Mark 10:42-45 (NLT)
So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
By Chuck Griffin
Don’t be distracted by the “rulers in this world” reference. Self-promoters will always be with us, making up the vast majority of those who lead in secular settings.
Jesus’ message is aimed squarely at leaders in the church, and that is where our minds need to be today. They are supposed to lead in very different ways, perhaps influencing the world just a little by their example.
Pastors need to take all of what Jesus says to heart, of course. Certainly, pastors who rise to positions of higher authority (and higher pay, accompanied by other trappings of success) need to take Jesus’ words quite seriously.
And let’s never forget that lay Christians need to lead, too. If we don’t have laity taking a strong hand in running the church at all levels, we are going to be disappointed in our results for the kingdom.
So, what do servant leaders look like?
Well, such people have Philippians 2:4 hearts: “Look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” They plan their day around what they can do to improve other people’s situations. In particular, they’re thinking how they can help others receive eternal life and peace in this life.
That alone is not enough to make them leaders, though. Another step is required; leaders also take measures to ensure godly order.
In other words, they seek God’s will through prayer and Scripture, and they work to structure the church at all levels in accordance with what they find, usually building on what previous generations of leaders have determined. After all, the Holy Spirit works in each generation, and the Holy Spirit always gives consistent answers. Think “mission.”
Obviously, servant leaders also need to be bold. No hiding allowed. As Jesus indicated, the world and the church are two very different settings, so Christian leaders shouldn’t be dissuaded or deterred simply because the world sniffs in disapproval of their actions.
Servant leaders should have at least mild disdain for the prosperity the world may offer them. At a minimum, they don’t see what resources they control as really being theirs. It wouldn’t hurt servant leaders to read John Wesley’s sermon “The Danger of Riches” from time to time.
For those of us who are professionally trained, it’s also a good exercise to reflect on our original sense of calling and what we were imagining during those earliest years in licensing school or seminary.
Did we really make all those life changes and commitments to pursue what we pursue now? (We did see this as a calling, right?) Has the maintenance of an institution taken priority over Christian mission?
If preaching Christ crucified is no longer your focus—well, please go seek a worldly path to riches and power. The church is no place for such games.
Lord, raise up new servant leaders among your laity and clergy so we may be your vibrant church. Amen.