Jesus: "Serving"

Graceful Leaders - Biblical Encouragement for Leaders

Jesus called them (His disciples) together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as 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 slave of all. 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.” Mark 10:42-45

When James and John came to Jesus seeking the highest places of honor in His kingdom, Jesus saw it as a teachable moment. He called the disciples together and gave a first lecture in a school of discipleship that might be called, “Servant Leadership 101.”

The church has always struggled with how to lead and, at the same time, retain something of Jesus’ call to be a servant. We haven’t always done so well. Some churches and certainly their denominations can have hierarchical structures and levels of authority that rival corporations. Larger churches can seem like empires extending influence into wider and wider spheres. Smaller churches can become so focused on survival that their service to those outside their fellowship disappears.  The question, “Why can’t our church be like that church?” often sets up a measure for a church’s success that has little to do with serving others. Some churches give “Servant of the Year” awards to an outstanding servant in their church, not realizing the conflict inside that phrase. 

Meanwhile, church leaders struggle with the same ego issues of other leaders. They want to be the rock star everyone loves. They want glory. They want to win. They want to get bigger. They want the credit. They have self-pity issues and power issues. They can be too controlling, too quick to claim authority, and too slow to get down low and ask for forgiveness.

Jesus suggests some new and contrasting values for leadership in the church. His values are not easy because they run counter to our culture just as they ran counter to His. Here are just five Jesus-style values for servant leaders:

  • Low is high: the lower I go in humble service and sacrifice, the higher I am in the kingdom.
  • The kingdom’s economy of success rests not in how much I have but in how much I give away.
  • The smaller my ego the greater my capacity for receiving and giving grace in leadership.
  • There is no limit to what can be accomplished in the kingdom if I don't mind who gets the credit.
  • I must decrease; Jesus must increase.

Leadership in the church begins at the cross of Jesus Christ.  His cross levels us all. There is no arguing at the cross over who is greatest in the kingdom.  We are all leveled there in being loved and served by the true Leader of us all. He leads by getting humble enough and obedient enough to lay down His life for His friends. To lead in the church is to follow Him and His style of servant leadership.  

Graceful Leaders is a series of meeting devotions designed for staff and lay leaders of Christian congregations. The series uses Biblical leaders as embodiments of grace-filled leadership in the church. The series is written by Dean Nadasdy, President, Minnesota South District, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Copies may be made and distributed within local congregations.