Since grace at “Emerging Grace” has been discussing “Leadership“, I have started thinking about leadership again. Specifically, I have been meditating on Jesus words to his disciples concerning “leaders” among his followers. Consider this passage:
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.” (Matthew 20:25-28 ESV; see also Mark 10:42-45)
Luke uses different verbs to communicate the same message in a similar passage:
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.” (Luke 22:24-26 ESV)
What does Jesus mean in this passage? Whatever he meant, he understood that he was speaking contrary to way people normally think about leadership. According to Jesus, the leader of a group of believers is the one who serves. Now, this order is very important. It seems at times that we get this backwards. We think that a true servant is the one who leads. Thus, we equate service with leadership. Who is the biggest servant? We would normally answer: The one who is leading us.
(This raises the question: If this understanding is correct, then what kind of “service” do those who do not “lead” provide? It must be a lesser kind of “service”. Thus, we make that which is not service to be called service, and that which is service to be called “not service” or “lesser service”.)
This is the opposite of what Jesus meant. If he were asked, who is the biggest leader? He would answer: the one who is serving most. It seems that Jesus would say, “Do you want to know who to follow? Look around you. Who is serving the most? Follow that person. And, you can think of me as an example. I have demonstrated this by being the servant of all. I did not come to be served, but to serve. Go and do likewise. Serve. And follow those who are serving.”
Jesus did not mean that the greatest service is leadership. He meant that the greatest leadership is service.
Is this the way we recognize leaders? Or, do we consider leadership skills, decision-making ability, educational background, communication skills, personality traits, charisma, etc.? When have we asked ourselves, “Who should we follow?”, and then answered, “Look how much that person serves others. Let’s follow that person.”
But, this is exactly what Jesus was telling us to do. Do you want to lead? Then serve. Do you want to know who to follow? Then look for one who is serving.
Let’s stop equating leadership with service, and let’s start following those who serve others.