“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16:7)
When Samuel was sent to anoint a new king for Israel, he was impressed by Jesse’s sons. In particular, Eliab looked like a king. He was handsome, tall, and no doubt carried himself with great confidence. Samuel was certain that Eliab would be God’s choice. But he wasn’t.
In 1 Samuel 16:7, God made it clear to Samuel that he wasn’t looking for outward appearances to impress people, but he was after someone with the right heart. Seven of Jesse’s sons came before Samuel and none of them were chosen. The future king was the youngest, the baby of the boys, and no one in the family thought he would amount to much. It wasn’t just that God saw something that the others didn’t, but God also had a different standard for leadership. He knew that David’s heart condition was far more important than his appearance or skill.
Most Christians are familiar with this verse of scripture. We frequently quote it (although not always in the right context). Yet often in our Christian communities, we have the wrong values in selecting the right leadership. We, like Samuel, look for a leader that fits our expectations of what a leader should look like. The world has given us a definition of what a leader is and how they should present themselves. Seldom does that correspond with having a heart after God.
Finding servant leaders in church isn’t about the right pose or popularity. Our task, as the body, is to discern who God has called; to see beyond the surface of how someone appears. This requires prayer and discernment as individuals and as a community.
The leaders who have been most influential in my life and ministry haven’t always been well-known or the typical ‘strong’ leader type we expect. They have been men and women who love God and his people. Thankfully, they also have possessed gifts and talents needed to lead in a local church. I’m not saying that skill isn’t important. I’m just asking that we continue to evaluate and elevate the kind of people that God himself chooses.