A leader like the servant

christ-washing-feetLuke 22:26: But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.

Jesus came to turn the concept of leadership on its head. How can the greatest be as the younger and he chief as the one who serves? That can only be a kingdom economy.

There is a tendency to bring the worldly concepts of how things are, to bear on the church.  But Jesus was very careful to lay it bear to the disciples that the kingdom represents a new order of things. He brings a re-definition of leadership, so much so that at a time he laid aside his garments of “prestige” and washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-13), against all sense of propriety as they knew it.

Jesus told the disciples that he is among them as the one who serves (Matthew 20:25-28). That is his mindset. The kingdom understanding is that leaders are biggest servers. They are called ministers. Which also means servants; they are ministers of the grace of God. They put in a lot of hard work in labour in word and instruction. After preparing the word of grace in the kitchen, they come to serve the people with the food of the word of God.

We should understand that the spiritual leaders exist for the benefit of the followers and not the other way round. You exist for a people, you are their servant, and you must use whatever means possible to reach them, to reach out to them. The blessings of people are in your mouth, there are lifetimes committed to your influence. A leader is not supposed to ask, “What will my people do for me,” rather it is “what will I do to my people.” You should see yourself as a source of blessing for the people.

Jesus told a parable (Matthew 24:45-51), that a servant, appointed over the household of a king who was on a journey, but abused his fellow servants, will be punished. The servant was appointed to give the household of the king their food in due season, but he was busy lording it over others. He sought to take the place of the Lord.

To be a servant demands commitment. God wants you as a leader to have a commitment to his people, sharing his own love for them, expressing a commitment, similar to his to them. After the resurrection of Jesus before his ascension, Jesus told Peter to have a commitment to feeding His sheep (John 21:14-19). That is a position of responsibility. Since sheep feeding has never been a prestigious job, the shepherd needs to learn to lay aside the prestige of office, and like Jesus wash the feet of others.

The empowerment in the life of the spiritual leadership is for the benefit of the people of God; the manifestations of the spiritual gifts according to the words of Paul are for the benefit of all (1Corinthians 12:1-7), and not a spiritual label, or the ticket for entitlement.

The phrase:“The greatest as the youngest” in the focus verse means that humility is the hallmark of leadership in the kingdom of God. Paul called himself and Apollo the servants of the church in Corinth (1Corinthians 3). There is a sense that there been in leadership position was just a manifestation of the abundant grace of God to them. Not something they achieved.

Paul asked: what do you have that you were not given (1Corinthians 4:6-7); if none, then why do you boost? Paul said: I am what I am by the grace of God (1Corinthians 15:10). It is therefore logical to conclude that the most graced has the highest of positioning the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the highest and he is full of it. And that has a direct link to humility. Peter and James both said that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.

To be humble is to live in a contrast. Jesus was the epitome of that. He was the creator but assumed the nature of the created. Paul wrote that we should not think of ourselves more highly that we ought to (Romans 12:3), because we are been dealt with a measure of faith. Paul said that he tries not to boast so that people would not view him higher than their experience of him (2Corinthians 12:6-10). He is not interested in throwing his weight around. Once he rebuked a church they put up with “leaders” who abuse them, who slap them in the face (2Corinthians 11:17-21), who throw their weight around, because of their perceived spirituality.

The disciples performed various miracles in the book of Acts, but they were careful that they did not lead to a personality cult. They directed the people to see Jesus in them, doing the miracles through them, and that he is the one who deserves the worship (Acts 14:6-28).

Paul when the church in Corinth were forming personality cults with some saying that they belong to either Paul, Apollo or Jesus, said they should focus on the person who laid his life for them and should merely see both Paul and Apollo as servants, stewards of the manifold grace of God. They serve the grace of God. They are channels of grace.

To the Ephesians he wrote: that when Christ ascended on high, he took captivity captive and gave gifts (of spiritual leadership) to men (Ephesians 4:7-16). A gift is for your use, it does not use you. A gift is for your benefit. But a gift would only have the best benefit if it is first appreciated by the users and applied the right way. You need to recognise the gift that spiritual leadership possess, and make appropriate demand on it.

The leaders are the servants in spiritual things, and they have the grace because of the level of contrasts that they have in their life. They do not see the need to put on airs, be puffed up because of the revelation or knowledge (1Corinthians 8:1) or manifestation. Paul said that because of the multitude of revelations he had, God gave him a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet him (2Corinthians 12:7-10), so he would experience the appropriate humbling contrast between the big revelations and his earthly condition. He was put in a humbling situation, but grace was flowing though him.

 

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