“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 (NLT)
The context of this scene is the Old Testament story when a giant from an enemy nation threatens Israel and challenges them to send their best man out for a fight. No one is willing to take on this challenge until the younger brother of a few of the soldiers shows up. He has no military training or equipment, so King Saul gives young David his own armor to use. After trying it on, David figures out it doesn’t work for him and goes back to the simple weapons he is used to. The problem wasn’t that Saul’s armor was bad. It just wasn’t the right fit for David.
Many of us pursuing a call to missional ministry have likely had times when we felt like young David in this story. The methods others try to give us feel a lot like the armor Saul was trying to give David. In over ten years of trying to pursue this call, I’ve had to shed many pieces of other people’s methods because they didn’t fit what God was calling me to. Sometimes I’ve even picked up similar methods again, hoping that somehow things would be different, only to realize they still didn’t fit as much as I wished they would.
In the shedding of poorly fitting methods many emotions in both the one offering assistance and the one who is shedding it can ruin the relationship if the parties are not careful. The problem lies in seeing the decision as being a statement of good or bad instead of simply being an issue of finding the right fit. Fans of the traditional methods may feel personal rejection because these methods have worked so well for them and they can’t understand why it wouldn’t work for everyone the same way. Those of us trying to pursue a missional call can easily give in to a feeling of smugness about how superior our methods are to the “out of date methods of the past.” The healthier response is to not interpret these events as judgments of good and bad, but merely an issue of finding the right fit.
As Diakonos, the missional community I now lead, begins to take on more form I find myself going through another season of shedding things that don’t fit what God wants to do in this community. In the midst of these seasons, it’s a constant battle to remind myself and those around me that it’s not an issue of those things being bad. They simply don’t fit what God is doing here. This is a path that needs to be traveled with great care, but hopefully the end of the journey is worth the trip.