Q: Whatever happened to servant leadership within the body of believers?
When a dispute arose among His disciples about who was to be the greatest, Christ told them that the leader must be like a servant (Luke 22:26), and offered Himself as an example: "I am among you as one who serves" (Luke 22:27, NRSV).
Again, when our Lord drew near to His death, as He was assembled with his disciples, He took a basin and a towel and began to wash their feet, and told them they ought to wash one another's feet (John 13). Inflated egos and unhealthy pride have a hard time with that, as Peter's initial objection illustrates.
Jesus had a great deal to say about leaders who "do all their deeds to be seen by others. . . . They love to have the place of honor at banquets and . . . to be greeted with respect in the market-places" (Matthew 23:5-7, NRSV). He concluded by saying: "All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted" (Matthew 23:12, NRSV).
It is well to remember that once Jesus placed a small child in the midst of the disciples—not to inspire the child to become like the disciples, but rather to inspire the disciples to become like the little child (Matthew 18:1-4).
I know a pastor whose parsonage sits between two houses where the residents (none of them members of his church) are older and not able to do heavy work. When he shovels snow from his own driveway he shovels theirs, and in the summers when he mows his lawn he also mows theirs. That is being a servant. Does it detract from the esteem and respect his neighbors have for his position? Not in the least—in fact, it enhances it.
That being said, allowance must be made for the possibility that we may easily misunderstand and misinterpret the actions of our leaders. Some men and women are strong and able persons and may come across as egotistical or prideful when it is actually a case of strong convictions and belief in the rightness of the causes they represent. It is incumbent on us all to heed the Lord's advice to refrain from judging lest we ourselves be judged (Matthew 7:1).
Holiness Today, March/April 2007