Forming Faith Blog

Leaders Like Elijah (November 3, 2019)

An abstract painting of fire. Leaders like Elijah give us examples to emulate.
Leaders: Good & Bad

For the last few weeks, we have been looking at what makes a good (godly) leader. David was anointed king over Israel, joining Judah and Israel for a united kingdom after a time of division. David was a “man after God’s heart” and so offers the best leadership example of these three readings, especially if you ignore his crimes later in his reign. He was a shepherd, serving the people, and leading them to praise the Lord.

And, then there were David’s heirs. Solomon started off his reign strong but then jumped the rails as he married foreign women (lots) and worshipped their gods. As punishment, the kingdom broke as soon as his son Rehoboam took the throne. To Rehoboam, being a leader meant power and control. Jeroboam petitioned the new king for mercy toward the people, then, when rejected, led ten tribes away from the kingdom. His problem came when he set up golden calves for the people to worship, apparently never having read Exodus.

Line of Kings

Ahab is the king of the northern kingdom in our story today. He is the seventh king of Israel, starting with Jeroboam. All of his predecessors “walked in all the way of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and in the sins that he caused Israel to commit” (1 Kings 16:26). You know it’s not good when you become the example of what not to do, Jeroboam. But Ahab takes the cake.

Ahab son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him. And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, he took as his wife Jezebel daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. Ahab also made a sacred pole. Ahab did more to provoke the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than had all the kings of Israel who were before him.

1 Kings 16:30-33

Hmmm… married a foreign woman and worshipped her gods. Sounds a bit like Solomon’s sin, don’t you think?

Elijah the Tishbite

Our intrepid hero appears in the story at the start of 1 Kings 17. He jumps right in and announces God’s intention of bringing drought to the land. After doing so he hides in a wadi and then lives with a widow and her son in Zarephath (which interestingly is in Jezebel’s home territory of Sidon). Now, three years into the drought, it’s time for Elijah to confront Ahab again.

The Gauntlet Thrown

God sends Elijah to announce the end of the drought to Ahab. The story doesn’t tell us whether the challenge Elijah gives to the prophets was actually part of God’s original instructions or not. But Elijah tells Ahab to gather with the people and 450 prophets of Baal. What is at stake in this entire story spanning chapters 17 and 18 is: who is the real god? Who is the one in charge? Jezebel, Ahab, and the people say Baal is the one. Elijah is proving that YHWH is. YHWH controls the rain, not Baal. YHWH provides food and life.

Elijah as Leader

Looking at this story in view of our theme “God’s Way of Leading,” we can see some of the leadership qualities that Elijah exhibits as he leads the people of Israel back to God.

  • Faith: Elijah trusts that God will follow through on God’s promises. And, Elijah trusts his calling is from God.
  • Courage: A prophet’s call is never easy, Elijah’s is no exception. He is to bring a message of condemnation to the most powerful person in the kingdom. Then, three years later he returns. That takes courage, a courage born of faith.
  • Obedience: Out of faith and courage, Elijah obeyed God’s commands and followed through on his calling.
Ourselves as Leaders

It is true that not all of us are leaders. However, there are more of us than we might think. Sure, there are the obvious ones: pastors, CE leaders, and worship leaders in the church and your bosses and political leaders elsewhere. But leadership is about guiding another person (or persons) along a certain path. Parents and guardians are leaders in their families. You might even be an informal leader among your friends. In whatever way you might be a leader (or may become someday), you can know and acknowledge that God has called you to this role. You can have faith that God will equip you with what you need. You take courage in God to do what needs to be done. And, you can be obedient to this calling.

Faith Formation Strategy: Leadership & Partnership

As I’ve mentioned previously, it is important to engage your faith formation participants in whatever you are doing, no matter the context. In a cross+generational setting, such as worship, there are many opportunities for people to lead in some way. Especially with children and youth, being asked to be in a leadership role (as temporary as it might be), can be very exciting and engaging—for those who like that sort of thing. It can also be powerful to make younger participants partners with older participants. I say “partners” purposefully, as this is not a case of the younger one assisting the older, or even the older helping the younger, but the goal of an equal partnership. This can empower children and youth as well as build relationships between our younger and older disciples.

Free Resource

This week’s dramatic story lends itself to visual engagement. In our free activity “Building Elijah’s Altar,” participants put together an altar as they review the story. Created for our Living the Word: Kids (PK-2nd) curriculum, this activity could be used in a classroom setting or worship and for elementary-aged students as well as cross+generational groups. If you are interested in purchasing Living the Word: Kids (PK-2nd) materials, you can order the lessons for Fall, Winter, and Spring separately. The Winter quarter starts with the first Sunday of Advent.

Go out and follow God’s lead!

In Christ,

-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

If you would like to know more about our perspectives on faith formation and cross+gen ministry, you can check out the following links:

For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our complete Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!

Be sure to download our free Narrative Lectionary 2019-2020 Planning Tool, NL Readings Overview, and Scope & Sequence