Great mentoring group this week! Five pastors cram into my office. Worship. Praise. Prayer. Open hearts. Electric.
We wrestle with the idea of “servant leadership.” Luke 22:24-26 (NIV) describes an interesting interaction among the disciples and Jesus’ response: Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” Like many things, Jesus turns the idea of leadership upside down.
After each has a chance write a personal definition of servant leadership, personal opinions, explanations, beg-to-differs begin to pop up. Smiling as I leave the room, I ask them to put their heads together and come up with a definition they can all agree on. One guideline: “No blood on the floor, boys!” One replies, “But bruises are OK, right?”
The results are informative, enlightening. “Servant leadership is struggling by His grace to empty oneself as Christ emptied Himself out. Servant leadership is being Christ-like.” The definition carries us for nearly two more hours of interaction and application.
“Struggling.” Servant leadership definitely is not easy. That seems especially true when it comes to serving those church leaders that always seem to oppose you. One pastor laments, “Moses had only one Pharaoh. I have three!” It is not easy to serve self-motivated power-grabbers. “Struggling.”
“By His grace.” Unmerited favor. The gift of character, strength, graciousness that flows from God’s heart. It is God at work, not the pastor when servant leadership is in operation.
“To empty oneself as Christ emptied Himself.” Philippians 2:6, 7 (NIV) talks about Jesus’ servant-spirit: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant. “Made himself nothing,” literally to empty himself, to give up his power position (Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Greek (New Testament)).
Wow! How do we do that? Stories are shared. Pain is felt. Tears are shed. Love is expressed.
Jesus’ command to love one another, even our enemies, rings in our ears. That’s the Christ-likeness of servant leadership. How did Jesus love his enemies? He did it on the cross even as we our very selves, in our sin, hammered the nails into his hands. He served us laying down his life, emptying himself. We hear Jesus’ cry on the cross, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Love.
Jesus continues to speak: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23). Daily love. Daily denial of self. Daily servant-leadership. Daily the cross. Daily Christ-like. By your grace, Lord.
We continue to struggle in the mentoring group to understand, to apply. Yes, Lord, sometimes those we serve do not know what they are doing. Forgive. Love. Christ-like. Yes, Lord, sometimes it’s what you want to do in us! Forgive. Love. Christ-like.
“About my three Pharoahs. Truthfully, it is now only two.” A story of love and listening unfolds. A story of caring and sharing. Serving. Setting aside personal agendas. Going the extra mile. An enemy becomes a friend and ally.
How do you define “servant leadership”? How do you live it?