What is servant leadership? You would think the answer would be obvious—a leader who seeks to serve and care for others on their team. But have we used the term for so long that we have forgotten how rich an example we have in Jesus and how great the responsibility of servant leadership is?
There is always a need for leaders in the church, but they must have a servant mindset, which is important to a healthy church culture. So much so that we have “servant meetings” instead of leadership meetings; this helps us keep our heads on straight from the get-go. We are here to serve others. How do you find leaders in church? Look for those who are serving, not sitting. (See Acts 6:1ff)
Many books have been written on this subject of leadership, but Jesus is our example. He said, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42–45)
Jesus makes it clear, to do church right, we do not do it like the world does. We are called to be different and peculiar people; how we lead is just one of countless examples. (1 Peter 2:9-10; Deuteronomy 14:2) Jesus’ leadership style was consistent with self-giving servanthood. We must follow His example as faithful disciples. Consider John 13:35, “By this, all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
How can we say we love others unless we freely serve them and “lead” them closer to Jesus? Servant leaders best serve others by sacrificing time to their growth and well-being, which benefits the common good of the whole church community. This means servant leaders are disciple-makers. Servant-leaders serve God by investing in others so that together, they may accomplish the tasks of the Kingdom for God’s glory.
So, how do we apply this? When you and I see something that needs to be done or someone who needs help, we can chip in and get the job done. If you seek to be great in God’s Kingdom, be the servant of all. (Matthew 20:26) Now, if you want to lead, serve with diligence and love, and make disciples who make disciples, just as Jesus commanded us to. (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15)