Why it would be a bad/good* thing for you to be in a church called Adullam

*delete as appropriate

The name comes from the time David spent on the run from Saul while waiting to become king. For part of the time his base was the cave of Adullam (see 1 Samuel 22). While he was there he gathered up a ragtag bunch of followers. The text says he had about 400 men with him.

What’s interesting about this ragtag bunch is that it seems to be made up – in large part – of people who were in distress, people who were in debt, and people who were bitter in soul. David was a magnet for the disaffected.

So what about a church called Adullam? A church for the disaffected?

Any missional types will see the positives right away. A church for the marginalised. A church for people who have been turned off by the establishment.

Fair enough.

But let me look at this from two angles: one as a cautionary tale and one as a pointer to the power of the gospel.

First – the cautionary tale.

What happens when churches split? Or when people get dissatisfied with the church they have been attending? Some people stop attending anywhere, but a lot of others will go somewhere else (or start a new church). If you are a church leader, you are always happy to see new people turn up. But I worry a bit about a conglomeration of malcontents: think of Adullam’s ‘bitter in soul’ types. By which I don’t mean that everyone who gets disillusioned and leaves their church is a Bad Person – not at all. But if your church starts to fill up with people whose aim in life is to be catered for and who quickly get unhappy and complain loudly when they don’t get what they want, you need to know what you are getting into. You need to be shaping those who come to you into an army of gospel-centred, mission-driven disciples rather than allowing them to occupy the back benches as critical consumers.

But look at the bigger picture of the narrative in 1 Samuel. David was the anointed king. One day he would reign. He was God’s man. Not everyone saw that – certainly not Saul, at any rate. But others were drawn to him. And the remarkable thing is that David was able to craft this unusual bunch of people into something of a fighting force. Granted, you have to wonder whether it may have been one or two of the rougher diamonds who suggested getting rid of Saul, and at one particularly low point David had to face the real danger of the people turning on him (1 Samuel 30).

Is there not an echo of the gospel in this gathering? Is the church not meant to be a gathering of a ragtag bunch of people who have turned for shelter to David’s greater Son, Jesus? Is the church not meant to be a group of people who have gathered round God’s anointed King – who, like David, is still opposed, but whose enemies will eventually be crushed?

So what do you think? Would you call your church Adullam? In what way does it look like David’s cave?

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