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Leadership? Or Servantship?


Servants of ExcellenceLeadership

“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