“It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28).
In The Servant as Leader, Robert K. Greenleaf says: “The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The best test is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”
Servant leadership begins with the heart—our attitude, our motives. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus ... but [he] emptied himself, taking the form of a slave ...” (Philippians 2:5, 7). Jesus models humility, submission to God’s authority and service to others. “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
A diamond vision of leadership is bottom-up, not top-down. It looks like this:
Pastor and lay leaders
Pastor and lay leaders
Servant leadership requires speaking the truth in love and being honest, transparent, open and vulnerable. And there’s a big difference between being truthful and nice.
Serving and giving go hand-in-hand. Servant leaders reflect an attitude of gratitude—living with arms extended and hands open rather than arms closed and fists clenched.
Effective servant leadership requires relating to and knowing the people you are called to serve. Think of the power of remembering a name or knowing a person’s story. It speaks volumes to an individual or group. It says you do listen, you do care, you do respect them as people and not as objects or means to an end.
Though Greenleaf says serving is a natural feeling, I tend to disagree. But I believe with God’s intervention—through baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the witness of Scripture and of Christ, and living in community—the gift and calling to be a servant leader is nurtured and reinforced.
How are you modeling servant leadership in your home, workplace or congregation? As people in communities of faith, I encourage you to wrestle with and discuss the mission of your congregation: Is it about meeting the needs of those who already know Christ? Or is it about unleashing the gifts of the baptized for the sake of making Christ known outside our walls through acts of intentional service and love?
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This week on our blog:
Last chance! Getting pregnant and ART:
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Amber Leberman blogs about meeting with journalists from other religious magazines on the Web.
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Julie Sevig blogs about dancing Danes.
Sonia Solomonson writes about how peanut butter and jelly can change the world.Check out our blog > > >
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