Servant Leaders

What does serving have to do with leadership?

When most people think of “leadership” they tend to think of being in charge. That’s how it works in the corporate world. The manager, the boss, the CEO, the president of the company are the bigwigs who get to make decisions and tell others what to do.

In the business world it makes sense that someone -- or even a team of people -- needs to be in charge of making decisions, especially tough ones. But when it comes to the Kingdom of God and the church, Jesus’s words prove leadership is quite different.

In Mark 10 James and John asked Jesus to give them leadership positions. They asked to sit in the places of honor on either side of Jesus. Jesus explained that the Gentiles make such requests to “lord it over” the people. “But it shall not be so among you,” He said. Rather, whoever is great in the Kingdom must be a servant of all.

What an upside down view of leadership! Yet the grounds for such a shocking statement is Jesus’s own way of leading -- through serving. “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).

That is what leadership looks like in the church -- serving.

In his letter to the Philippians Paul distinguished two groups of people from the rest of the saints: “overseers and deacons” (Phil. 1:1). According to 1 Timothy 3, both sets of men are leaders in the congregation who exude godly character. An overseer, or “pastor,” leads primarily through teaching (v. 2). A deacon leads primarily through serving (v. 13). The word “deacon” means “servant” -- literally, “one who gets things done.”

On June 23rd we will ordain a new deacon. He is a man of godly character, and he is already actively serving in the church. He will be ordained during the worship service that Sunday morning. Setting apart and affirming a man to take on the role of a deacon is a church-wide decision; therefore we want the whole church involved.

You may be asking why we would draw so much attention to someone who is meant to “get things done” in the background. Here’s my reasoning -- you need, and should want, to know who the deacons are.

The New Testament says a deacon should be in “good standing.” Folks should know them, and their character. They should be seen as examples of what it looks like to serve. A deacon is a servant who leads; a servant leader. The way in which they “get things done” puts flesh and blood on Jesus’s words: “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve”, therefore leaders must be servants & slaves to all.

So, what does serving have to do with leadership? Everything.

God has blessed us with a number of godly servant leaders; servants who lead. They are not privileged in the sense of gaining much for their work. But they are honored for serving well. Look to your deacons -- they show us how to “get things done” in a way that glorifies God.

- Pastor Jonathan