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Pastoral Resources

Jesus: Servant Leader

John Mark Ministries

The Scriptures say-"Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5).

Jesus is our servant/leader. In His ministry on earth he beautifully fused together servanthood and leadership. He was essentially a leader, undoubtedly a servant. In his personality, Jesus displayed both characteristics. He was a servant, He was a leader. And with Jesus as our example, we are called to be servant/leaders. The Scriptures say-"Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5).

Jesus is our servant/leader. In His ministry on earth he beautifully fused together servanthood and leadership. He was essentially a leader, undoubtedly a servant. In his personality, Jesus displayed both characteristics. He was a servant, He was a leader. And with Jesus as our example, we are called to be servant/leaders.

Slavery is still very evident in many parts of the world. There are nations where a percentage of its people are born into slavery and remain slaves all their lives. Children are sold by unscrupulous people and become slaves to satisfy the sexual attitudes of others. There are people throughout the world whose ethnic identity has been defined either because their people took and held others as slaves, or defined by the sin of slavery that was inflicted on their people. Slavery is a terrible sin which, even today, continues to devastate the lives of innocent people.

In first century Palestine, slavery was very evident. The slave was a pitiable person. He had no name, no possessions, no rights. He was sold into slavery in the marketplace to the highest bidder. He was a nobody. And Jesus came into this world as a slave.

The Greek word 'doulos' is translated in the New Testament both as 'slave' and as 'servant.' The words have a similar meaning. Jesus came as a servant, as a slave. He was the servant of the Lord. We are called to be servants of the servant of the Lord.

1. In Jesus Christ we see the marks of the LEADER.

Jesus was a born leader. Even at age 12 he was showing indications of future leadership as he conversed with the wisest minds among the religious leaders in Jerusalem (Luke 2:47).

During his three year ministry, Jesus was obviously the leader. He had all the marks of leadership. He attracted people to Him. They left their nets, the tax collector's table, their revolutionary political activity, their other tasks, and followed Him. Jesus was the leader.

a) Jesus led because of His divine nature:

John the Baptist declared, at the River Jordan, that one was in their midst, the sandals on whose feet John was unworthy to tie. The voice of the Father was heard at Jesus' baptism, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22). The one who declared Himself, "the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6), who answered that "He and His Father were one" (John 10:30), would naturally assume the role of leader within his community and people.

b) Jesus led by example:

Jesus set the standard by which all future leadership is to be assessed. He was the natural leader. He did not have to raise His voice to be heard. He didn't need to strike the synagogue pulpit to be heard. When He entered the room, a hush fell over the people. He was a born leader.

Pilate wanted Jesus to accept the designation of King of the Jews. Jesus would have none of that. He needed no human title to establish his leadership. His leadership was inherent within Him. He sets an example of strong, sensitive leadership for all who presume to a leadership position.

c) Jesus led by action: When decisive action was needed, Jesus acted. When the Temple was despoiled by manipulative, unscrupulous commercial interests, Jesus overturned the money changers' tables (Matthew 21:12) When the howling wind and raging sea threatened to overturn the boat, Jesus cried out, "Peace be still" (Mark 4:39) and a great calm came upon the sea.

Jesus was a strong man, a decisive leader. He confronted what was wrong or harmful and led by action.

d) Jesus led by the quality of His life: Jesus grew in favor with God and with men and women (Luke 2:52). He went around doing good (Acts 10:38). The common people heard Him gladly (). He spoke with authority, not like the Scribes and the Pharisees (Matthew 7:29). The apostle Paul often wrote about the "grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 8:9). Jesus was loved by-and loved and prayed for-his friends (John 17). He was such an attractive person that people were drawn to Him like iron filings to a magnet (Luke 4:15).

e) Jesus led by the depth of His compassion: Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem (Luke 13:34). When his friend Lazarus was declared dead, the Scriptures tell us that his strong leader, Jesus, wept for His friend (John 11:35). When the sister of Lazarus was under pressure from her activist sister, Martha, Jesus came to her defense (Luke 10:42). Leadership without compassion is arid and sterile. Jesus, a strong, bold leader, revealed a sensitivity and compassion that enhanced and balanced His strength of character and dynamic leadership.

f) Jesus led by making the ultimate sacrifice: Only a person of immense strength could look death squarely in the face and walk serenely towards it. Only a person of absolute conviction could have endured the lashes, the nails, the thorns and the spear and accept the loneliness and agony of the Cross of Calvary. Many followers of Jesus have carried their cross to Golgotha and accepted martyrdom in the name of Jesus Christ. They followed the slap of His sandals to the Cross-following the example He set.

Jesus was a born leader. Within His human experience, Jesus sets the example for leadership and calls us to follow.

2. In Jesus Christ we see the marks of the SERVANT.

There are many New Testament titles for Jesus Christ, but if he preferred one, it may have been Servant of the Lord. The pivotal New Testament texts are Mark 10:45, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many," and Philippians 2:7-8, "He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave.He humbled Himself by being obedient, even to death."

Jesus was a servant because:

a) The prophets predicted that a servant would come and suffer.

"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). "Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before its shearers, He did not open his mouth" (Isaiah 53:7). The New Testament takes up this theme, quoting Isaiah, "Here is my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom my soul delights" (Matthew 12:18).

b) He offered us a powerful model of servanthood. When not one of His disciples was prepared to wash the accumulated dust off the feet of the disciples (even of Jesus), it was Jesus, the Lord of glory, who took up the basin and towel and washed the feet of his friends (John 13:5).

c) He understood the blessing that accompanies meekness.

In Matthew 5, when Jesus taught from a mountain, he set down for posterity the demeanor of the servant.
"How blest are the poor in spirit because the Kingdom of heaven is theirs" (5:3).
"How blest are the gentle because they will inherit the earth" (5:5).
"How blest are the merciful because they will obtain mercy" (5:7).
"How blest are the peacemakers because they will be called the children of God" (5:9).

d) Jesus taught the obligation of servanthood.

In the most radical way Jesus continued this theme in Matthew 5.
"Don't resist an evil-doer.if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also (5:39). if anyone forces you to go one mile with him, go an extra mile" (5:41).
"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (5:44).

e) Jesus exhibited humility.

When well-meaning but misguided disciples tried to protect Jesus from children pressing to be near Him, Jesus said, "Let the children come to me. The Kingdom of God is made up of children like these" (Matt. 19:14). He was the good shepherd caring for the sheep (Hebrews 13:20).

f) Jesus went to his death at Calvary as the "suffering servant."

Jesus was the Lamb of God who laid down His life for His sheep (John 1:29, 36). He submitted to the shame and ignominy of a very humiliating death on a rough wooden cross. He died, the just for the unjust. He served God and God's people right to the end.

Let us all accept the opportunities of LEADERSHIP that the Lord and His people offer us. However, guided by the Holy Spirit, let us lead with the spirit of the servant and in so doing we will walk in the steps of Jesus the Christ.

The Marks of the Effective Leader

Having established that Jesus Christ is the perfect model for servant/leadership, let us be more specific about the qualities necessary to be an effective leader in the Christian church.

1. Godliness

This is difficult to define, but the person who presumes to lead others in the Christian church needs to walk with God, needs to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, needs to have been touched by God's Holy Spirit. This cannot be manufactured; it comes out of a person's willingness to be available to God, out of a deep, even sacrificial, prayer life, out of loving communion with the "holy." All other issues of leadership will be influenced by a leader's spiritual life so it is essential to develop a close, personal relationship with God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

2. Integrity

Christian leaders need to be a people who can be always trusted. Others will rely on the leader because the leader relies on God, they will rely on the leader because integrity is undoubted. Their word will be believed, attitudes and actions will be consistent, there will be no artificially or duplicity. Integrity will characterize the leader's behavior. This means integrity in relationships, in financial dealings, in personal behaviour.

3. Stability

When all others are troubled and anxious, the good leader will be stable and serene, able to calm the emotions of those whose spirits are vexed. People will feel safe and secure in the presence of stable leadership. Such leaders will be sound in judgment, not quick to shift positions, not easily influenced by other's strongly held positions.

4. Humility

Effective leaders will be humble before God and before others. They will be humble, not servile, self-possessed, not selfish. They will not need to be applauded or praised. They will recognize that abilities owned will be the gift of a gracious God and will not have come through human achievement or natural talents. They will not therefore need to promote themselves, to boast, to posture to advertise their skills. Their humility will make them personally secure, not continually needing the affirmation of others.

5. Diplomacy

Leaders who can maintain a successful ministry will be able to choose words carefully, never giving unnecessary offense through injudicious or unwise comments. They will not gossip about others, but will safeguard the reputation of all, recognizing the damage that can be done by an ill-disciplined tongue. They will be very sensitive to the needs and sensibilities of their people recognizing the fragility of emotions and the defensiveness that afflicts many people. They will be always tactful, considerate of the opinions of others, willing to listen.

6. Decisiveness

Good leaders are able to take decisions and to take good decisions. They will not waver, nor procrastinate. When people look to them for a decision, even a hard one, they will have the courage to make a decision. That willingness will arise from first listening to the various points of view, weighing them up, then coming to a decision. Of course, sometimes the decision will be to await events - to not take a decision! But nothing is more frustrating in a leader than an inability to come to a conclusion.

7. Vision

Successful leaders have a big vision, a long vision, an exciting vision. They are able to see the big picture, not only in its potential and scope, but in its long term implications. They also have the ability to enlist others into their vision so it gains enthusiastic acceptance and ownership. They will set goals and have plans for action but not be so slavishly bound by them that the vision can become boxed in by words. Visionary leaders will not become embroiled in detail and will be able to delegate authority and trust those with whom they work. In the Christian context, they will remain open to the leading of the Spirit.

8. Sociability

To be accepted and followed, leaders need to have good social skills. They will like, even love others, and will be liked, even loved by others. Leaders who are reclusive and distant may bear some of the marks of leadership but will never really understand or empathize with their people. They will need to identify with the hopes, joys, pain and with the ordinary issues that are important to their people. Leaders who always need to be the center of attention are not therefore good leaders. However, good and effective leaders do need to love and to serve their people.

9. Perceptive

Effective leaders think of others and are not content to see injustice, suffering or abuse. They will not only be appalled by injustice, they will do what they can to address it. They will not only be saddened when people fail to live at peace, they will seek to be peacemakers. They will not only be uncomfortable when others struggle and they do not, they will do what they can to redress imbalances within society. Good leaders will have a social conscience.

10. Common-sense

Effective leaders are imbued with natural common sense. They just know how to behave, what to say and when to say it, and, following no particular formula, they make mature and timely decisions. Much in leadership comes down to old-fashioned common-sense. People possessed with common-sense are generally easy to identify and commend themselves to others. The Scriptures tell us that all wisdom comes from above and those who are natural leaders, who have the gift of common-sense, realize that this precious gift has indeed come from above.

Rev. Tony Cupit (Baptist World Alliance)


U.S. & Global Mission

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