“What do you suppose is the most neglected leadership quality among church leaders? Which attribute is the most essential for good leadership?” one author asked, “As far as I am concerned, these two questions have the same answer. The answer is the spirit of a servant.” Without any ambiguity Jesus explained that his form of leadership was different from the world’s form of leadership (Gentiles, Luke 22:24-27) and its emphasis on authority, lordship, and ranking. The Lord explained that not even he would use his authority to be served, instead he said he “came not to be served but to serve” (Mat. 20:28).
Through Jesus’ teachings and the example of his life, he taught a new form of leadership. In essence, Jesus taught us that this world’s idea of worth cannot be carried over into his spiritual realm. In Christ’s kingdom, there is a complete reversal of earth’s values. The greatest demonstration of this reversal is the Cross of Jesus Christ where the King of kings served mankind by giving “his life as a ransom for many” (Mat. 20:28). The Lord’s leadership is in stark contrast to the leadership in the secular world. Not the number of one’s servants, but the number whom one serves, is the heavenly criterion for greatness. The final reward will be commensurate with the greatness of service humbly rendered.
Servanthood, as it is affectionately called, is more concisely called slavery. The Greek word for servant, doulos, means slave, “The ancient world considered it to be a title of humiliation. People frowned upon the idea of being subservient, of putting a master’s interests before their own.” Biblically, the term is employed for virtually all of God’s leaders. The practice of servant-leadership should be unquestioned in its employment because it was employed by the Lord Jesus Christ–if the King of kings and Lord of lords made it clear that he wasn’t seeking people to wait on him as servants, but, rather, he was desirous of serving others, how much more so should we be involved in serving others. To be a follower of Jesus, a person must be a servant of others.
A leader of God is to be a servant to all, especially under the leadership of God. The Greek word for slave, doulos, is well connected to its opposite, leader, kurios, meaning “absolute wonder of a person or thing.” A great preacher named Richard Rogers connects servitude to God’s leaders, “The word that most identifies a leader is the word servant. The words elder, shepherd, steward, and overseer also identify a leader, but the responsibilities of each have a single identifying quality. No matter what they do, they serve. They are slaves of other people.” The concept of slavery is foreign to secular leadership but in God’s word the concept is connected to God’s leadership abundantly. Unfortunately, leadership under God has been corrupted by an overemphasis on secular leadership qualities to the neglect of the Bible.
All disciples of Christ have influence upon the people that surround them. Leadership is influence, with or without authority or power. How you use your influence on others determines whether you are a leader for God’s glory or not. When you serve others in Christ’s name, your influence is that of a servant-leader. Your example mimics the example of Christ’s servitude.
Did you come to be served? Or did you come to serve?