How could two words (servant and leader) which seem mutually exclusive be put together in the idea of ‘servant leadership’? Have you ever wondered how to serve and lead at the same time?
I have been listening to the Old Testament regularly over the last few months. I am only just beginning to understand what God meant when he told Moses to ‘recite these things in Joshua’s ears’, or in Deut.17:18 where He said: “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul…
In light of my thoughts on Servant Leadership, when I heard the word ‘servant’ used repeatedly, I paid attention. It seemed like the context was clearly of someone doing another’s bidding, or working in the best interests of and on behalf of another. This occurred whether the term was used by the patriarchs or by any other person in the Old Testament.
The servant represented someone else’s reputation or name. The dictionary meaning of ‘servant’ is: a person, who performs duties for others; a devoted and helpful follower or supporter.
As I researched this idea, I came across this: “The five words in the New Testament translated “ministry” generally refer to servanthood or service given in love. Serving others is the very essence of ministry”. (www.gotquestions.org/servanthood.html)
In Matt. 20: 25-27, Christ contrasted the world’s idea of leadership with Godly leadership: “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant [working in the best interests of others] and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave [serving often without payment.”
Paul references Christ as the example of servanthood in Phil.2:6-7: “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant (working salvation on our behalf) being born in the likeness of men.
This week I saw a “Desiring God” article by Larry Osborne. He said that servant leadership meant just that – being treated like a servant. He made the point that he loved the idea of ‘servant leadership’ but when people started treating him like a servant, he was not happy. He suggested that the idea of servant leadership was exactly as Jesus prescribed – being treated like a servant.
Osborne further suggests that if you cannot lead joyfully and gratefully then the kingdom is better served if you step aside. If you can’t lead without grumbling and complaining, God will send someone else to do it, so step away.
So what do I believe about servanthood and leadership?
· Servant leaders act on behalf of others and in their best interests
· Servant leaders serve others but follow Christ
· We should all, as Christians, be involved in ‘ministry’ which is serving each other in love
· The world’s way of leading is to ‘lord it’ over others, but Christ’s way is to expect to be treated as slaves (no payment and very little appreciation and gratitude from others)
· God, as Christ, is our example of servant leadership – Who did not think too highly of himself to condescend to the form of a man to work salvation on our behalf
· this is a difficult calling, but who the Lord calls, He enables.
May God help us to exercise servanthood with our leadership.
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