Archives For Servanthood

Among the many examples of servant leadership in the Bible Jesus provided the most vivid picture of what servant leadership should look like.

Jesus’ Example of Servant Leadership

Photo Credit: abcdz2000

Within the framework of Luke’s gospel the message of servant leadership is provided. Luke’s thinking in his Gospel is very God-centered 1 with a strong theological emphasis on the poor, tax collectors, sinners, Samaritans, Gentiles, women, and outcasts. 2

Jesus’ Example of Servant Leadership

When some of the disciples had been arguing about which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24) Jesus decided that it was time to teach one more lesson to he beloved disciples. He told them, Continue Reading…

Notes:

  1. Allison Trites, “The Gospel of Luke, Acts,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip Comfort, vol. 12, (Carole Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006), 14.
  2. Stein, Robert H. “Luke,” vol. 24 in The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 49-50.

No job or task is “beneath” a leader to do or smaller than a leader. Part of servant leadership is stepping in to help where needed to do what needs to be done.

pic of hierarchy

Flickr Photo Credit: thekirbster

When attending the Tony Robbins Life Mastery event in 2009 I heard a story which showed that no task is below a leader. Even though Tony Robbins was not scheduled to speak at this particular event he was there the day prior to the first day of the event to meet with staff and help them prepare. There were a few things which had not yet been done that had to be completed before the seminar began. One of those tasks was placing out the conference chairs in neat rows for attendees to sit in. Continue Reading…

Today we continue our series studying a controversial and revealing statement from Jesus about what leadership is.

That statement is this:

But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.
Luke 22:26-27 (New Living Translation)

This statement was controversial because when Jesus says it He stands in direct opposition to the views of power and leadership at that time. Here are a few important observations about why Jesus’ statement was so controversial.

Jesus is announcing a new order, a new kingdom, and a new way of doing things. In Jesus’ time there was a social structure where the Jews (who were dominated by the Romans) thought they were better than the Romans because the Jews had what they believed was the “correct God.” On the other hand, the Romans (who dominated the Jews) thought they were better than the Jews because they were superior and ruled over the Jews. Thus, the social class structure was very obscure with each group of people thinking they were better than each other. Fortunately, Jesus comes in and throws all of that away. Jesus is saying “I am among you (Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans, etc.) as the one who serves.” This was a big shift and a big statement to people at that time.

Let’s fast forward 35-50 years later when Luke writes this gospel and the book of Acts. There is much evidence that Luke did not write his account of Jesus’ life for about 35-50 years after Jesus died, hence there is yet another historical and cultural context we may examine this passage in.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone reading this statement 35-50 years after Jesus first said those words. The people reading or hearing this statement now hear it within the context of Luke’s entire gospel and the book of Acts in the New Testament. Put yourself in these shoes of someone reading the verse:

  • Someone
    who reads the book of Acts and reads about the many trials and pains
    early apostles went through
  • Someone who had endured persecution,
    troubles, and conflicts with others because of their faith and
    belief in Jesus.
  • Someone who knew that Jesus had
    come to earth and died for their sins.
  • Someone who was struggling with a
    tyrannical government authority that opposed Christianity.

The message being communicated to
these early believers is that a true leader is a servant just as Jesus was a servant. Jesus was the ultimate
servant giving his life for others.

So, if Jesus’ original message to His 12 disciples was to serve others, and the message being communicated to His early followers was to serve despite their persecution, what is the message for us?

Now that we know Jesus came here to serve others, we are also called to do the same. We are called to do the same because Jesus did not come here to do a few things to leave.

Jesus came here to be a model of service for us to follow.

  • Jesus served His disciples then He gave His life for us.
  • That model of serve was shown to us by His 12 disciples who traveled for ministry, were physically beaten, snake bitten, ship wrecked, placed in prison, and eventually killed.
  • This all happened because the disciples lived out Jesus’ instructions that a leader “should take the lowest rank and be like a servant.”

As we close out this series I hope you will consider how you will serve others.

Question: With all the pain, shame, and blame that Jesus endured for you–because He was among us as the one who serves–how are you going to respond in serving others?

Christ’s example teaches us
That we should follow Him each day,
Meeting one another’s needs,
Though humble service be the way.
Cindy Hess Casper, Our Daily Bread (June 2, 2009)

Today’s post continues this series titled, “How will I serve?” based on a statement Jesus said about leadership and service to others.

In order to properly understand Jesus’ statement we will need to look at the entire passage of what He was saying and study the historical and cultural context which He lived in.

The entire passage in which Jesus says His statement about leadership and service is this:

14When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table.15Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins.16For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” 17Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves.18For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.” 19He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” 20After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you. 21“But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. 22For it has been determined that the Son of Man must die. But what sorrow awaits the one who betrays him.” 23The disciples began to ask each other which of them would ever do such a thing. 24Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. 25Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.27Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves. 28“You have stayed with me in my time of trial. 29And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right 30to eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. – Luke 22:14-30

I have put the statement we are studying for this series in bold.

To appropriately understand this story and what Jesus’ is saying we first need to
know who Luke was and who he was writing to.

  • Luke was a companion of the apostle Paul and he also wrote the New Testament book of Acts (Acts was written after Luke and all the things which are written about in Acts happened after Jesus’ time on earth).
  • Luke was a Gentile physician/doctor who wrote one of the four accounts of Jesus. His account is called, The Gospel According to Luke.
  • Because Luke was a physician he was a meticulous researcher and writer. He was such a meticulous researcher and writer that his gospel is considered to be one of the most accurate and well pieced together historical accounts of any literature that still exists today.

To appropriately understand this story and what Jesus is saying we also need to know when Luke wrote his Gospel and who he was writing to.

  • Luke wrote his gospel to people in general: Jews and Gentiles.
  • Luke was writing his gospel during a time when the church and its members were experiencing a lot of persecution and trials from others.
  • Because Luke also wrote his Gospel and the book of Acts, we have the unique situation where we can see some of the teaching and messages Luke is hoping to convey in his Gospel lived out in the book of Acts. It is possible that when Luke sat down to write his Gospel and book of Acts, he knew the stories and teachings he
    wanted to present throughout both as a testimony to who Jesus was, what
    Jesus came here to do, and how we are to respond to him.

To appropriately understand this story and what Jesus is saying we need to also know what happens before this verse.

  • At this time Jesus is having the Last Supper (the final meal with His 12 disciples before His crucifixion) with His disciples and He tells them that one of them will betray Him.
  • The disciples then ask each other whom among them might do such a thing.
  • This leads them to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. The gospel books of Matthew and Mark give more description saying that during this same time period James and John (two of the twelve disciples) actually ask
    Jesus if they could sit in the places of honor to Jesus’ left and right. They wanted special treatment.

Jesus who was a master leader and teacher always recognized a teaching moment when He saw one: this was one of those teaching moments. He saw a situation in which He needed to dedicate some time to teach and mentor these young disciples to help them understand their faith and how to live it out not for themselves, but for others.

Now that we have discovered some of the background information relating to Jesus’ statement and the context which He said it in, tomorrow we will deduce what exactly He means by what He said and then we will figure out what that means for us as people living in our current time.

Question: Do you have any additional insights to the historical and cultural context which Jesus said these words in?

How will I serve?

September 19, 2012 — Leave a comment

How will I serve? That is a question which must be explored for every person no matter who you are, male or female, Christian or non-Christian, young or old, serving is something humans naturally do and is something that people spend years attempting to figure out.

The question of “How will I serve?” will be explored here on this blog for the next couple days. The main focus of that question will center around one statement Jesus made while He was here on earth.

Jesus’ statement which we will study are the first verses I memorized as a young naive non-Christian reading through the Bible to discover what it said and who Jesus was. If you are like me, you might have began reading the Bible with a desire to get to know what is in it and what the Bible says. For me, I started reading the Bible in the book of Matthew (the first book of the New Testament) and began reading through. I started in Matthew, read some stuff, had questions about what I read, but I kept reading. Then, when I finished reading Matthew I moved on to Mark. While reading Mark some of the stories and things Jesus said seemed slightly familiar, but I did not think anything of it. Then, when I moved on to Luke, I definitely noticed some of the same stories and things that Jesus said. That was when I realized, as young person who had read the Bible very little, that those books were telling the same stories of Jesus just from a different viewpoint! 🙂

I tell you that fun story because when I read the two verses which will be focused on this study of “How will I serve” I stopped reading. I stopped reading when I came upon these two verses because these two verses are so countercultural and so against the way things are in our culture that I knew I had never read those verses before. Later, I found out that Jesus’ statement which caused me to stop reading was just as countercultural in His time as it is in our time.

The two verses which will be centered on for this study on “How will I serve?” are these:

But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.
Luke 22:26-27 (New Living Translation)

This statement Jesus makes was extremely countercultural in His time and is just as countercultural in our time as it was then. After reading those verses can you see why they caused me to stop reading?

This statement from Jesus has great implications for leaders and brings new light to the “a leader is a servant” discussion. And, that discussion is one we will continue with tomorrow when we can dig more into the background and history that encompassed Jesus’ time and how His statement might have been received by the people who heard it. Finally, once we have explored the implications it had to those people in Jesus’ time, we then will be able to transfer the meaning and application to our own lives.

Question: Do you believe that a leader should be a servant? Why or why not?

Today’s post is the fourth part of a six-part series exploring the question: What makes Christian leadership distinctly “Christian” and what makes Christian leadership distinctly “leadership?”. This week we will study this question and I hope to receive feedback from you in the comments section.

What makes Christian leadership 'Christian' and what makes christian leadership 'leadership'

SERVICE AND SACRIFICE

Perhaps the strongest distinctions of Christian leadership are service and sacrifice.

The concepts of service and sacrifice go back to Jesus who served and sacrificed for the people he led. In his article, “Leaders as Servants: a Resolution of the Tension,” Derek Tiball writes, “Christian leadership is meant to be different from other forms of leadership because Christian leaders are called to be servants.”[1] Serving others while in leadership is definitely different than the world where power and influence are held closely by those who have it and desired and envied by those who do not have it. This concept of serving others is difficult because “our fallen human instincts seek power, wealth, status, and influence. Servant leadership is thus quite unnatural for fallen human beings. Thinking like a servant-leader requires a new mindset; acting as a servant-leader requires empowerment by the Holy Spirit.”[2] Continue Reading…

Today I am continuing to write about the leadership and following principles we can learn from the life of David when he was a young man who had been anointed to be king, but was still under the rule of King Saul.

This week we are in chapter 18 of 1 Samuel which follow’s David’s triumph of killing Goliath the giant. At this point in time, David and the country of Israel are riding a lot of momentum and are at a high point. Then, we see some troubles that David encounters because of the success he had in defeating Goliath.

If you are not familiar with chapter 18 of 1 Samuel, you can read it in your own Bible or online here.

After studying this chapter in depth, I have created the theme that we as followers should:

Faithfully Serve in Spite of the Leader

In this chapter we see David do exactly that: faithfully serve in spite of Saul. Continue Reading…

My Sense of Call (part 3)

September 28, 2011 — Leave a comment

Reading the books, Leaving Church, Becoming Who You Are, and Bridges to Contemplative Living, has helped me learn several important practices that will guide me in my journey to serve leaders.

One thing I have learned to practice weekly both from our reading and my own life is the benefit and necessity of the Sabbath. I have maintained a Sabbath day for a few years now, but the readings about the benefits of the Sabbath have reinforced the need for me to keep having a Sabbath and to make sure it is a whole Sabbath day with no work.

Maintaining Sabbath days means I set aside a day to sleep in, ready my Bible, spend time with my girlfriend, or anything else that I might enjoy. In Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor shares her new found enjoyment of a full Sabbath day of rest.[1] A Sabbath day for me helps me to keep from getting burnt out, it is a practiced discipline of obeying God’s law, and it reminds me to trust God to help me get things done that need to get done. A day with no agenda, just rest, is beneficial and helpful to me as I move forward with my ministry of serving leaders. Perhaps even more important than a weekly Sabbath is the daily quite time I need to maintain in order to stay in God’s will.

I have been good at maintaining a chunk of quite time with God in the mornings for the past several years. My quite time with God in the morning is crucial to who I have already become, and it will be even more important as I move forward in an effort to serve leaders. In my quite time with God I have time to journal, read my Bible, and pray.

Thomas Merton has helped me see the importance of prayer when he writes, “Meditation or ‘prayer of the heart’ is the active effort we make to keep our hearts open so that we may be enlightened by him [God] and filled with this realization of our true relation to him.”[2] Maintaining my quite time in the morning with God allows me to continue to seek out who God wants me to be, who He wants me to serve, and how He wants me to honor Him with my life. However, God is not the only person I need to spend time with in order to honor my call to ministry.

In order to maintain my integrity as a family man and share the hurts in my heart, I need to be able to share my heart with other men. I need to always have a small group of guys to spend time with or a single guy friend to be an accountability partner. Currently I have three guy friends (this is the “small group” I wrote about earlier) with whom I meet for coffee and Bible study every Tuesday morning. In order to keep myself healthy mentally and emotionally, I need some guy friends with whom I share my feelings and receive guidance in the correct direction. They know who I am, recognize if I am doing things that are not lined up with what a Godly man should do, and they walk with me on the path to getting right again. This can also be done with the help of an accountability partner, which has been my friend Rod. We are accountability partners relating to our sexual purity to make sure we are making good decisions with what our eyes land on, what our thoughts think about, and what actions we take. Having a group of guys to spend time with or an accountability partner will be a crucial practice for me to have going forward in order to honor my call to be a Godly man who serves other leaders.

As I wrap up my call to ministry to serve leaders, I find Jeff’s statement in class to be very relevant about what my call is, what pitfalls I might encounter along the way, and the practices I need to have, Jeff declared, “Spiritual formation is not about what you do specifically, but how are we getting to understand God more deeply and seeking to live more clearly for His honor and the world’s benefit.”[3] Through my spiritual practices I hope I can learn more of who I am so that I too may “seek to live more clearly for His honor” by serving leaders.

Question: What is your sense of call to ministry or work? 


[1] Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2006), 131-142.

[2] Thomas Merton, “Contemplative Prayer” quoted in Jonathan Montaldo and Robert G. Toth, Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton (Notre Dame, IN: Ava Maria Press, 2006), 34.

[3] Jeff Harrington, “Ministry Discernment and Spiritual Formation 397A” (lecture, Fresno Pacific University, Fresno, CA February 24, 2011)

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. Continue Reading…

If you missed part 1 of A Pastoral Leader is a Servant, you can read it here.

A Pastoral Leader is a Servant (part 2)

Now that we’ve seen Jesus telling his disciples to be servants, in John 21 we see Jesus responding to Simon Peter about why pastoral leaders should be servants.

You and I both know that Peter denied having known Jesus three times the night Jesus was crucified.  But when Jesus rises from the dead and comes back to talk with Peter, Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves him.  Peter answers yes, and all three times Jesus responds to Peter saying that because Peter loves Jesus, Peter should serve others.[1]

Jesus was the holiest person to have ever lived.  He is perfect in his love for us, and thus has authority to tell us that because we love him, we need to serve others.  This is further evidence that we, as pastoral leaders need to serve the needs of others.

This theme of serving others as a means to be their pastor is woven in and out of scripture.  Especially in the New Testament where Peter talks about what it means to serve others.

As we said earlier, Peter had denied Jesus three times and had to respond to Jesus’ questions about whether or not he loved Jesus.  1 Peter was written about thirty years after Jesus gave Peter the instructions to follow Jesus,[2] so we have good perspective to see how Peter has lived out pastoral leadership through Jesus’ serving instructions and to see what Peter is teaching others.

At the end of this first letter to Christians of the early church, Peter boldly teaches us to “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you.  Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God[3] (emphasis added).

A pastoral leader is to watch over her flock because she’s eager to serve God.  But, I am not the only person who has studied this passage of scripture and interpreted it as a reason for a pastoral leader to serve others.


[1] John 21:15-17

[2] D. Edmond Hiebert, The Non-Pauline Epistles and Revelation, vol. 3 of An Introduction to the New Testament (Waynesboro, GA: Gabriel Publishing, 2003), 121.

[3] 1 Peter 5:2