Leadership Lessons: Focussed Servanthood

My friend Jenny Brown, Associate Minister at All Souls Langham Place, says this to all young leaders:

If you approach each and every situation asking yourself "do I want to serve in this instance?" you always retain the right to decide not to. 

If, however, you know that God has called you to serve and to be a servant of others for Christ's sake, that is the last decision you ever take.

That is, leaders serve (what we do) because we are servants (what we are). There is no other choice.

However, it is worth considering very carefully what it means to be a servant. I can think of churches who interpret that as "employing a leader who will simply serve all our wants, whims, activities and wish lists." Leaders as general dogbodies and caretakers to provide anything the congregation desires. 

Nothing could be further from the biblical picture.

Here is how the apostle Paul puts it:

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe, as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. (1 Cor 3:5-6)

For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake (2 Cor 4:5)

Note, then, what being a servant means here:

  • They are servants to to what God has assigned. These assignments are gospel assignments. ie planting and watering the seed of the gospel so that people come to believe and subsequently grow in God as disciples
  • They are your servants for Jesus sake. ie so that what Jesus wants for his church is done. So that he is formed in people's hearts by faith. So that they grow in him, becoming the people he wants them to be, doing the things he wants them to do. For the ultimate purpose of his Kingdom being extended and him receiving glory

How different is this picture to that of a church that wants caretaker leaders. There is every danger that a caretaker-mentality church will do its best to prevent leaders doing these things by insisting on an unbiblical view of servanthood. That is, "we employ you, so we call the tune. And the tune isn't biblical leadership and biblical followership."

So let me ask of leaders, what are you serving your church for? To make much of them, confirming them in their comfort zone? Or that they may make much of Christ and be a people of daring faith for the extension of God's kingdom.

And if you aren't a leader, which do you and your church actually want? Your church can have the leadership that it desires, either radical, godly servants or unbiblical dogsbodies. The former will challenge you and make you spiritually alive. The latter will make you comfortable and dead.