Servant Leadership : A Biblical Study for Becoming a Christlike Leader
Stories are richer, more powerful and longer-lasting than directives or instructions. Look at your own life for stories that have relevant messages for your team Turn your stories into coaching tools for future leaders to build your leadership legacy. Great leaders are great servants. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples even during his most trying time. Great leaders today see themselves as serving their teams--equipping, encouraging and coaching them to realize their potential.
Leadership is about others, not you. Great leaders balance conviction with compassion. Jesus held strong convictions and values while still showing tremendous compassion to others who did not share these same convictions. Likewise, today's great leaders are clear about their values and expectations while being sensitive to the person behind the employee.
This balance engages people's heart and minds, and it motivates them to give their discretionary effort - what I call passionate performance. For more practical insights on leadership, see free sample pages from the author's book, Leadership Matters. Was Jesus Christ a great leader?
Remember, you don't have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great. Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been….
So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done…. Skills, intelligence and hard work are all a part of the package, but God reminds us that, in the final analysis, one thing makes the difference. David had a whole heart for God.
In spite of the fact that he often succumbed to infidelity and foolishness, he always returned to God. He continually pursued God. God did not give up on His relationship with David, either. Nor does He give up on us. No matter where we are, or what we have done, or where things appear to be headed at this point in life, He is calling us on. All we have to do is follow.
We have said before that in the end, you become what your desires make you. This is why Jesus stresses the importance of the pure heart and the clear eye Matthew 5: Kierkegaard saw double-mindedness as the essential disease of the human heart. The disease diagnosed by Kierkegaard is the failure to have a life that is focused on one thing. When you have a divided heart, you have divided loyalties. You become like the man James describes: Jesus tells a story about a man who went out to sow seeds.
A life characterized by ambivalence is painful. We are pushed and pulled in many directions, longing for intimacy with God and running from it at the same time. We want to be generous but find ourselves hoarding and covetous. We try to be servants, but our service is often driven by arrogance and a desire to be recognized.
The capacity of the human heart for duplicity is staggering. And yet it is possible, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to achieve a heart united in its passion for God.
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We possess singleness when we are not pulled in opposite directions and when we act without wanting something further for ourselves. Our inner drives do not conflict; they are aimed in one direction. The motives we appear to have are the ones we really have. Our inner focus is unified and our public posture corresponds with it. We are not, in short, divided.
We can hear the echo of this sentiment in a piece of advice Jesus gave to a friend named Martha. If we get caught up in seeking the finite rather than seeking the one for whom we were made and meant to pursue, the result will always be misery. In a utilitarian society such as ours, people frequently want to quantify things.
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How many good deeds does it take to convince us that we or others are qualified for leadership? Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2: Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. Here Peter provides a standard for leadership qualifications. In verse 1, he lists things to weed out of our lives. But we also need to identify what we do want.
What are the qualifications we examine when we hire or educate or evaluate leaders? Instead, he provided a standard and a process. Stop practicing malice, deceit and the like. Your heart must be emptied of these things so it can, in turn, be filled with the things of God. In other words, if the vessel is full, God cannot fill it with himself. He must determine the content of my life, which is a dangerous and frightening concept. It requires true repentance, not just a turning away from my own direction but also a release of that to which I cling so tightly. I must let go of my own agenda in order for God to fill me with what he desires for me.
It has to happen regularly, because the truth is, I let go of things only to pick them back up again.
There is a consistent pattern called the law of undulation. We go through peaks and valleys; we take two steps forward and one step back. So, there is a negative aspect to this: I must rid myself of certain things. On the other hand, there is a positive aspect. More than following a laundry list of good deeds or qualities, the leader must be passionate about his or her spiritual health.
The leader qualifies on the positive side of the equation by showing a passion for spiritual goodness. Peter also emphasizes the need for growth v. Often, this growth will occur in spurts followed by long plateaus. Frequently, we will find ourselves struggling with weights we thought we had laid aside long ago. But if the focus of our hearts is to return to God, we can say honestly that we are growing in the things of God.
Leaders do need to cultivate both skills and qualities. Sid Buzzell helps us understand the difference between the two and why we should never neglect the development of personal character. Against such there is no law. In fact, regardless of how well a person masters any skill, the choice of whether to use that skill appropriately is a character issue more than a skill issue. I may, for instance, develop great listening skills because I know listening is important to effective leadership. Paul, when listing what Timothy and Titus should look for in leaders, said a leader is qualified by character more than by skill.
Leaders, in their personal development and in leadership education, need to develop skills. All leadership relates to ministry. There is a false dichotomy that causes people to believe that business leaders should be different from ministry leaders. But from a biblical perspective, there is no distinction between the sacred and the secular.
Rather, we are to view life holistically. This is the only way we can live an integrated life, where our beliefs and our behaviors align and every area of life is brought under the lordship of Christ. Ministry is not something that is reserved for professional clergy, nor is it something that only happens on certain days of the week. All those who are called to follow Jesus Christ are called to minister to others. These ministry opportunities usually come in unexpected ways at unexpected times, but they are always around us — even in the business arena. If the Spirit of God is living in you, then you are enough to minister to others.
Your ministry may seem small and insignificant at first, but this is often how God begins.
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Bethlehem was a small little backwater town, and yet it became the birthplace of the Savior. David was the youngest son of a poor family, yet he became the greatest king in the history of Israel.
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Moses had a speech impediment. But God has a way of taking small things, seemingly insignificant people and turning them into leaders who forcefully advance his kingdom. And the level of our fidelity is largely determined by the degree of our trust. Do we really believe that God can take something small and insignificant and turn it into something of great value and beauty?
We will no longer be satisfied to be spectators; we will become participants in this grand adventure that is life between the advents. We will look for ministry opportunities on this day and each day and welcome our God-given significance. We will seek ways to sharpen and hone our God-given gifts.
He has invited us to participate with him in his work; that is completely amazing. Look at the number of people that you cannot minister to in the streets of Calcutta. Mother Teresa knew that to measure her success in numbers was folly. Success has more to do with being faithful with the things God has placed before you than it has to do with converting the great masses. Most effective ministry is done one person at a time. Mess is an integral part of ministry, because ministry has to do with people and people are messed up.
Our perfect model of ministry is none other than Jesus himself, and his ministry was messy.
He wept with grieving families. He hung out with the lowly: Ministry is, ultimately, about Jesus living in you and through you. Ministry is being his hands and feet, sacrificially serving others today as he did 2, years ago. Nothing we will be called to do in service to others will be as messy as what Christ did on our behalf.
Recognizing this changes our perspective. When a person decides to take seriously the challenge to be an ambassador for Christ, to develop a mindset of ministry, he takes one of two approaches. Either he tries to learn and impart skills, or he focuses on allowing the Spirit of Christ to change his thinking and character. Only the latter approach will allow him to serve from a Christlike spirit of humility and selflessness. Yet how few seminaries concentrate on development of character even half as much as they concentrate on development of skills or knowledge?
Ministry should flow out of who we are. Realizing that the work is his allows us to take great risks. As he calls us to step out in faith, esteeming his agenda above our own, we can respond like children jumping into the arms of a Father who has promised not to drop us, will not drop us, cannot, in fact, drop us. This kind of adventure is truly rewarding.
But it is the only sure path to contentment and joy. It causes a sense of enormous gratitude to well up inside our otherwise miserly hearts. If you knew you were going to die tomorrow morning, what would you like to say to God tonight? We have a record of such an event in the Gospel of John. But we must be careful about the motivation behind practicing the disciplines. Doing the disciplines as ends in themselves results in death in the long-run.
Disciplines may be more a matter of choice than feeling. However, spiritual disciplines are not necessarily unpleasant. After all, if a disciplined life is a life characterized by love, joy and peace, we may assume that some of the disciplines might actually be pleasant. What we do today has eternal consequences.
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Our actions ripple forever. Odds are, your most effective time of ministry will not appear on your daily calendar. You might think that it was an inconvenience. Unless you live with margin, being attentive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, you might just miss your moment of greatest impact. Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with your Spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that our lives may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through us and be so in us that every soul we come in contact with may feel your presence in our soul. Let them look up and see no longer us but only Jesus. Stay with us, and then we will begin to shine as you shine, to so shine as to be light to others.