THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
THREATS FROM WITHIN
Today’s reading: 2 Timothy 4:9-17
The task of a servant leader is challenging. You are a leader
but a servant. You are the “greatest” but the
least of all. You are first but are last. You have authority
and power but exercise these not for your own aggrandizement
but in service to all. You are the leader of many but often
struggle alone. You serve but may be unappreciated, opposed
or even maligned.
This was the case with that great apostle Paul.
“Demas, enamored of the present world, deserted
me” (2 Tm 4:10a). Demas abandoned the ministry for
“Alexander the coppersmith did me a great deal of
harm” (2 Tm 4:14a). Alexander strongly opposed Paul’s
preaching (v.15b), to the point of blasphemy (see 1 Tm
“At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf,
but everyone deserted me.” (2 Tm 4:16a).
We see above, first of all, what servant leaders should
do or not do.
know that Satan has a two-pronged attack. On the one hand,
he directly assaults you and causes you pain and grief. On
the other hand, he entices you and offers you relief, with
the intent that you decide to abandon the struggle and settle
for a comfortable worldly life. Your weapon against the first
is endurance and perseverance. Your weapon against the second
is knowing Christ and that his way of life is often diametrically
contradictory to the ways of the world. Fix your eyes on Jesus,
know the word, be nourished by prayer and the Eucharist, and
thus resist the enticement of the world. By the way, Satan
tried to tempt Jesus in the same way, offering him all the
kingdoms of the world in exchange for worshiping him (Satan).
Know that choosing the world is directly rejecting Jesus himself
and opting for Satan, who has dominion over the whole world.
as the writer of the letter to the Hebrews says, obey your
leaders and defer to them (see Heb 13:17). In the Church and
in Christian communities, there are leaders over you. They
are there for your own good. Avoid the temptation of thinking
that you are better than them (you might be, or you might
potentially be, but reject standing on that notion). Practice
active submission. Have a heart that is humble. Be willing
to sacrifice for the good of the larger body. Know that obedience
and submission are necessary ingredients for a community to
have peace and order. Do not grumble. Do not involve others
in your grumbling. Do not speak against your elders. Do not
form blocs to oppose the legitimate moves or teachings of
close ranks with your fellow elders. You are there as a team.
You work together in order to get the community moving forward
in unity and peace. Defend your brethren from unjust criticism,
from gossip, from maligning, from false accusations. When
someone starts to speak negatively about a leader and is out
of place, stop him in his tracks, and tell him to take the
matter up with the proper authorities (fellow servant
leaders, I enjoin you to do this with boldness; if you remain
silent, then you are complicit). Know that loose talk is the
work of the devil, who plots to wreak disunity and ultimately
havoc, especially among leaders.
Unfortunately, there will still be leaders who will act in
wrong ways. There will even be leaders reading this who will
dismiss what I say as not applicable to them (to them I say,
look not at the splinter in the other’s eye but to the
plank in your own). Anyway, in cases where we are the victims
of such negative acts, then we too have our own proper attitudes
praise and thank God for the many more faithful servant leaders
who are around you. To Paul, those were Timothy, Crescens,
Titus, Luke, Mark, Tychicus, Carpus and many others. You must
not get weighed down by the infidelities of one or a few,
but look to the many others who are good, true, faithful,
silently laboring, and know that God is still actively working
in the community.
keep focused on the work. There is much to be done. Satan
wants to distract you, if not discourage you altogether and
get you to quit. Know that there is much good being done by
many, which should continue to include you. Crescens was on
mission to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia, Tychicus to Ephesus.
Mark was helpful in the ministry, Carpus was holding the fort
in Troas. Even as you try to address the infidelities of other
servant leaders, keep moving on, and do not expend your energy
on what is negative but focus on what is positive.
“be on guard against” those who are “strongly
resisting (the) preaching” and legitimate authority
in the body (2 Tm 4:15). The worst thing you can do is to
listen to their grumblings and be negatively affected by these.
When they start to speak against, then cut them off. Tell
them to take the matter up in the right way, with the proper
authorities. Correct and chastise them if they continue to
grumble and get others grumbling.
always fall back and rest on the Lord. Even if everyone opposed
you, you have Jesus (assuming you are in the right). Jesus
is the one who appointed you to your task. By his grace you
can endure. “But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength”
(2 Tm 4:17a). Always consult Jesus. Always make sure you are
acting not according to self-interest but only in order to
glorify God. As His servant leader, God will always be there
for you. At the moment you might feel alone, betrayed, abandoned,
sinking in the mire, with no seeming respite in sight, but
God will ultimately give you the victory. God will not allow
the enemy, who now unfortunately acts through brethren, to
devour you. “And I was rescued from the lion’s
mouth.” (2 Tm 4:17c).
know that everything works for the good of those who love
and serve God according to His purpose, including the afflictions
God allows to come your way. They are meant to purify and
to strengthen you. They keep you clinging desperately to God.
They keep you focused on the work, plodding on with patient
endurance. God’s intent, especially to servant leaders
of evangelistic and missionary communities, is “that
through (you) the proclamation might be completed and all
the Gentiles might hear it.” (2 Tm 4:17b). Now that
is our work. That is our goal. That is the commission given
us by Jesus. We need to be single-minded in achieving what
we set out to do.
To all servant leaders who might lean towards acting like
Demas or Alexander, stop it. You have lost your focus. You
are being counter-productive. You might even be doing the
work of Satan. Remember: “the Lord will repay (you)
according to (your) deeds.” (2 Tm 4:14b).
all servant leaders who like Paul are maligned, deserted,
abused or harmed by fellow servant leaders, just keep plodding
on. Keep your hearts pure. Pray for your detractors or opponents
and ask the Lord, “May it not be held against them!”
(2 Tm 4:16b). Just keep at your work, just looking to please
the Lord and accomplish His purpose for you.
Discussion starter: Have you spoken against a leader behind
his back, or not with the proper authorities who have responsibility
for that leader’s service? Be truthful and humbly consider
how your action has caused dissension and disunity in the