As Christians, we are all called to serve one another and build each other up in love (Ephesians 4:16). One unique way we can serve leaders in the church is by being an “armor bearer.” This phrase comes from the King James Version of the Bible and refers to someone who carries and cares for another’s armor and weapons. Though not frequently discussed, armor bearers played an important role in biblical times.
As we seek to serve leaders today, studying the armor bearer’s characteristics and responsibilities can help us better understand our calling. In this post, we will explore the qualities of an effective armor bearer based on examples in Scripture. We will also discuss practical ways to serve leaders in the church.
An armor bearer was a soldier who assisted an army commander or king during battle. As referenced in 1 Samuel 14:1, Saul’s armor bearer carried Saul’s weapons and walked alongside him into battle. An armor bearer ensured the leader’s armor and weapons were ready at a moment’s notice. More than a “human pack mule,” an armor bearer was a loyal and trusted confidant to the one they served.
Though the literal role of armor bearer is not common in today’s churches, we can glean important insights from biblical armor bearers about serving leaders well:
- An armor bearer demonstrates loyalty to the leader they serve.
- An armor bearer handles the leader’s affairs and business diligently.
- An armor bearer offers encouragement, wisdom, and honest feedback when needed.
- An armor bearer is faithful in intercessory prayer for the leader.
- An armor bearer is obedient and honors the leader’s vision.
In the sections below, we will explore the heart and actions of an armor bearer by examining several biblical examples. We will also identify practical ways you can adopt the attitude and attributes of an armor bearer in your church context today.
The Heart of an Armor Bearer
More important than the specific duties armor bearers performed was the heart posture and attitude in which they served. As we strive to serve leaders well today, we should seek to exemplify the characteristics armor bearers displayed.
One of the distinguishing traits of an armor bearer was unwavering loyalty to the leader they served. Armor bearers were deeply devoted to guarding, protecting, and promoting the leader’s well-being and interests.
For instance, 1 Samuel 31 recounts Saul’s final battle against the Philistines in which Saul was badly wounded and took his own life. Several of Saul’s sons were also struck down in the battle that day. However, Saul’s armor bearer refused to leave his side. He loyally fought alongside Saul “until the end” (1 Samuel 31:5).
As an armor bearer, you demonstrate loyalty by standing with the leader you serve, championing their vision, and protecting their reputation. During the highs and lows of leadership, you remain devoted in service to the one God has called you to support.
In addition to loyalty, armor bearers needed discernment to serve well. They had to know when to step up and protect the leader in battle. They also had to know when to step back and allow the leader to fight their own battles.
Jonathan, Saul’s son, exemplified discernment as an armor bearer. In 1 Samuel 14, Jonathan and his armor bearer bravely struck down a garrison of Philistines on their own, delivering Israel from their enemies. However, Jonathan also understood the consequences of acting presumptuously without Saul’s permission. Discernment is key to knowing when and how to properly support the vision of the leader you serve.
Another important role armor bearers played was providing encouragement to the leader, especially before high-stakes battles. Based on Deuteronomy 20, officers were appointed to address the army before entering combat. The armor bearer likely had opportunity at these times to offer words of courage and motivation to the one they served.
As an armor bearer, you can serve your leader by offering hope-filled perspective, wisdom, and affirmation to strengthen them for spiritual warfare. Through relationship built on trust, you can counsel leaders through difficult decisions while inspiring them toward perseverance.
Behind the scenes, a primary responsibility of an armor bearer was to intercede for the leader through prayer. Leaders faced incredible pressures and carried heavy burdens for those they led. An armor bearer brought these needs before the Lord.
As armor bearers, we serve leaders best when we faithfully pray for them, bringing their needs and battles before God’s throne of grace. Our prayers strengthen leaders spiritually and deliver them wisdom needed to serve well.
Above all, an armor bearer was devoted to the well-being of the leader they served. With discernment, they sought opportunities to protect, encourage, and advise leaders at key moments while elevating the leader’s vision and voice. An armor bearer blessed the one they served entirely through their loyal support.
The Actions of an Armor Bearer
While the posture of an armor bearer’s heart was most important, they also faithfully executed practical responsibilities in service to their leader. These visible duties benefitted the leader and furthered the leader’s effectiveness.
Handle Leader’s Affairs Diligently
A primary task armor bearers performed was handling the daily affairs of the leader. As referenced in 2 Kings 7, Elisha appointed one of his attending servants, Gehazi, to carry out his instructions precisely. This released the leader for more important matters while entrusting the details to a loyal agent.
As an armor bearer, you can serve your leader by managing their schedule and business, representing them in meetings, or carrying out administrative tasks. This allows the leader to focus on priorities central to their mission and calling.
Equip and Care for Armor
As the role’s name implies, a practical duty of the armor bearer was caring for the leader’s armor and weapons. They ensured the armor was polished and intact, the sword sharp and ready, shield reinforced, and bow strung for battle. Their diligent service prepared the leader for victory.
While probably not literally caring for battle-gear, you can serve your leader by managing details that allow them to be at their best. This may include coordinating travel, preparing teaching notes, or compiling research to equip the leader with necessary tools for their ministry.
Guard the Leader
During battle, the armor bearer stood by the leader’s side, shielding and protecting them from enemy advances. Their constant vigilance and readiness to defend the leader was vital in warfare when chaos ensued and spears flew.
While church leaders may not face physical combat, they do face spiritual warfare. As an armor bearer, you can guard your leader by praying for their protection. You can also serve as a loyal confidant they can trust fully with vulnerabilities and counsel.
In Judges 9, Abimelech appointed his armor bearer Zebul to govern Israel’s Shechem region in his absence. The armor bearer’s close proximity allowed him to quickly inform the leader of any issues that arose.
While you may not always be physically present with the leader, you can remain accessible and responsive to their needs. As an armor bearer, you make yourself available to assist immediately when called upon by the leader you serve.
Carry Out Instructions
When the leader gave direction, the armor bearer obeyed and fulfilled their orders promptly. For example, Jonathan’s armor bearer dutifully followed him into battle against the Philistines at Michmash after Jonathan said, “Come…let us go over to the garrison” (1 Samuel 14:1).
Rather than contradicting or second-guessing, an armor bearer demonstrates trust in the leader by honoring their wisdom and obeying righteous instruction. You come alongside the calling and vision God has given your leader.
By handling the leader’s affairs diligently, protecting their focus, and remaining responsive, an armor bearer enabled the leader to fulfill their mission courageously with confidence.
Serving Leaders Today as an Armor Bearer
While we may not assume the official title of “armor bearer,” we demonstrate the heart of one when we:
- Faithfully intercede for leaders through prayer
- Lovingly correct and exhort leaders with discernment
- Entrust leaders to God’s sovereign care and protection
We also emulate the actions of an armor bearer when we:
- Handle details and tasks that enable the leader to focus
- Guard and protect the leader’s character and integrity
- Provide wise, honest counsel when requested
- Remain available to assist leaders promptly and cheerfully
Armor bearers brought God’s strength and encouragement to leaders in biblical times. Today, we can all adopt this attitude of loyal support toward spiritual leaders God has placed over us. Our prayers and service free them to pursue the calling God has entrusted, advancing His kingdom purposes through their lives.
The next time you feel called to complain about decisions made from the stage, pause and reflect on how you can faithfully support leaders with the heart of an armor bearer instead. As we serve and empower those God has appointed to lead, we partner with His work and experience the joy of unity in advancing the Gospel together.