One of the core values of Family Church is “Servant Leadership”. For many people it sounds contradictory in our culture. Leaders are larger than life. Leaders get results whatever it takes. Leaders are rewarded by privileges for their hard work and accomplishments. But Jesus has a very different idea.
I was introduced to the difficulties of leadership early in my life. In ninth grade my parents would take off and leave me “in charge” of my four younger siblings, while they went to a distant town to shop. Sometimes it went well, but when my brothers didn’t want to do what they were supposed to do or what I wanted them to do, it got bad. I would try to make them conform with powerful words or even physically try to force them. This caused them to band together against me and start this infuriating little chant, “Bully, Bully, Bully”! I can still feel the frustration of trying to get people to do what they were supposed to do and having no power to make it happen.
Jesus called his disciples to learn to handle this tension in a very different way than the culture around them. When his disciples were jockeying for dominance he introduced them to his plan for leaders.
Matthew 20:25-28 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
It is easy, as leaders, to use our position, our powers of persuasion, and our influence to get people to do things that are mostly for the benefit of the leader and not the team.
The temptation to make it about getting my own way and using whatever power I have to control others is intense. It is easy to react to criticism. It is easy to want to make decisions without others muddying the waters.
I find there a couple of simple steps that help me daily move back toward being a leader who is clearly serving:
1) Remember I don’t own the church, the people, or the buildings. I have to give them back to God to do what he wants with them. These things don’t define me or control me.
2) Listen carefully to the others God has placed around me. There are many ways God speaks and I have to be discerning to hear his words whether they come through a seasoned leader or a child. Sometimes the best questions are not asked by the people who are in official leadership. Unity comes in the frustrating process of listening and hammering out a direction as a team.
3) Remember that discipline is a mark of a Disciple. I have to say no to my selfish desires for power, prestige, or possessions. They call me all the time, but they are not the voices I want to hear. The greater visibility, the corner office, the appreciation from people are often not in the direction of God’s calling.
4) As for myself, if I am really serving Christ with my actions, I have to be sure my motives are right. Some of my purest worship may be when I do something that isn’t noticed, for someone with no “leadership clout”, in a gracious manner.
We are to be known by our love for each other. Not just people who can do something for me, but for all that God brings into my life.