Posts tagged servant
If you want to be an effective and influential leader, what should you do? Write a book? Start a church? Come up with a vision plan for [insert world-changing vision here]?
If you’re looking for influence and impact, don’t overlook the greatest leader who ever lived. He started a movement that has been growing ever since his birth and has now spread around the globe. Here are two statements that Jesus made that should be the foundation of our leadership and influence:
The greatest among you shall be your servant.
But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.
In both passages Jesus takes the human picture of leadership and turns it on its head. In Luke 22:27, Jesus makes the most important leadership statement the world has ever heard: “But I am among you as the one who serves.”
Are you in a position of leadership right now? Here are three ways you can be an influential leader who serves:
1. Learn to follow.
Being a leader is lonely because one of the definitions of leadership means you’re out in front, like a shepherd leading the way. But as followers of Jesus we’re not the chief shepherd. He is. Our ability to lead and influence is only as great as our dependence on Jesus. We never arrive in our process of becoming more like Him (in this life) and so we need to be expert followers to be good leaders. How does this affect our ability to serve those under our leadership? We need to be reminded that before God we are all sinners saved by grace and that our position before Him is the same. This type of leading says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
2. Value everyone
In today’s culture, your position, title, and influence can often give you permission to separate yourself from others. Why should the CEO of a large company care about the individual factory worker who can easily be replaced? The farther you’re separated from those you lead, the easier it is to see others as a commodity as opposed to a uniquely created individual. As a Christian leader, if the vision or goal of your leadership becomes more important than the people you serve (lead) then you have a value problem.
The servant leader places high value on people by:
- Seeing people as God sees them
- Putting people over programs
- Creating a culture of listening – not just directing
- Being willing to extend grace and teach others, instead of creating rules that eliminate those with perceived weaknesses
3. Serving means doing
Do you remember the time when you had to stack chairs, clean toilets, or some other activity that you’re glad you don’t have to do anymore? While it’s true that roles change, leaders have to guard against the mentality of “I don’t do that anymore”. As a leader, people are counting on you and you do have to prioritize where you invest your time and energy. In light of this, how can you balance the unique role that only you can fill while still being a servant leader?
Do what you say.
Don’t preach anything you aren’t preaching to yourself and don’t recruit for a vision that you aren’t fully behind. Church leaders rely heavily on volunteers but rarely volunteer time themselves. Yes, practice what you preach.
The power behind our faith and our leadership is action, and leaders who shepherd like Jesus aren’t afraid to get dirty, smell like sheep, and serve with all their heart.
If someone advised you to “Take courage!”, how would you respond? “Why?” might be my immediate response.
In Joshua 1:6-9, we see the Lord commanding Joshua to be “strong and courageous three times. But if we take a closer look, we also see the Lord commanding Joshua to obey the Law three times as well. The Lord actually exhorts for bravery only once on account of the battles he would fight (verse 6). After that, all of Joshua’s courage would be needed regarding loving and keeping the Law. Why would he need this? Deuteronomy 31-34 gives us the answer. Once in the Promised Land, the people would all “turn to foreign gods…”(Dt. 31:16, 20). Immediately after this, in verse 23, God exhorts Joshua to courage.
Tackling “giants” is nothing to God. Joshua had seen giants before and had hoped for the chance to overcome them 40 years earlier (Numbers 13-14). However, Joshua had also witnessed unbelief and rebellion and their effect on people. Joshua needed a love for God and His Law even more than strength, courage, and determination. It would take all these things to complete the mission God had given him.
It takes courage to obey God and even more courage to lead unwilling people to do the same. Giants are one thing; tackling the hearts of rebellious people is another.
For those of you in leadership, Joshua’s story also offers another valuable truth: we don’t get our validation from people. Affirmation is wonderful, but man’s approval (or lack thereof) does not determine our identity in Christ. I realize that affirmation is important and valid, but is it vitally important? …Important enough to tempt us to rebellion? In our world today, it takes more courage to be obedient and pursue holiness than it does to simply be “relevant.” Obedience in the life of a disciple is the natural overflow of a life impacted by the Gospel. The validation that counts to those who follow the master comes from the master. Joshua needed to understand this truth and it’s this truth that would ultimately make him a better servant and leader for the people.
As you go out into the next chapter of your life, don’t forget the things God has told you, shown you, and promised you. The giants you may be facing are one thing, and God can take care of those. Sickness, pride, divorce, child trafficking… are all giants God wants to and can slay. It’s the giant of our heart—our devotion to Him—that God won’t force (see Rev. 3:20). Give Him access to this “giant,” and there is nothing God can’t do through any of us.
Open the door to Him daily. Be faithful with His Word—spoken and written. Be strong and courageous!
Here are some questions to consider:
1. Are you trying hard to be relevant, or do you simply need more courage to be obedient?
2. As you look at a situation today, are you more concerned with what people think, or what God thinks?
3. In your leadership (or followership) are you more concerned with failing people, or disobeying God?
4. What safeguards (good habits and relationships) do you have in your life that help you see Jesus clearly in every decision?
Jeremy West has been on staff with Youth With A Mission since 1995. He teaches and runs training programs in the fields of discipleship and leadership development, worldwide.
“Leadership is a responsibility, not an identity; we are all disciples, first.”