board we have the following:

​Name ​Current Position ​Unique Contribution
Board Member #1​ ​Business Owner ​Strong marketing and branding experience
​Board Member #2 ​Business Owner ​Strong technology background and teaches in local MBA program
​Board Member #3 ​Chief Operating Officer ​Has held both CEO and COO positions in the Long-Term Health Care field
​Board Member #4 ​Chief Operating Officer for distribution company ​has held CEO position in the building and construction field
​Board Member #5 ​Business Owner ​Strong international business background
​Board Member #6 Federal Reserve Economist ​Strong understanding of how business works
​Board Member #7 ​General Manager of a Marketing Firm Strong experience in running a business similar in size to mine


Be sure that not all of your board members are good friends, otherwise, you might not always get the truth and your time together may devolve into a social engagement. You need to come to the meeting with an agenda and then you need to stick to it. Now, be ready – if you get a group of talented, smart and honest people in the same room and ask for constructive ways to improve your business, you will get what you ask for. And be prepared that their insights and challenges may be more about your person and work as opposed to your business model or financial condition.

If you have questions about how we run our advisory board, please feel free to contact me.

But no matter what, be sure that you’re getting consistent, good advice from others. It will be invaluable as you run your business.

Bill English, CEO

Hiring Rubic

Those who have worked with me when hiring individuals know what a fan I am of rubic’s. A good rubic can keep an interview on track while allowing the interviewer freedom in how questions are phrased and how to direct the conversation. They are also a great way to compare what an interviewee says with what their references say. If a common rubic is used for a single candidate across all interviews and reference discussions, then notes can be compared between interviewers and it forms a basis for comparing and contrasting what references say relative to that the candidate says in his or her various interviews.

The rubic I’m referencing in this post was developed for an executive position for a non-profit ministry. It is easily ported to the for-profit world. I give this rubic to the community as a starting point for developing your own rubic. Use it if it is helpful, leave it behind if it is not helpful.


Bill English, CEO

Friday Five

Friday Five for February 21, 2014.

So, your money stinks. That’s just one of the reasons that banks are shying away from servicing those in the medical marijuana business. Not only is there a conflict between Federal and State laws which places banks in a position of assuming, perhaps, more risk than they would care to assume, but the money itself smells like marijuana. Passing that cash along to other customers doesn’t always work well since some customers don’t want money that smells like Marijuana. Perhaps there is a real, legitimate need now to launder money. Just thinking out loud….

A New York State Lawmaker wants a delay in his bribery trial so he can focus on campaigning for re-election. It may be that the voters in his district just won’t care if he’s committed criminal acts, so from his perspective, the request might be reasonable.

A government that is uncertain about what it wants sets into law vague and changing targets. When they force those targets on businesses and then change them, businesses recoil and conserve their cash, since cash is their *only* defense against a changing regulatory and statutory environment. The Affordable Care Act – which has been parsed and delayed for special interest groups – is the most well-known example. But less well-known is the uncertain and somewhat unstable regulatory environment when it comes to environmental issues. But the reaction of companies is the same: investment is withheld until there is a certain and predictable environment in which to run one’s business.

At the time of this writing, I’m 53. I figure that the government retirement programs won’t hold much real value for myself or my wife by the time we hit our mid-late 60’s. So, I’m planning to work well into my 70’s, God willing. So that makes this article more encouraging to me. I figure that I have another 20-25 years to work – which I’m looking forward to. Those of us in our 50’s should not shy away from starting new businesses or ministries. This is the time for us to have our most important impact on society. Let’s step up and fill the gaps!

The Sovereignty and ultimate power of God do create some difficult questions for us to answer and understand. Yet, we can’t shy away from these questions if we’re going to have any sense of credibility in our culture. These difficult questions impact business ownership as well – in this case, if God is so powerful, questions about profitability or regulations or something else will make their way into our minds. For example, “why doesn’t he bring in enough business to keep my business going” or “why doesn’t he do more to get the regulators off my back?” If you take time to read through the body of work from Ravi, you’ll find answers to these types of questions. But the level of difficulty posed in these questions eliminates easy, quick answers. You’ll need to invest your time and some energy into understanding a much larger picture in which the answers will present themselves – usually over time.

Bill English, CEO















Building Your Value Creation Process

Most businesses don’t understand, really, the exact process they use to create value for their customers. While some business types will lend themselves to understanding this better than others, I think there is a valuable and repeatable process to understand the activities and steps your business engages in to create value for your customers. There are software products available, but I use Visio 2013 from Microsoft. I use the Basic Workflow Diagram chart type.

Essentially, you start at the end and then reverse engineer your way back to the beginning. So, start by asking this basic question: “What must happen in order for us to have profit in the bank?” Don’t generalize this question – leave it as is. In Visio, you’ll create your first box:

So, the next question is the most logical one: What must we do to possess profit in our banking accounts? Well, the obvious answer is that you make a deposit into the bank. Be sure to add an arrow, as illustrated. Hence, you’re diagram will now look like this:

Now, what must you do to make a deposit? You need to receive a payment from the customer. What did you do to receive payment? You invoiced the customer. Why did you invoice the customer? Because you completed the project and ensured that the customer was happy. And perhaps you gained a referral as well. Take a look at the diagram now. You can start to see the penultimate activities that must take place in order to create profit for your organization.

Now, there will be loops and more loops and arrow going all over the place. And you’ll need to work at this iteratively with your team. But as you work on it, you’ll start to see gaps in your process that are being unfilled or not finished properly. This exercise will surface weak processes that need to be matured or “fat” processes that could be “leaned” up (Six Sigma terminology). You’ll be ruthless in asking tough questions: “In order to get X, what must we do?” Be specific and focus only on the penultimate action to “X”. Keep asking questions until you run out of penultimate actions to perform. For example, if you have a box for people driving to work – you’ve gone too far. J

You’ll need a large format printer to print out the entire diagram – which will become huge.

Consultants cannot build this for you because they won’t know your business at a level deep enough to produce it for you. But they can add value by knowing which questions to ask. I personally have done this for my company and would be happy to assist you in your effort to build your Value Creation Process.

Bill English, CEO

Friday Five

Here are my Friday Five for February 14, 2014.

The bulls (here, here, and here too) are feeling that 2014 will be a good year – in spite of an $18T debt being unchartered territory. A good friend of mine who works in the investment field feels our economy will grow by 5% this year. In our conversation, I told him I hoped he was right, but I’m not as sanguine. I’m thinking 2%, at best. Like I say, I hope I’m wrong.

Generally, if you’re in government and you want to encourage a particular economic behavior, then you subsidize it. Really doesn’t matter what “it” is, you subsidize it and you’ll get more of that behavior. If you want less of a behavior you tax it, thus raising the price of whatever “it” is. So, when the government wants us to consume less petroleum, they tax it. When they want us to smoke less, they tax it. But for some reason, mandating the price of entry-level labor is supposed to make things better for everyone? I don’t think so. The ones most hurt by a raise in the minimum wage are those looking for their first entry-level job. Check it out. The CBO says it will cost us ~ 500,000 jobs. Here is a differing view.

I would have thought curling would be at the bottom of the injury list. Apparently, I’m wrong. Curlers are more likely to be injured than those who compete in the luge or speed skating. Wow.

I have not seen this report before – produced by the New York Federal Reserve. It’s focused on household debt. It’s worth a read if you’ve never looked at something like this before.

A research-driven daily schedule is interesting to look at. What I take away from this article isn’t in the article at all: Be sure that you don’t sacrifice time with the Lord for your job. Make knowing God the organizing principle of your life and build *everything* around that. We’re here for such a short period of time anyways. The rich and powerful come and go faster than a revolving door can get them in and out. Do your job and do it well. But know Christ better than the details of your job.

Bill English, CEO


Life is Short. Have an Affair.

Recently, I received an email from an online service that caters to those who want to cheat on their spouses. Their tag line is the title of this post. In their advertising, they say this:

“The #1 rule if you’re having an affair: Never to do it with a single woman. Instead, date a married woman who has just as much reason to keep your affair a secret as you do.”

Well, now.

If you’re a Christian Business Owner, this is diametrically opposed to what you stand for. And yet, many in the Christian community who own businesses will end up having affairs. I know of several small business owners who ended up dating their secretaries or Sales Managers or <insert_position_title_here> and ended up losing both their businesses and their marriages. They were destroyed by their peccadillos.

One of the best ways to ensure that you run your business into the ground is to be unfaithful to those who have been faithful to you. In the Christian Business Reference Architecture, we start with who you are as a business owner. And after accepting Christ as your Savior and Lord, the next most important element to running a business God’s way is for the business owner to be free from the bondage of sin. You simply can’t have an affair without being in bondage to sin. Becoming free from the bondage of sin is a foundational part of who you are in Christ – Christians are not to live as though sin has power over them. It’s just not who we are.

Faithfulness is a prerequisite to success. Knowing how to say “no” to that which will tear you down and destroy you is imperative if you’re going to have a business that is focused and successful.

The first part of their tag line is correct: Life is short. But the answer to the shortness is not to have an affair. The answer is to be faithful to God, because eternity lasts…..well…..forever.

Bill English, CEO

Leadership Lessons – Part VI: David Fights Goliath – Part III

Being Yourself in Your Calling

Reading from 1 Samuel 17.15-40:

Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.”

26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

27 They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.”

28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

29 “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 30 He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. 31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.

32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.

41Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”

45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.

51 David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.

In this study on the leadership lessons that God taught David as he was preparing to be King of a nation, David had learned:

The lesson of being underestimated: People may underestimate what a leader can accomplish based on any number of factors.

The lesson of submission: In order to be a good leader, one must first be a good follower

The lesson of knowing when to risk: Leaders take risk in order to lead. Knowing when to assume risk and when to demur from risk is essential for good leadership

The Lesson of Authenticity: Being Yourself in Your Calling

After David had learned what Goliath was doing day after day – defying Israel and the Lord Himself, David inquires about the reward for the man who would take out Goliath. One wonders if David hadn’t already decided in his heart to go fight, but was asking this question in almost as a sidebar. David’s larger motivation, it seems, is to defend the name of the Lord and defeat a rather annoying and arrogant person in the process: Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

His own brother’s “despised” him. The text doesn’t tell us why, so we are left to speculation. It seems to me that they despised him because, in part, he was showing a faith in God and a confidence that (in their minds) bordered on arrogance. There is often a fine line between confidence and arrogance and those who are not walking closely with God often get the two confused. David learns that those who most oppose you as you move out for God may be those who are closest to you. And we also learn that it is not unbiblical to be motivated by rewards – cf. Matt 6.19-24.

So David volunteers to fight Goliath. He is probably around 20 at this point. When he is taken to Saul, the King, who himself is terrified of Goliath, Saul discounts David to his face. He tells him he is too Young to fight and that he lacks the proper experience to handle a difficult situation like this. Doesn’t David know that Goliath is older, wiser, and more experienced at fighting? It is so often true that those in leadership who demonstrate an inability to solve tough problems will still discount those who think they can. Saul is portrayed as a man hanging onto a no-win situation – something that leaders who move projects, teams, organizations or countries forward – cannot afford to do. And we learn that those who have deep faith in God never find themselves in a no-win situation because with God, all things are possible.

So David gives his resume to Saul. He has killed lion and bear and besides, God will kill Goliath for His own glory. David couches this in terms of rescue: God will rescue me from Goliath. The only possible way that God could do this without bringing shame on His name is to ensure that David kills Goliath.

Consenting to this seemingly foolish plan, Saul nevertheless wants to give David every chance possible to win. So, Saul dresses David in His armor. Now, remember that Israel didn’t have swords and spears for every fighting man. Only Saul had such weapons. In this context, a sword was the latest and greatest weapon of warfare. The Philistines had them – the Israelites did not. The present day analogies are clear: To be successful, one must adopt the latest techniques and technologies. So, do this ministry this way and you’ll be successful using our methods and our tools and our philosophies. But David is right to throw off such things: If the present leader’s methods, tools and philosophies have rendered that leader (in this case, Saul) impotent to lead a nation against a Goliath (or any seemingly insurmountable problem), why would those who believe that Goliath can be defeated depend on that leader’s ways? If the leader’s dependence on the latest techniques and technologies, methods, tools and philosophies have rendered that leader unable to act, why would we adopt those elements if we intend to win? Saul is the picture of a leader who is paralyzed by the belief that there is no winnable solution. And this is because he lacks faith and confidence in the power of God.

David rejects the armor and will kill Goliath as he had the lion and bear – with the King’s armor. David will trust God for deliverance. So he goes to the brook and picks up five stones , though he will need only one. David approaches Goliath alone. Note the contrast: Goliath – big, bold and bombastic – has a shield bearer in front of him. David – confident and swift – comes alone. David predicts victory and gives the glory to God before it happens: This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.

David “ran quickly” toward Goliath. Note the contrast: Israel “ran” from Goliath while David “ran” toward him. We learn from this that Godly leaders “run toward the bullets” and take care of problems quickly and decisively. David slings his stone and kills Goliath, who falls face down, just as Dagon had fallen earlier (5.1-5). For those who don’t walk with the Lord (both unsaved and carnal Christians), God’s way seems foolish to them. Yet, often, God’s way is one of comparative loneliness and risk. David didn’t ask Saul to “back him up” – David had the Lord and that was enough for him.

This victory defied natural explanations. David didn’t use conventional techniques or the latest technologies. Yet this victory brought to each nation what they needed: Israel needed to see God at work and the Philistines needed to know that God exists and is more powerful than any of their gods. America is such a stunningly unbelieving nation: we search high and low for natural explanations for miracles. We defy faith, unless it is faith in ourselves. And some Christians make it worse: they are only interested in miracles of healing or other “cool” stuff that provides immediate excitement but little long-term glory to God. But if you want to see the full power of God at work, then consider this: the greatest miracle that God ever performs is a life changed because God has regenerated them and given them a new heart and a new nature (cf 2 Corinthians 4).

At the end, the writer doesn’t tell us that Saul thanks David or is pleased with David’s faith and what God accomplished through him, instead, Saul appears to not know who David’s father is and is most concerned about having him join his court. Saul is the picture of a leader who has the form of Godliness but lacks its’ real power. Saul is the picture of a self-centered leader who intended to follow God but who really doesn’t. The church has many such leaders.

Learning the lesson of Authenticity:

  • Being faithful to the experiences that God has given you
  • Being faithful with the gifts that God has given you
  • Being true to the methods you feel comfortable with and which have stood the test of time

What we learn from David’s route of Goliath is this:

  • Don’t be surprised if opposition to your ministry efforts come from those closest to you
  • Rewards are sometimes a proper motivation
  • Godly leaders “run toward the bullets” and take care of problems quickly and decisively
  • Greatest miracle is a life changed because God has regenerated them
  • Godly leaders factor in God’s presence and power: Ungodly leaders do the opposite
  • Faith in God plus your willingness to follow God is a greater combination than anything the world can throw at you

Bill English, CEO