When considering Christian leadership & service, I have found this excerpt from John Stott’s “Decisive Issues Facing Christians Today” to be extremely insightful and helpful:
Leadership is a concept shared by people who seek to follow Christ and those who do not. We must not assume, however, that their understandings of it are identical. For Jesus introduced into the world an altogether new style of leadership. He expressed the difference between the old and the new in these terms:
“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 among you 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 1:42-45).
Among the followers of Jesus, therefore, leadership is not a synonym for lordship. Our calling is to be servants, not bosses, slaves, not masters. True, a certain authority attaches to all leaders, and leadership would be impossible without it. Yet the authority by which the leader who follows Christ operates, is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve.
What is the reason for Jesus’ stress on the leader’s service? Partly, no doubt, because the chief occupational hazard of leadership is pride. But Jesus’ main reason, however, was surely that the service of others is tacit recognition of their value. The intrinsic worth of human beings was the presupposition underlying Jesus’ own ministry of self-giving love, and is an essential element in the Christ centered mind. If human beings are Godlike beings, then they must be served—not exploited, respected —not manipulated. Herein also lies the peril of seeing leadership in terms of projects and programs. Leadership will inevitably involve the development of these, but people take precedence over projects and people must be neither “manipulated” nor even “managed.” Though the latter is less demanding to human beings than the former, yet both words are derived from “manus,” a hand, and both express a “handling” of people as if they were commodities rather than persons.
So Godly leaders serve, indeed serve not their own interests but rather the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). This simple principle should deliver the leader from excessive individualism, extreme isolation, and self-centered empire-building. For those who serve others serve best in a team. Leadership teams are more healthy than solo leadership for several reasons. First, team members supplement one another, building on one another’s strengths and compensating for one another’s weaknesses. Second, team members encourage one another, identifying each other’s gifts and motivating each other to develop and use them. Third, team members are accountable to one another. Shared work means shared responsibility. Then we listen to one another and learn from one another. Both the human family and the divine family (the Body of Christ) are contexts of solidarity in which any incipient illusions of grandeur are rapidly dispelled.
In all this emphasis on service, the disciple is only seeking to follow and reflect his teacher. For though He was Lord of all, Jesus became the servant of all. Putting on the apron of servitude, He got down on his knees to wash the apostles’ feet. Now He tells us to do as He did, to clothe ourselves with humanity, and in love to serve one another. No leadership is authentically Christ-like which is not marked by the spirit of humble and joyful service.
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