Monday, November 10, 2014

The Servant Leader: A Radical Concept

This post is part of the November Synchroblog.  

John 12:26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. 

The radical idea of the servant leader.  I have brought this subject up many times.  The true role of leader in the Bible is that of the humble servant.  People have said that kind of limited view of leadership is "dangerous."  I disagree.  The biblical view of leadership is most certainly humble service.  Listen to what Jesus had to say regarding leadership:

Matthew 20:25-28 (ESV) But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  

That seems pretty clear to me.  Also have a look at the way Luke recorded it:

Luke 22:24-27 (ESV) A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. 

Also, have a look at the example Jesus left for us in his actions in John 13:

John 13:12-15 (ESV) 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.  

The role of the leader is the servant of his entire congregation, his organization, or missionary group.  In the United States often the pastor or leader looks more like an Oil Tycoon or CEO.  Rick Warren comes to mind.  Or in the case of Mark Driscoll, when the pastor plays King on the mountain, and staff members get bullied as a result.  Power, prestige, influence has often been the role of the pastor in the United States.  Such things invariably lead to corruption.  Dare I even mention the Pope or Bishops across Europe who have so often wielded such immense power, leading to such intense corruption in the papal ranks?  

I really don't think I'm wrong about this one.  You'd be hard pressed to find scripture to back up a Pastor as a wielder of influence and power.  Historically we've seen time and again that when too much power is wielded by religious leaders that power is abused and the cause of Christ in the world is damaged.  To me, that seems much more dangerous than the servant leader.  

It's important to understand that while I am referring to a humble servant leader, that is greatly different than a servile weak leader.  

Let's look at 1 Timothy 3:

1 Timothy 3:1-7 (ESV)
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 

The servant leader is a radical concept.  Self controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.  Gentle, but firm, able to lead but not lording it over his people.  It takes careful balance.

In conclusion, how would Jesus lead?  He led by serving.  He set the ultimate example of putting others before himself.  In the end his servant attitude meant he died for his friends.  That is the ultimate picture of a leader, yesterday, today, and always.    

Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV) 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. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  

Christian Bloggers on the topic of Leadership for November: