Leadership – Servant style
UCB 3 min script
I was in one of those meetings where the preacher goes and on and the more he went on the more irritated I got, not because he was going on, but because he was getting it so badly wrong. He was preaching from Luke 7 v 8 where the centurion seeks healing for his sick servant. The preacher had obviously not read the passage, or at least had not paid attention when he read it because he kept saying that the Centurion said to Jesus that, ‘he could see that Jesus had authority like he had authority.’ How embarrassing, what the centurion actually said was that he was under authority and perceived that Jesus was also under authority.
Jesus saying he was under authority is a very interesting and enlightening fact, he was telling us that the things he was doing were at the command of the will of his Father and not his own will.
In Matthew 20 it’s interesting to see that there were those amongst the twelve disciples who wanted to be in the top tier of leadership, and they asked Jesus if they could be at his right hand and left hand, (actually they got their Mum to ask, but anyway, I digress) But Jesus demonstrated a completely different style of leadership, one I am afraid that the church as a whole still does not seem to grasp, the style is called servant leadership.
Jesus outlines the style very clearly, both in words and actions in Marks gospel, chapter 9 verse 35, when he says if you want to lead or be the first, you need to be the last, or rather the servant of all. Then he demonstrates this very process as he takes a towel and a bowl and washes the disciple’s feet. In the account in John chapter 13 verses 5 Peter is very upset, he does not think that master Jesus should be washing people’s feet. But Jesus carries out this act to clearly underline and promote the servant style of leadership.
It’s helpful for us to understand who, in the culture of the time when Jesus was here, would be doing the foot washing. I’ve walked around in Africa quite a bit and I can understand the need to wash my feet, even when I am wearing socks and shoes my feet still need washing, my socks need changing and my shoes need shining because the roads are so dusty. So who exactly would have had the responsibility of washing feet in that culture? It would have been the job of the very youngest, most junior servant, if the home did not have servants, then the youngest child would do the job. I guess now we can see how mind-blowing it would have been to the disciples to see Jesus taking up a towel and washing their feet. The King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the creator of all things, in fact the very reason why all things were created, is now washing feet! It’s mad isn’t it, but that is the kind of leadership that those who lead in the church need to practice.
Being a follower of Jesus is unusual, if it’s real it is counter-culture and so at odds with what people would think normally, and that’s what makes it so fantastic. It is so very different; totally opposite of what is the expected norm. The trouble is we are so influenced by our culture and the way the world runs that we don’t realise how different we are called to be. The early church had the same struggle, as we can see in 1 Peter 5v2, ‘Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
’ Have a look at it and you’ll see the words ‘serve’ and ‘not lording it’ (that is being the big heavy handed boss) all in one sentence.
So you feel God has called you to lead, but its servant leadership that he’s called you to and that is so different to what we see in the world around us. But it’s God’s way; this is the way he wants us to lead in his world. Are you ready to lead?
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Editor: A. Brookes