THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
THE FIRST IS THE LAST
In the world, leaders are not servants but lords. Leaders
assume a high profile, and the most natural thing is for them
to be served, to be exalted, to be looked up to. They are
looked up to because they are up there. Even the apostles
were not spared from this, as they argued among themselves
about who was the greatest (Mk 9:33-34).
turned all of this topsy-turvy. He said that he came not to
be served but to serve. He even washed the feet of the apostles.
When he did so, they were no longer looking up at him but
physically looking down on him.
said to the apostles: “If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
What does this say about our proper posture as servant leaders?
If it is the most natural thing in the world for leaders to
be exalted and looked up to, how do we assume the posture
of the lowest place as servant? The leader is up and the servant
is down, so how are we to act as servant leaders?
we can wish to be first. Jesus did not say that one is not
to wish to be first. To wish to be first is to desire to lead,
for the purpose of serving Jesus and his people. It can be
a very noble desire. Our hearts must be pure in seeking only
we can wish to be first, but then, we must not wish to be
great. We must not look to adulation, acclaim, recognition,
awards, titles of honor, and the like. We must not, like the
Pharisees, seek places of honor. We must recognize that pride
lurks and waits to devour us. We must humble ourselves, especially
as God does great things through us. We not only shun honors
and recognition, but we rejoice whenever we are not honored
and not recognized. We take to heart Jesus’ words: “Is
he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you. When you have done all you have
been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.’” (Lk
17:9-10). The privilege and honor of serving Jesus and God’s
people should be reward enough for us.
The way we do these is to be the last of all and the servant
be the last is to be the least. To be the least is to recognize
our own sinfulness and unworthiness. Those who are appointed
to servant leadership are often those who have already displayed
some measure of spiritual maturity, and thus can be considered
as less sinful. But the greatest saints always considered
themselves the greatest sinners. Why? Because much had been
given them and so much more was expected of them by God. Because
they were much more aware of the heights of holiness that
God required, and they could see that they fell so short of
be the last is also to be at the far end of the line, as people
move forward on their way to heaven. It is to be able to see
that none of the flock is lost. It is to help ensure that
before we receive our reward, those we care for have already
received theirs. Thus the servant leader is first because
he leads, and last because he serves. As Jesus said, “whoever
wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”
be the servant of all is to have that posture of Jesus who,
even as he was the Master, took the task of the lowest slave
and washed the feet of his apostles. It is to serve according
to God’s direction, whether such service eventually
leads to exaltation or debasement by others. It is simply
to give of oneself, not counting the cost or the shame. It
is seeing Jesus in others, and looking on serving them as
the opportunity to serve Jesus. It is considering the interests
of others before our own. As Paul said: “Do nothing
out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard
others as more important than yourselves, each looking out
not for his own interests, but everyone for those of others.”
Now it is not wrong for servant leaders to be exalted because
of their service. Gratitude, admiration, recognition are all
proper responses by those who have experienced loving service.
When such is given, simply give thanks and praise God. What
is wrong is if we seek or desire it, just like the brothers
James and John together with their mother. What is wrong is
if we become puffed up with sinful pride. What is wrong is
if we consider ourselves better than others as God uses us.
do we protect ourselves from such?
Always judge your actions according to the standard of Jesus’
washing of the feet.
seek to be the best; just always do your best.
not compare yourself with others to feel superior or on
the other hand end up feeling inferior. We can do nothing
apart from God’s grace. God uses us in different ways,
and He alone is the judge of our work.
claim “I am anointed.” Rather, you are appointed.
God’s anointing may or may not be there. Manifest
your anointing not by your words but by your works.
demand obedience from subordinates. Obedience is to God.
Blind obedience is for cults. What subordinates owe to their
leaders is respect, esteem and special love (1 Thes 5:12-13).
in particular when you are unappreciated (not because you
are a bad leader), unrewarded (your reward is in heaven),
even maligned and afflicted. Know that you have chosen the
path of Christ. “Can you drink the cup that I drink
.... ?” (Mk 10:38). It is our privilege to carry the
cross of Christ.
give the glory to God.
Servant leaders are crucial for the work of the Kingdom.
May those called truly serve as being last, even as they
(March 12, 2010)
download file, click on icon
Servant Leadership (Part 16) [PDF]