Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Servant Leadership

God has a way of turning things upside down. He has said that to lead is to serve (Mark 10:42-45; John 13:3-17; Philippians 2:3-11), and He put forth in Himself the clearest example of this. We see this commanded in various relationships: in church leadership (1 Peter 5:1-4) and marriage (Ephesians 5:25-33), to mention a couple of examples. But this is difficult to do. There is a strong temptation in leadership to try to assert our authority. How can we manage to avoid this?

1. We need to trust God (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 127:1,2; Matthew 6:25). One of the dangers of being in leadership is that we can feel if we do not keep a tight rein on things, they will not happen the way we want them to. The truth is that even if we do keep a tight rein on things, they will not happen the way we want them to. If we are in control, there is a temptation to feel we need to get things to work out the way we want, even if it means running roughshod over others. Rather, we need to trust God that even though things may not work out the way we want, God is still in control and will accomplish His purposes. I am not advocating lack of planning or lack of diligence. But I am advocating laying aside the attitude that everything depends on me and I have got to see to it that they work out.

2. We need to avoid the idea we have all the answers (1 Corinthians 3:18; 8:1-13; Luke 9:49,50). Now leaders ought have some knowledge of where they are going. But we can become so dogmatic about our opinions and methods that we are unwilling to listen to anyone else. Often this is dogmatism about something Scripture never really teaches. Now I am not suggesting being a weather vane that changes at every wind of opinion. But one of the easiest way to alienate people is to never consider their viewpoint on anything, especially if the thing at issue is merely your personal opinion and not basic Christian teaching.

3. It is very easy to let our ego get in the way (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:11-27; Proverbs 16:18). If we are in a position of leadership, it is too easy make the issue our authority. This is particularly true if we feel we have been criticized or attacked unfairly (and we may have been). In response to this we need to base our identity, not on our leadership or our accomplishments, but on who we are in Christ (Romans 8:31-39; Colossians 2:9-15; Ephesians 2:10). If we do this we can resist the tendency to attack or cave when opposed. We need to follow God and do what is right and let God uphold our authority. Because if we have reached the point where we are defending our own authority, we have already lost.   


  1. I find most kingdom leadership to be outside church walls Mike.

    1. I'm not sure I entirely catch your meaning, but any Christianity or leadership that is confined within church walls, seems to me a poor artificial thing.

    2. The Pharisees believed that they were God's appointed and anointed leaders because they were leaders inside religious walls. Because of religious pride these did not understand that the real ministry was going outside of their walls. So interesting that John the Baptist and Jesus ministered outside of religious walls. Makes you wonder why religious folks emphasize ministry inside the walls so much? Maybe some are attracted more to Caiaphas than Jesus?

    3. I suspect that one of the main reasons that there is a preference for inside church walls is because it is safer. You do not have to deal with real hurting, struggling people. And that is the chief reason we need to go outside those walls.

    4. I think that the inside the wall stuff often appeals to our religious egos. In a sense we are all Pharisees.

    5. I agree there is a Pharisaical bent in all of us. I also think that a natural tendency of that mindset is to try to build up our egos without taking the risk of having to deal with real hurting people. In my mind the two seem to go together.

    6. Maybe these last two Popes give us a stark contrast and lesson in what a servant leader might not and might look like? Perhaps our Protestant leaders are way more like Benedict than Francis in the places they live and the demeanor they exude?

    7. While I cannot agree with Roman Catholic doctrine there is no doubt the Pope Francis reflects in practice what a shepherd ought to be. We should learn from that.We do have leaders who are more like Benedict. Which is my reason for writing this blog post.