THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
A SERVANT LEADER LIKE PAUL
Today’s reading: Acts 20:17-27
The call to the New Evangelization cannot be lived out without
authentic servant leaders, who understand what the call to
servant leadership is, for the service of the gospel and the
Kingdom, according to the New Evangelization. Servant leaders
serve in order to proclaim Christ, to be his witnesses, and
to bring people to repentance and faith in Jesus. “I
earnestly bore witness for both Jews and Greeks to repentance
before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus.” (v.21).
was such a servant leader. Today we see various characteristics
that make an authentic servant leader. Paul is addressing
“the presbyters of the church” (v.17), that is,
he is humble. “I served the Lord with all humility”
(v.19a). To be a leader is to be up there, to have power and
authority, to be acclaimed. On the other hand, to be a servant
is to be down there, to be powerless, to have no stature.
Humility is the key to being both servant and leader.
he accepts suffering and pain as part of the call. He served
“with the tears and trials that came to me” (v.19b).
He was only human, suffering disappointment, oppression, betrayal
and persecution, but he endured and persevered. He pressed
on with his mission even as “in one city after another
the holy Spirit has been warning me that imprisonment and
hardships await me.” (v.23). The servant leader actually
looks to the cross and embraces it, seeing it as a great privilege
in serving Christ.
he is bold in proclaiming the gospel, for the good of his
hearers. “I did not at all shrink from telling you what
was for your benefit” (v.20a). The gospel is the incredible
good news of salvation in Jesus. It is the best thing that
can be brought into the lives of people. In the face of opposition,
the servant leader must go forth with all boldness, with much
conviction about his call and his work.
he takes every opportunity to do the work. Paul did not shrink
“from teaching you in public or in your homes.”
(v.20b). Being the treasure that the gospel is, the servant
leader must be consumed with proclaiming it, in or out of
season, in fertile or hard soil, to large or small groups,
in public or in private.
he is docile to the Spirit, being obedient to God even in
the face of uncertainly about outcomes of mission. “But
now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem. What
will happen to me there I do not know” (v.22). The servant
leader simply trusts in God. He knows that what is best for
him and for his work is what God intends. So he allows himself
to be led by the Spirit. He is not deterred by questioning,
doubting or second-guessing the Holy Spirit. He leaves the
fruit up to God.
he knows that his task is a matter of life and death for those
he encounters. “And so I solemnly declare to you this
day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you”
(v.26). Belief in the gospel leads to calling on the name
of the Lord, which leads to being saved. The crucial importance
of the gospel is that our response determines life or death,
heaven or hell through all eternity, for others. If we do
not do our task given the opportunity, then we can be held
accountable for a soul that might be lost.
he proclaims the full gospel, the fullness of life in Christ.
“I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire
plan of God.” (v.27). The servant leader helps bring
people to Christ, and enables them to live the life of Christ,
which is a life of holiness and discipleship. He also teaches
them about serving Christ, especially in sharing Christ to
others. The plan of God in its entirely is about Christian
witness and perfection.
he is totally committed to the cause, even unto death. “Yet
I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish
my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus,
to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace.”
(v.24). The servant leader knows that this is the most important
work he is called and privileged to do. It is divine work.
It is being an instrument of God’s salvation and care.
It is totally worth dedicating one’s whole life to.