A Pastoral Leader is a Servant (part 3)

March 2, 2011 — Leave a comment

Today is part three of my three part series entitled, A Pastoral Leader is a Servant. If you missed the last two days, you can read part 1 and part 2 to catch up.

A Pastoral Leader is a Servant

Leadership expert John C. Maxwell specifically refers to 1 Peter 5:2 when he shares in The Maxwell Leadership Bible that “A leader is called to be . . . a minister to the people.”[1]  We are called to minister to and serve people as a leader.

That statement comes from a man who has written 56 books (mostly about the topic of leadership), led three different churches, and founded a nonprofit organization which has served over 3 million leaders around the world.[2]  Coming from Dr. Maxwell, an important element of a pastoral leader is to serve and minister to people.

A pastoral leader who is effective often looks at people and asks, “How can I serve them?” Throughout this paper we’ve seen reason after reason about why a leader should be doing that.  It’s what Jesus says we are to do, it’s what the disciples did for the early church as young Christians were maturing over time, and it’s what modern day Christian leaders also encourage us to do.

What’s ironic is that when a pastoral leader begins to serve people, they begin to willingly follow him.  As we look at scripture, most of the followers Jesus gained came after he did miraculous signs and wonders.[3] When people realized that he was here to serve and help them, they began to follow him because they knew he was someone who could heal their physical and mental pain.  He could take it away and make them feel better and live a more enjoyable life because servanthood is the answer to many of the questions and problems people have.

As John Hutchinson states in an issue of Biblotheca Sacra, “Servanthood does not avoid leadership.  Instead it is a different kind of leadership, one committed to meeting the needs of others.”[4]

We often ponder over the deep thought of what came first: the chicken or the egg?  A similar pondering comes about when we think of pastoral leadership through serving others.  Do people follow us because we are serving them, or do we serve them because they follow?  I believe based on my own experience and the stories of Jesus, that people follow as a result of us serving them.

In closing a paper about the most important characteristic of a pastoral leader, we need to realize that both scripture, biblical leaders, and modern Christian leaders all believe that being a servant is the most important characteristic of a pastoral leader.  Allow me to close us out with a poem summarizing what we now know:

Christ’s example teaches us
That we should follow Him each day,
Meeting one another’s needs,
Though humble service be the way.[5]


[1] John C. Maxwell, The Maxwell Leadership Bible, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 1558.

[2] Equip: Equipping Leaders to Reach our World, “Press Kit Facts,” Equip, http://www.iequip.org/site/c.gqLTI0OBKpF/b.4511603/k.B021/Facts.htm (accessed February 12, 2011)

[3] Matthew 15:13-21, 15:22-32, 15:34-36

[4] John C. Hutchison, “Servanthood: Jesus’ Countercultural Call to Christian Leaders,” Bibliotheca Sacra 166 (January-March 2009): 69.

[5] Clair Hess, “Pay it Forward,” Our Daily Bread Blog, entry posted June 2, 2009, http://odb.org/2009/06/02/pay-it-forward/ (accessed February 16, 2011)

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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