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Understanding Servant Leadership

Understanding Servant Leadership

How do those two words go together?

Josh Rose  |  posted 6/27/2011

There are many examples of leadership in our world. There are military leaders who make the tough decisions on where to send troops. You have the President and congress, who give leadership to the country by writing and passing laws in an effort to represent their constituents. And we can't forget those brave individuals who provide leadership to children as teachers and administrators in our nation's schools.

Those are just a few examples of how leadership is represented in our culture, but they all share a common denominator: they are authority-based. Those individuals have the influence they do because of election, appointment, hierarchy, or climbing the leadership ladder.

However, when it comes to how small-group leaders can live out Jesus' teachings on leadership, the examples our culture provides are found wanting. That's because when Jesus taught on the subject of leadership, he brought a new paradigm—one of leadership not based on authority, but rather service.

First and Last

In Mark 9:33-34, Jesus' disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus' response was telling: "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."

Gilbert Bilezikian writes about that encounter in Community 101:

Jesus did not condemn as wrong the desire to be first. Leaders are needed, and the desire to use one's gift of leadership is legitimate. But Jesus transformed the concept of leadership by redefining its style and the motivation for doing it. The style demands that roles of leadership be fulfilled not with the pride of one who comes first, not with the self-glory of one who wins a competition, but with the humility of one who comes in last. The motivations should not be the desire to rule, control, or command, but to support and assist others, just as a servant does.

This kind of servant-based leadership is the example that small-group leaders should strive to follow—but it's not easy. It demands that we be willing to swallow our pride and put the needs of the down-and-out before our own. It requires complete sacrifice in order to ensure those less fortunate are not forgotten. And it reminds those who've been tapped on the shoulder by God as leaders to embrace servant-mindedness as a way of life—one demonstrated by our Lord.

The good news is that when we do lead our groups as servant leaders, we will be acting as (and leading others to be) salt and light in the world, essentially modeling what Jesus lived out during his time on earth.

What It Means to Be Least

Each Christmas I get an opportunity to see many of our leaders at their best. Our benevolence ministry, Promises Community Ministries, provides a full scale Christmas dinner for the families it serves throughout the year. They also provide presents for the children and put on a Christmas musical as entertainment.

I firmly believe God smiles down on our small groups during this event because the majority of them participate in set-up, tear-down, serving food, sorting presents, sending out invitations, check-in, childcare, table hosting, singing in the musical, and so on. They are, in that moment, doing what Jesus would have done in the first century. They are being a model for those sitting on the sidelines of service.

One important key to helping your groups successfully serve together is ensuring your leaders understand the importance of being a servant leader—of being last and least.

Topics:Leadership, Leadership requirements, Servanthood, Service
References:Mark 9:33-34
Date Added:June 27, 2011

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Jason Rand

December 16, 2013  12:26am

I understand that a good leader must first and foremost be a great servant! I love my brothers!

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S Park

July 01, 2011  10:45am

The term "servant leader" is, in fact, a bit redundant. Any successful leader who is cognizant of the nature of their role will tell you that a leader 1) provides direction, 2) provides those whom they are leading with the tools, resources, budget, training and opportunities to go in that direction. So in a real and pragmatic sense, leaders serve those being led. In addition, unless intervention is needed, successful leaders stay out of the way of those being led, and specifically don't try to do the jobs they've delegated to others.

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Jonas Kouassi.Zessia

June 30, 2011  12:46pm

very good material. can be helpful.

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