Servants of Excellence
“But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.” Luke 22:26
“Leadership” is today’s burgeoning industry. Bookstores are filled with books on leadership, online classes populate the web, day-long leadership seminars abound and leadership coaches reach out to us, ready to provide assistance as we seek to be . . . leaders.
This isn’t wrong, in any sense. In fact, many Christians are leaders in this field because they first learned the importance of leadership from Jesus. They are successful because they teach what Jesus taught regarding leadership—and it works.
And, just like Jesus, they teach that anyone can be a leader, by following one simple rule: Leaders serve.
There it is. No challenging formulas, no fancy steps.
Yet, servanthood is the opposite of what so many believe leadership is about. Jesus dealt with this during The Last Supper, as the disciples—about the time Jesus was washing their feet—argued over who was the leader of the pack.
Jesus stopped the conversation in its tracks. He pointed out that in the world, those with titles and money were “leaders,” but in his kingdom things would be different.
“But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader becomes the servant,” Jesus told them.
Then he asked, “For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves?” Before anyone could answer (probably a good thing), Jesus continued. “Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”
It would be easy to end the entire leadership conversation with, “If you want to be a leader, go out there and serve.” And this is true. In Mark, (9:35), Jesus said as much: “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.”
But there might be something even more basic in what Jesus said at The Last Supper.
Perhaps, just perhaps, Jesus was asking his closest followers not to focus on leadership, but to instead live a life of service—regardless of whether one becomes a leader.
This world needs good servant-leaders, no doubt. But perhaps just as much, we need those who serve, those who wake up each day determined to do at least one act of service, for no other reason than this is what Jesus taught.
Today then, let’s find just one way to serve. Let’s build our lives so this is our habit, our way of life. Will we become leaders as a result? Maybe. Maybe not.
But one thing we’ll know for sure, we’ll become incredible servants. And maybe this is what Jesus wanted all along.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6: 11-12
All of us can run into those times when we are dragging in our faith; when we are trying but just can’t seem to bring vitality to the challenges we face each day. We are, as the writer of Hebrews notes above, sometimes “sluggish.”
Sluggishness may not necessarily be a sin, but when we get sluggish it certainly slows us down in our journey of faith. So how do we get going again and recapture the energy of a vibrant faith?
The answer is a simple one; we imitate those around us—or who walked before us—who are clearly winning the race of faith.
We can certainly try to imitate those in the Bible who won victories of faith and Scripture is a great place to start in our search for the spiritually strong.
Yet there are also those around us who are winning. These are people we need to stick close to, asking questions and watching for patterns of victory.
For me, it was a family at a school where I worked. Every one of their children was walking in faith, living a life of strong character and of integrity. I watched them at church. I asked them questions. And hopefully, I imitated. This was a vibrant family—I wanted to be like them and they made me better.
It was also a guy I watched regularly who had a quiet, yet strong confidence in God. His life is never rushed, just like Jesus. So I asked, “What are your habits? How do you balance work and family and everything else?” He talked, I listened.
Looking at my life I can find more and more people God placed in my path, whom I could imitate. This wasn’t about idolizing and I’ve never viewed these people as perfect, nor would they. But they were, and are, directional markers for me on a pathway to a stronger, vibrant faith.
The writer of Hebrews challenges us to find those around us whom we can imitate in some form or another, because God wants us to see examples of vibrancy, so that we are protected from sluggishness as we press on.
Who are your “Imitation-Worthy” acquaintances and friends? If we want to stay energized in our faith, let’s seek them out. It’s a great way to stay sharp and focused as we seek to change the world around us.
by Jay Hobbs, Director of Communications
With 1,100 life-affirming leaders gathered for our largest-ever Annual Conference March 29-31, it’s always a memorable highlight to recognize a handful of men and women devoted to life-saving pregnancy help.
At our 2016 “Celebrating Heroes” event—the 45th Conference in Heartbeat International’s history—the closing banquet provided the opportunity to honor four heroes as Heartbeat Servant-Leaders, as well as the recipient of the annual Heart of the Future award for up-and-coming leaders.
Two recipients of the Servant-Leader award, which debuted in 1996 and has now totaled 80 pro-life foot soldiers in the pregnancy help community, were keynote speakers at the Conference, and another two represented international pregnancy help work.
Pastor Andy Merritt of Edgewood Baptist Church in Columbus, Ga., has been a pioneer in church-based pregnancy help since he started the nation’s first church-sponsored pregnancy center in 1981.
Having served 65,000 clients at the center—Sound Choices Pregnancy Center—since 1981, Pastor Merritt’s ministry quickly expanded into adoption in 1984, and he has traveled extensively, training and equipping over 500 pregnancy help organizations. Under his leadership, Edgewood Baptist Church hosts a national pregnancy center conference every other year.
“Congratulations, Dad, on this special recognition,” Pastor Merritt’s son, Jonathan—also a pastor and one of 10 children in the Merritt family—said. “Your labor in the pro-life movement has born the marks of Christ: humility of mind, considering others more important, and servant-like obedience. On behalf of the family let me say what a blessing it is for us to affirm that the character Heartbeat recognizes publicly is exactly what your family has seen privately. We’re proud of you.”
Pastor Merritt’s keynote kicked off the closing day of the Conference, and he was followed by an address from Jim and Joy Pinto, hosts of Eternal Word Television Network’s (ETWN) “At Home with Jim and Joy” and themselves deeply entrenched in the pregnancy help community.
While Joy serves as executive director for Her Choice Birmingham (Ala.) Women’s Center, Jim, an ordained minister, is in charge of fundraising and development. Natives of New Jersey, the couple delivered a lively keynote, with Joy—a cancer survivor—speaking the first half, and Jim closing down the time.
Following their keynote, it was announced that Joy was a recipient of the 2016 Servant Leader award.
“A leader of grace and strength of affirmation and humility, she walks out daily what she so passionately believes in—the value and holiness of life and the human person,” Sherri Burnett, who serves alongside Joy, said. “I consider it a pleasure to serve by her side each and every day.”
Heartbeat’s international DNA came into focus with two other honorees, Phil Holsinger and Lena Batina.
Phil, a long-time director currently serving at Blue Ridge Women’s Center in Virginia, where he heads a state coalition of 37 pregnancy centers and life-affirming medical clinics with ultrasound, also spearheads pregnancy help efforts overseas.
Working to connect U.S.-based pregnancy help ministries to sister organizations in Europe, Phil’s “Mission PRO” has led to a strong pregnancy help presence in Macedonia, where Lydia: A Beating Heart serves women with life-affirming care in the capitol city of Stip.
“Thank you for all your hard work that goes unnoticed by many but will not go unrewarded in His Kingdom,” Billy Webb, board chairman for Blue Ridge Women’s Center said of Phil. “I cherish our friendship and your heart for this ministry. I support your heart that wants to change the hearts and minds of all those that are going through the life experiences and emotions of unplanned pregnancy and post abortion. My good wishes, my prayers and God’s blessings be upon you.”
Svetlana Poslavaskaja, the center director in Macedonia, called Phil a “remarkable man” with a “fatherly heart.”
“I'm grateful for this man,” Svetlana said. “For every word he has shared with me, for every advice he has giving me, for every prayer he has said about me, for everything he has done for me. I'm grateful God brought him to Macedonia.”
Serving in her native country of Ukraine—one of 17 nations outside the U.S. represented at the Conference—Lena has been instrumental in fanning to flame the work of pregnancy help organizations across Eastern Europe.
As he introduced Lena as a Servant-Leader recipient, Heartbeat International president Jor-El Godsey told of a taxi trip to Moscow, Russia, the two shared years ago. Taking back alleys and harrowing risks, the taxi dropped off Lena and Jor-El just 15 minutes before Lena trained a group of pregnancy help volunteers.
Demonstrating a resilience true to form as a Servant-Leader, Lena quickly recovered from the journey to train the group how to meet the needs of women in unexpected or difficult pregnancies.
The fourth recipient of Heartbeat International’s Heart of the Future, Nakita McBride is executive director at Eastland County (Texas) Open Door, which began serving clients in 2008.
Taking the reigns for the organization in 2009, Nakita has led the rural center to establish itself as an indispensable resource in the community, and oversaw the launch of Open Door’s satellite location in Breckenridge, Texas, in 2013.
“Throughout her time as a leader, Nakita has maintained a spirit of joy and kindness,” Sherry Wright, Open Door’s board chair and a member of Heartbeat International’s board of directors, said. “Amidst the darkest days of life and death, she is able to effectively inspire the troops and unify the community around the life issue. As a future leader of the future, Nakita walks in the wisdom of the past with skills and talents of the future.”
Are you one of those who has a tendency to compare yourself to others? I can be. And my comparisons often show me coming up . . . short.
Others appear more engaging, more educated, more everything. They seem to have the very gifts I don’t possess.
The funny thing is, I may be exactly right. Not all of us are alike. God gives different gifts and talents to each of us and for His reasons only, some appear to have more than others.
The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 tells us of a master giving talents (a measure of money) to three servants. One received five talents, another two, and another, one. We know the story well.
The servant who received five talents made five more, and the servant who received just one talent hid his away and made nothing. The first servant was rewarded with greater authority. The third was cast aside for not using what he was given.
But what about the servant in the middle ... the one who received two talents? We see no record of him complaining about receiving just two talents, and there is nothing in the text about any grumbling over the difficulty in making more money with only two—while another was given five.
Instead, we see a servant who took no time to compare to another and instead went to work with what he had. In the end, he gained two more talents. Do you know what fascinates me about the master’s response? For both the servant who received two talents and the one who received five, the reward is the same.
Both servants are told, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Mt. 25:21, 23)
I suspect many of us feel we are a little short of talents at times. And yet, the Lord is only asking us to take what we have and give our best. If we build on what we have, He receives joy--which He then invites us into.
So today, let’s all take heart. The joy of our master is not dependent on the number of talents we receive, but on how we use the ones we have.
“A servant leader is one who has a servant’s heart and mind, a servant’s values and attitudes, but a leader’s skill, a leader’s vision and ingenuity, and a leader’s creativity. A leader in its simplest definition has two primary ingredients. He is (1) influencing people (2) in a certain direction. That direction may be positive or negative.”-Tim Hansel
About the Award
Servant Leaders Awards are given to recognize special people who have given of themselves sacrificially in the service of Life, as both servants of others and leaders in their own right.
The first awards were given to individuals and couples who were some of the “giants” in the first 25 years of Heartbeat’s history, when we were called AAI.
Since we began awarding this honor in 1996, this list has grown to over 60 life-affirming individuals and couples, foot soldiers just like you, who have lovingly answered the call to hold each life precious.
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