Saturday, January 24, 2015

Servants and Leaders

After approximately ten years in vocational ministry I have had a lot of time to think about what it means to serve and what it means to lead.  And I was blessed with the opportunities to observe it being put into practice in a variety of ways.  What is my conclusion at this point in my life and ministry?  Most people don't do either very well. 

The most obvious "bad apples" are found in the operational paradigms of those who would be considered the leader.  But our ministries are also full of people who aren't very easy to lead regardless of the quality of the leaders. 

Why is this?

It is because we are either unaware of, or, unwilling to abide by, the Biblical prescriptions for how we are to conduct ourselves in the context of Christian community.  Let me give you some extreme examples of what this looks like before I do anything else.

Bad Leader:

A bad leader is someone who thinks of their "title" or "role" as conferring to them some sort of unassailable position of absolute authority that affords them the RIGHT to make any demand they want of others, in ANY manner that they choose to make the demand.  Think of a Senior Pastor who has set up his own little enclave of power that refuses to listen to, or, be tender with, the "little people".  Even honest questioning is viewed as disobedience and sin.  Want to ask why your church is allocating such a large amount of money to a private pet project(or salary) to the pastor?  Dems fighting words buddy, get ready for church discipline....

Bad Servant/Follower

A bad follower is someone who is consistently contentious and argumentative about every little thing.  Especially when it is not a Biblical issue, but a preference issue.  They never seem to be willing to joyfully follow reasonable instructions, but instead, argue for every inch.  Think of a church member who won't stop fighting with the church leaders over what color to paint the walls in the foyer, or, complains to everyone around them how "dumb" the leaders are for doing "this" vs "that".  Sadly, what I just described is wildly common.  I have known people who have left a church because the straw that broke the camels back was a disagreement on who should have access to the church kitchen, or, where the church library would be kept. 

If you have been involved in a church for any length of time you have probably had your fair share of experiences on either end of this spectrum.

So where do we start to address this? 


12 Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord's work. They work hard among you and warn you against all that is wrong. 13 Think highly of them and give them your wholehearted love because of their work. And remember to live peaceably with each other.  1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

The most obvious verse we can find regarding the issues of being a follower is found in this text.  What are the key words?  Honor, think highly of, give wholehearted love, live peaceably. 

If you are currently in a position of having someone in a role of "leader", can you claim that this passage accurately and consistently describes your behavior and heart attitude?


42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”-- Mark 10:42-45

What does it mean to be a leader according to Jesus?  To serve.  NOT to Lord it over people.  A leaders heart is to be shaped by an active willingness to lay aside "rights"(this is what a slave imagery conveys) for the purpose of serving those they lead. 

If you are currently in a position where you are responsible to lead others, can you claim that this passage accurately and consistently describes your behavior and heart attitude?

The problem with these two passages is they can easily be used as battering rams to DEMAND that someone else behave in a specific way.  Leaders will bludgeon "followers" with a passage about honoring their leader(which just happens to be themselves...) and followers will disrespect the "leader" because they want to contend that the leader isn't being enough of a servant.....

There is a much more important passage in scripture that cuts through the black and white role defining that we too often do as we try to create defined roles and rules for those roles....

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. - Galatians 5:22-23

The "Fruits of the Spirit" are the guiding principle for ALL Christians, at ALL times, for ALL roles they may ever have the responsibility for.  No matter where you are currently in your life and within a particular ministry and church, EVERYTHING you do is to be evaluated through the lens of these values.  If you claim to be in Christ, but consistently and belligerently act in ways that are diametrically opposed to the outward reflection of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.....well....draw your own conclusions.

No matter your role, ask yourself the question, "In this situation, as right or wrong I, or, they, may be, are the fruits of the spirit evident in my attitude, behavior and words?"

Do you want a healthy church?  It isn't about getting better leaders, or, getting better servants.  It's about each Christian, regardless of position, being shaped and defined by the work of the Holy Spirit.  When that is your first priority, the rest will work itself out.

The best leader of all time.

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