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A servant is a leader is a servant

Posted by on Sep 13, 2010 in elders, office, service | 15 comments

A servant is a leader is a servant

Jesus defined leadership like this:

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  (Mark 10:43-44 ESV)

So, a leader is one who serves. And, Jesus defined service like this:

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45 ESV)

If someone is not giving up something costly (i.e., even his/her life) for other people, then that person is not serving. If that person is not serving, then he/she is not a leader and should not be followed.

It’s really rather simple. We should not measure our leaders by their education, speaking abilities, or giftedness. Leaders are those who serve.

If we are not following servants, then we are not following the leaders that God has placed in our lives. (By the way, if we are not imitating the servants, then we are not following them.)

(Can you find the leader in the picture?)


15 Comments

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  1. 9-13-2010

    Alan,

    No! I will not repeat THAT story!:)

    We will think differently about servanthood when we understand that serving others is a large part of true New Covenant worship.

  2. 9-14-2010

    The first verse I think of when I hear Leader or Servant is: 2Co 1:24 Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.

  3. 9-14-2010

    Aussie John,

    I remember that story. And, I think, if someone says, “I am no one’s servant,” that person is probably telling the truth. Of course, that person is not a leader either. :)

    Larry,

    Yes, exactly.

    -Alan

  4. 9-15-2010

    Alan, I could not possibly disagree with you more. Serving can be a form of leading, and leaders absolutely should serve. But the terms (whether functional or official) should not be equated.

    A leader is someone who does something and gets followed, and/or someone who gives directions and the directions are followed. A servant is someone who serves. They may or may not get followed.

    But none of that is what bothers me about this post. This is: The texts you cite say nothing about ‘leadership’, ‘leading’ or ‘following’. But here is what we do know: The ‘greatest’ among us is not necessarily a leader. And the phrase ‘first among you’ is not a processional reference.

    When you say “Jesus defined leadership like this” you’re equating “greatness” with leadership. And that’s a bit disturbing to me, honestly…

  5. 9-15-2010

    Bill,

    Thanks for the comment. Perhaps Luke’s rendition of the same encounter with Jesus explains my point a little better:

    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. (Luke 22:26-27 ESV)

    -Alan

  6. 9-15-2010

    That’s fine, but Luke’s version still makes a distinction between leaders and great ones.

    The greatest among us are servants. But – to be precise – active leading can involve a lot of practical aspects which, although they may ultimately serve the body, aren’t usually recognized as “service” per se.

  7. 9-15-2010

    Bill,

    Jesus did say in Luke, “Let… the leader be as one who serves.” And he gave himself as an example. I don’t understand your disagreement. Surely someone who leads will be gifted in other areas as well. But, according to Jesus, those who lead should serve.

    -Alan

  8. 9-15-2010

    If have zero argument with “a leader should serve”. I have little argument with “leadership is [or ought to be] service”. I have great trouble with “all servants are leaders”. But my greatest trouble is with the implication that all great christians must somehow lead others.

    Setting a good example (which may or may not be followed) is not the same thing – speaking precisely or speaking functionally – as leading.

  9. 9-15-2010

    Bill,

    As far as I can tell, you’re the first person on this thread to say “all servants are leaders.” A servant becomes a leader when others follow his/her example, because someone is then following him/her.

    What do you think would keep any believer (who is serving) from being a leader?

    -Alan

  10. 9-15-2010

    I don’t think this is all just me being persnickety, because your title seemed intentionally axiomatic.

    If you’re saying all christians should influence one another, and thus all christians should be “leaders”, then that’s just not what it sounded like. Most of your post sounds pretty clearly as if certain people are leaders and certain people are not.

    Now, on most days, I know that’s not what you believe, and so on days like today, I just can’t tell it by the words that you’re using.

    I also seem to recall you once equated “elders” with “leaders”, but I’m not sure these are really semantic arguments. If, in your writing, you implicitly make them synonyms, then you confuse me.

    Too bad for me?

  11. 9-15-2010

    Bill,

    No, I don’t equate elders with leaders. I believe that elders should be leaders, but others (who are not elders) could be leaders also.

    -Alan

  12. 9-15-2010

    That’s right. I remember now.

    I’d say all elders should ‘lead’ in one sense. But not all elders should necessarily be ‘leaders’ in the colloquial sense.

    A similar difference, but not entirely semantic, eh?

  13. 9-12-2012

    Alan,

    Thank you again my dear friend for stating these things clearly and concisely, in the way you seem to have skill in doing. There is such joy and freedom in serving others, under His light yoke, with all responsibility on His shoulders, ours to labor in love faithfully, free of pressures to perform and develop a reputation of accomplishments (too often to gain acceptance, which we already have God-deep).

    The world does have a very different view of leadership. Even Christians do (I took the core graduate courses for the Masters in Organizational Leadership at Regent University, and even their view of leadership is heavily laden with the views of the world).

    “It’s really rather simple. We should not measure our leaders by their education, speaking abilities, or giftedness. Leaders are those who serve.
    If we are not following servants, then we are not following the leaders that God has placed in our lives. (By the way, if we are not imitating the servants, then we are not following them.)”

  14. 9-12-2012

    Art,

    Thank you. This is so true: “There is such joy and freedom in serving others, under His light yoke, with all responsibility on His shoulders, ours to labor in love faithfully, free of pressures to perform and develop a reputation of accomplishments.”

    -Alan

  15. 9-12-2012

    I have no problem with your post, and the One whom you are quoting. Both are crystal clear. Self and the Western mentality will always wrestle with these simple truths. True servants will easily be recognized, they’re wearing the towel and carrying the basin. . . .