The Principle of Except


Leadership is broken because leaders are unbroken

The demise of Solomon should scare us out of our complacency and drive us to our knees.  Once the wisest man on earth, then one of the most idolatrous men in the world, and finally a murderous man, Solomon shows us the role of the heart in leaders.  How did this come about?  One thing you must understand:  Solomon allowed his heart to outgrow his altar, as he became a victim of the principle of except

Could this happen to us?

There is plenty of evidence that the most dedicated among us can be snarled in the trap of adultery or fall headlong into the blackness of pride or crash our marriage on the rocks of drivenness.  Of course we can become victims of the principle of except.

Solomon’s demise began when he was young and humble, when his heart was on God’s altar, and he was the brand new king of Israel, amazingly aware of his inadequacy and radically dependent on God.  Only one word suggests the destructive fate that he faced, the word, except.

 “Now Solomon loved the Lord walking in the statutes of his father, David, except he sacrificed . . . on the high places (I Kings 3:3).”  It was only some sacrifices on a few high places, just a little idol worship, but, as in so may cases, just a little became a lot.

The principle of except is as inexorable as any law anywhere:  early exceptions become lasting rules.  Once entered, we virtually never escape these early exceptions unless we give constant attention to fight them with all the desperation of a man contending for his life, because that’s exactly what we’re doing.  If we allow the principle of except to take control of our lives, we will fall to the level of Solomon.

Gradually that early exception grew into a lifelong rule he refused to turn from, even though God warned him twice not to do what he did (I Kings 11:9-10).  Eventually this small exception became the governing power of his life, the dominating reality of his heart.  And that was the issue:  his heart, a heart that turned from the altar of God to the altars of idols, the very same process that can turn us from devoted disciples of Christ to devastated worshippers of self.  Then we become leaders who strive to be in control as we work to protect ourselves from the inevitable destruction that the principle of except brings into our lives.

Turn your heart away from dead idols to the living God now while you can.   Make sure your altar is growing with your heart and don’t allow the principle of except to bear its shameful fruit in your life and leadership.   

(from "The Principle of Except" on

Bill Lawrence is the President of Leader Formation International, Senior Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Ministries and Adjunct Professor of DMin Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary where he served full-time for twenty-four years (1981-2005). During this time he also was the Executive Director of the Center for Christian Leadership for twelve years.