Many times when we look at what God requires of us it is the opposites. Turn your cheek if your enemy strikes you. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute and Servant leadership. It all seems like a contradiction in terms. However, Christian leaders are servants because they all serve God. They serve people. They are often called a minister, which means servant. Unfortunately not all of the Christian leaders that I have been exposed to are servant leaders. Many of the leaders I have been exposed to have the attitude I am the minister, and you are the people. Alternatively, the opposite we are the people and you are the servants. Servanthood starts with our attitudes.
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. – PHILIPPIANS 2:4-6
Our attitude drives servant leadership. An attitude is a pattern of thinking, an opinion, the way you think or a habit of thinking, a point of view, or thoughts learned. Jesus says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus’s attitude when he came to this earth was humility, sacrifice, and to serve others. He came to serve us from the very beginning. When I think about Spirit-filled leadership that has impacted my life, I think of the attitudes of men and women God placed before me. Many of them were examples of humility in the midst of difficult circumstances and difficult people, but they serve to see the Gospel affect the lives of people. The biggest obstacle in our attitudes regarding serving is an entitlement mentality. An entitlement mentality steals our freedom because it shifts our focus from being Christ-centered to being self-centered.
Paul says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1.) We must follow Christ’s example: “Count others better than yourself” (Phil. 2:3).
Servant Leadership is driven by Sacrifice
Jesus’s purpose for coming to this world was to give his life so that we may have eternal life (Mark 10:45). If we follow the example of Jesus, the first characteristic we can observe was a sacrificial life.
There are many examples in the Bible of people who sacrificed much to follow Jesus. In Matthew Jesus called Peter and Andrew as his first disciples to follow him, and they immediately left their nets and followed him. They left the tools of their trade to follow God. They did not think twice about what they left behind—they just left.
When serving so many of us count the cost of what it will take. We must understand from the very beginning there is a cost involved in serving Jesus. The Apostle Paul, the premier theologian of the New Testament says,
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? – 2 CORINTHIANS 11:24-29
Rahab sacrificed her life to hide the spies in Joshua 2 so that the spies would be able to go back and report what they had seen. In the book of Ruth, Ruth sacrifices her grief to help her Mother-In-Law. Peter dies on an upside down cross preaching the gospel as well as John, who was exiled to the island of Patmos. All of these sacrifices impact generations with the gospel.
There are examples of Christians today who have sacrificed their lives for the sake of the gospel.
The Union Mission Staff is a great example of servant leadership. The reveal party that was thrown for Angie last night impacted her life with the gospel.
Cassie René Bernall (November 6, 1981 – April 20, 1999) was a student killed in the Columbine High School massacre at age 17. Initial reports suggested that Eric Harris asked if Bernall believed in God moments before he shot her. She replied, “Yes.”
Jim Elliot, Nate Saint and two other men died in Equador risking their lives to evangelize a group of Auca Indians. They served as powerful leaders through breaking ground with the Auca Indians. It would be years later that Jim Elliot’s wife would go and bring the gospel to the Auca Indians and work and live among them. Nine years after her husband’s death the gospel of Mark was translated into the Aucan language.
John and Jill Gray have sacrificed every Thanksgiving with their family to be at the Union Mission serving the homeless for the sake of the gospel.
A great leader is a great servant who willingly sacrifices for the sake of the gospel.
Servant Leadership is Driven by Action
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. – JOHN 13:12-15
Jesus washing the disciple’s feet is a beautiful example of servant leadership that was driven by action. Washing feet was usually the responsibility for the lowliest slave in the household, and perhaps this is why Peter did not want Jesus to wash his feet. Regardless, no slave was present to serve the disciples that evening, and none was willing to assume that role for others. To have done so would have settled the argument of being the greatest. For them, this would have been an act of leadership. So the Savior assumed the role of a servant and washed their feet for them as an example of servant leadership. Servant leadership is not just a great idea. Jesus gave us the example to follow and told us to follow his example.
We all influence someone. You may be thinking I am not a leader of any ministry or group, but we all impact others either for good or bad.
How do we practically work out servant leadership?
- Start your day with a prayer asking God who can you serve today?
- Can I send an encouraging note to someone or speak a kind word?
- How can I serve the leaders of my church?
- How can I serve my team?
- Is there someone in our congregation who needs a meal?
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – JOHN 15:13
Our biggest temptation will always be to serve ourselves but as we love and serve those on our ministries teams, church family, and unsaved we are examples of servant leadership. We are serving with our time and out talents to glorify God.
Loving others propels us to action. The Great Commandment is Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and all of your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.
But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. – LUKE 22:26
Jesus is clear that the leader among us is the one who serves. We are not the ones who sit back and allow others to do the work, but we are the ones who get up first because love motivates us.
Servant Leadership in action will impact those you serve and those that observe. God can be glorified even if we do not speak a word.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Donna Paulk has a passion to help women pursue their passions and live a Gospel driven life. Her greatest desire is to help women overcome obstacles that keep them from pursuing their God given gifts and talents. Donna is a certified personal coach with 20 years’ experience. She has worked in the corporate world in sales and training. She currently serves in two roles, Discipleship Coordinator at the Union Mission Ministries and as the Women’s Ministry Strategist for the SBC of Virginia.