2 Samuel 20:1-26 (Part 3 of 3)
The Revolt of Sheba

Every stop along the way of our journey of faith in Jesus Christ is preparation for what has for us next. Right now is preparation for what comes next. Tomorrow has been prepared by what we understand and learn from God today. My previous senior pastor at LifeSong Church in South Carolina used to say (and I am not sure if he coined the phrase or not but it was go-to phrase for him), “God is preparing us for what He has prepared for us.” The issue then becomes whether we have the humility to learn what God is teaching us in the “here and now” so that we will be prepared for what He has in store for us in the “there and later”.

The reason that I speak of this issue is that today is my 6-month anniversary of having moved to the Quad Cities (specifically the Illinois side of the Quad Cities). Six months ago, in February 2018, we arrived at our temporary apartment home at about lunchtime on a Saturday. Fifteen minutes after we arrived, it began to snow and we ended up with 3 inches of snow before it was all said and done. To me, that was a big deal but that’s just a sprinkling of snow around these parts. It was a cold. Part of me was thinking, yeah we have cold Februarys back in my native South Carolina but 3 inches of snow, even on a Saturday, would have shut the Upstate of South Carolina down. All the milk, bread, and eggs would already be gone from the grocery stores. In the South, snow is an unofficial opportunity to have a holiday. To Southerners, snow is like waking up thinking that it is a workday and then having that soothing realization that it is the weekend and you go back to sleep. Snow brings out the kid in all Southerners. Snow gives Southerners an excuse to relax, goof off, and reconnect with our spouses and kids. Up here in northwest Illinois though, snow is just another day. It’s just something you have to deal with in the wintertime.

I was thinking to myself, these people don’t even seem to care that it is snowing. No one is playing in it. No one is walking by with sleds or snow discs to the nearest hill and enjoy the fun of sliding down a hill as fast as you can and crashing out at the bottom. What is going on here? What have I got myself into? That has been a question not only that first day here as we were unpacking six months ago today but also one that I have been asking myself frequently since I got here. Why am I here? Am I just an accountant at a church or am I a pastor? My title is Director of Business Services/Staff Pastor but am I really a pastor? What am I doing here, Lord? Why did I answer your call to full-time ministry when it seems in a lot of ways just a change in geography? This question has been one that I have struggled with off and on since I left my secular job in South Carolina and my part-time church position there to go full-time into the ministry here in Illinois.

In answering that question, I recently heard a profound saying by Zig Ziglar that was repeated in a promotional video that I saw for the upcoming football season of my favorite college team, the Clemson University Tigers. In that video, Clemson’s head coach, Dabo Swinney, repeated the words of Ziglar when he said, speaking of the constant work and continuing work of building the Clemson program into the success that it is right now, “There is no elevator to success! You have to take the stairs!” As you may know, when Dabo Swinney took over the Clemson program in the middle of the 2008 season, the program was about as bottomed out as it could be. However, since that time, Coach Swinney has worked hard to establish the culture of the program by the systems he has put in place to ensure accountability, systems to ensure that the athletes are positioned for success, and to go after only those football players that fit the culture at Clemson (not just because they are the best 5-star recruit at a particular position). It was a bumpy road at first. Those first two and half years under Coach Swinney the Tigers had a record of 19-15 over that time. However, Swinney asked the Tiger faithful to have faith in him as he worked his plan. They did and he did. Beginning with the 2010 season and through the conclusion of the 2017 season, the Tigers have now ripped off 7 consecutive seasons with 10 or more victories in each season. They are 82-15 over those 7 seasons, have won 4 ACC championships, appeared in the national championship game twice, won one national champion and have appeared in 3 of the 4 college football playoffs since that system was instituted four seasons ago. Sometimes, a little trust in the plan is all it takes. The powers that be at Clemson trusted that Coach Swinney had a plan and would work it to fruition and they have been rewarded for that trust.

I throw in illustrations from Clemson as much as I can, as you know, but it really does fit the situation that I am talking about today. We sometimes have to trust the process of what God is trying to do in us as He prepares us for what He has in store for us. I think that here at Calvary Church of The Quad Cities, the thing that is coming out to me is that I have been put under the tutelage of a senior pastor who is the master organizer. He is extremely gifted at it. It is from him that I am learning that organization, details, plans, being prepared is just as much key to the success of a church as is evangelism and discipleship.

From my senior pastor here, I am learning to think ahead of the game more so than I ever have. To grow a church from the ground up as he has this church (to now where it is 23 years old and counting), you must think high and low at the same time. You must have a vision for where you want to be five years from now and then build systems and processes now to make sure that you get there in the best and most efficient way possible. You have to have that guiding light of where you need to be five years from now but you cannot forsake accountability and efficiency for the dream of five years from now. There may be an express elevator to the top at the Sears Tower in Chicago but for success there is no elevator. You must take the stairs. You must understand how to structure things for success. You must think worst case scenario/what could go wrong so that you build systems and processes that will help you minimize the damage of what could go wrong.

That all sounds very mundane in the world of church doesn’t it. But that’s the thing to me is that I must trust what my senior pastor and boss is teaching me. He is bringing me along slowly so that I see each floor as we take the stairs to success. He wants me to see what I need to know. He wants me to smell it and take it in. And one of those things is being organized. Here, I am learning that how you structure the staff and the levels of accountability in the structure can help determine success. Again, it’s organization. You must have a properly aligned organization and be organized yourself and stay ahead of the game. Organize yourself for the success that is expected to be there five years from now. With the proper systems in place, it eliminates organizational and procedural problems from getting in the way of doing real ministry. That’s what I am here to learn as much as anything. Yes, I am here too to learn how to be a spiritual leader of the people under my care that God has sent to us but I am also learning that we must have systems and processes in place that work well so that they don’t get in the way of ministry.

Then, you have days like this past Wednesday. We have what we call “Pastoral Connections”. These meetings are where we meet with people who have been through our membership class process and have decided that they want to be members of our church. After the membership class, our office receptionist and admin assistant to our senior pastor schedules times for each of the potential members to meet with either the senior pastor or one of us three staff pastors (the worship pastor, the family pastor, and me, the administrative pastor). It is these meetings that we go through and in-depth interview process (not the word process – there are guided questions, membership profiles, and salvation story documents involved) with the potential members. The process, the organized nature of it, makes it easy for the pastors, I can tell you that.

Well, having those processes and systems in place, allowed me to really get to the heart of an issue with a couple where they needed some real counseling. It was one of those watershed moments for me. YES! This is why I became a full-time pastor. This is why I followed God’s call. This is why!!! I really helped a couple see a matter from a biblical perspective (and I was able to use my own past experiences outside of full-time ministry to help – you know the “using my past mess as part of my message” thing). This is why God pushed me into full-time ministry – to use my skills and mistakes altogether to help people on their journey to the cross and beyond.

But the thing that is striking me this morning is that if my senior pastor was not the master organizer that he is, this couple and I may have not had that moment in time, that opportunity for the counseling that they needed right at that moment. The thing is that if we did not have that membership class/pastoral connection process in place, this counseling may have never taken place or at least got long delayed. Be organized. Have systems. Position yourself for effective ministry. That’s the deal. That’s what I am learning from my senior pastor, Tim Bowman.

That’s the thing that connected to me this morning as I read 2 Samuel 20:1-26 for the last of three times before I move on to the next passage – that idea of having proper organization so that it positions you for success (and success in ministry is reaching people for Christ and discipling Christ followers into deeper and deeper relationships with Him). Why did this come to mind from reading this passage? The last few verses identify the organizational structure of David’s organization and the whole passage demonstrates that there was organizational structure to the army. Let’s read the passage now with that in mind:

Chapter 20
1 There happened to be a troublemaker there named Sheba son of Bicri, a man from the tribe of Benjamin. Sheba blew a ram’s horn and began to chant:

“Down with the dynasty of David!
We have no interest in the son of Jesse.
Come on, you men of Israel,
back to your homes!”

2 So all the men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba son of Bicri. But the men of Judah stayed with their king and escorted him from the Jordan River to Jerusalem.

3 When David came to his palace in Jerusalem, he took the ten concubines he had left to look after the palace and placed them in seclusion. Their needs were provided for, but he no longer slept with them. So each of them lived like a widow until she died.

4 Then the king told Amasa, “Mobilize the army of Judah within three days, and report back at that time.” 5 So Amasa went out to notify Judah, but it took him longer than the time he had been given.

6 Then David said to Abishai, “Sheba son of Bicri is going to hurt us more than Absalom did. Quick, take my troops and chase after him before he gets into a fortified town where we can’t reach him.”

7 So Abishai and Joab,[a] together with the king’s bodyguard[b] and all the mighty warriors, set out from Jerusalem to go after Sheba. 8 As they arrived at the great stone in Gibeon, Amasa met them. Joab was wearing his military tunic with a dagger strapped to his belt. As he stepped forward to greet Amasa, he slipped the dagger from its sheath.[c]

9 “How are you, my cousin?” Joab said and took him by the beard with his right hand as though to kiss him. 10 Amasa didn’t notice the dagger in his left hand, and Joab stabbed him in the stomach with it so that his insides gushed out onto the ground. Joab did not need to strike again, and Amasa soon died. Joab and his brother Abishai left him lying there and continued after Sheba.

11 One of Joab’s young men shouted to Amasa’s troops, “If you are for Joab and David, come and follow Joab.” 12 But Amasa lay in his blood in the middle of the road, and Joab’s man saw that everyone was stopping to stare at him. So he pulled him off the road into a field and threw a cloak over him. 13 With Amasa’s body out of the way, everyone went on with Joab to capture Sheba son of Bicri.

14 Meanwhile, Sheba traveled through all the tribes of Israel and eventually came to the town of Abel-beth-maacah. All the members of his own clan, the Bicrites,[d] assembled for battle and followed him into the town. 15 When Joab’s forces arrived, they attacked Abel-beth-maacah. They built a siege ramp against the town’s fortifications and began battering down the wall. 16 But a wise woman in the town called out to Joab, “Listen to me, Joab. Come over here so I can talk to you.” 17 As he approached, the woman asked, “Are you Joab?”

“I am,” he replied.

So she said, “Listen carefully to your servant.”

“I’m listening,” he said.

18 Then she continued, “There used to be a saying, ‘If you want to settle an argument, ask advice at the town of Abel.’ 19 I am one who is peace loving and faithful in Israel. But you are destroying an important town in Israel.[e] Why do you want to devour what belongs to the Lord?”

20 And Joab replied, “Believe me, I don’t want to devour or destroy your town! 21 That’s not my purpose. All I want is a man named Sheba son of Bicri from the hill country of Ephraim, who has revolted against King David. If you hand over this one man to me, I will leave the town in peace.”

“All right,” the woman replied, “we will throw his head over the wall to you.” 22 Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off Sheba’s head and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the ram’s horn and called his troops back from the attack. They all returned to their homes, and Joab returned to the king at Jerusalem.

23 Now Joab was the commander of the army of Israel. Benaiah son of Jehoiada was captain of the king’s bodyguard. 24 Adoniram[f] was in charge of forced labor. Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was the royal historian. 25 Sheva was the court secretary. Zadok and Abiathar were the priests. 26 And Ira, a descendant of Jair, was David’s personal priest.

In this passage, we see that David for all his faults and failures (that led to all these rebellions) must have been a master organizer. He had a definitive way that he had the people reporting to him. He had guys assigned to do certain things. Everyone had their lane of responsibility. And we see from Joab at the scene of this siege that everything was very organized. Even though the woman here in this passage changed his mind about how to win the day, we see how the men knew their responsibilities and positions and began building the siege ramps and so on. There was no disorganization. They were organized for success. Sometimes, it may seem that in ministry that we don’t need organization but we do!

If we are falling all over each other as we build the siege ramps to a society that needs to know Jesus Christ and to fight Satan himself, we will lose the battle. We must know our roles. We must have systems in place to ensure that we are successful. We must invest the time in building and understanding our systems so that they operate efficiently. We must take time to build systems and organizational structures such that we are prepared for the influx of new people. There is an old church growth saying that says “if you are a 1,000 member church, act like you are a 2,000 member church.” In other words, you need to be prepared for managing a church that is larger than where you are at now so that you will always be ahead organizationally for where your church is now. I have seen churches and read about churches that were not prepared for the growth that they experienced and the church lost people over it (because things were so disorganized). Your church will lose people to the point of the capabilities of your organizational structure and systems. If you are a 1,500 member church but your organizational structure and systems are built to handle only about 1,000 people, guess what will happen. Over time, your church will shrink back to 1,000 people.

Without proper organization and proper systems and processes, we fall all over ourselves and miss ministry opportunities. Without proper organization and proper systems and processes in place, we may not even recognize that we missed a ministry opportunity. We may not even know that it is there.

So, I thank God for my senior pastor and what he is teaching me about church and being a pastor. I see the value of systems and processes. Without it, I would not have had the opportunity to truly minister to two members of God’s family and potential members of our church. Without it, I would not have been able to say, “This is why I became a pastor!”

Amen and Amen.

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