Leading as servants as Jesus did…
Jesus did not come into the world for Himself, but for us. He said, “I am among you as One who serves” (Luke 22:27). His life was not for Himself, but for us. His death was not for Himself, but for us. His resurrection was not for Himself, but for us. His ascension was not for Himself, but for us. And His second coming will not be for Himself, but for us. Within the Body of Christ, we need to understand we are called to be sons and daughters of the Lord. But as a son and daughter, we are also called to serve and we are also called to be His friend. We are called to lead not for our own sake, but for the sake of His glory to see the lost found, the broken healed and the captives set free.
Take again a look at “Ephesians 4: 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” What is the purpose of this ‘leadership’ in the church? Is it not to equip and to edify? And isn’t that an act of serving, instead of lording over the congregation? For the five-fold offices or gifts are not ordained by God for self-exalting or for us to be more important than anyone else, but to ultimately be empowered by the Spirit of God to serve! Leadership is about influence, whether it’s leading one person or millions. Jesus had the greatest influence of all who had ever lived, yet He demonstrated such influence flows from love, and love flows from serving and setting an example of humility! Such humility was also demonstrated by Stephen, who even though filled by the Spirit of God was willing to wait on tables (thus a waiter).
The life of the Apostle Paul is all about serving. Following his conversion from Saul to Paul, he spent his entire life declaring the Gospel and leading others to the grace of the Lord. Take note of what he writes in “Romans 1: 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. 13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. 14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.”
Remember, Paul writes this epistle yet he has never been to Rome! He had never met these believers to whom he is writing this magnificent treatise. Unlike other churches that Paul had planted, such was not the case with this church in Rome. He is not writing to people whom he knows. He had never seen their faces and only knew some by name. This letter, nevertheless, reveals how large-hearted the apostle was for the church, wherever it was found. His heart is especially drawn to this flock in Rome. The more Paul loved God, the more his heart was enlarged for these fellow believers. This same deepening love for others should be found in us. The more we adore and worship God, the more we will experience a growing affection for others. Rather than withdrawing into seclusion and removing ourselves from other people, we should be ever advancing to serve the needs of those around us. That is the mark of a great leader. We should serve our fellow believers in the body of Christ. Moreover, we should have a contagious faith that reaches out and spreads to others with the saving message of Jesus Christ.
As Paul begins the book of Romans, he expresses that he desires to come to see the believers in Rome so that he can minister to them. When he wrote this letter, Paul was about to leave Corinth for Jerusalem to deliver the special offering he received from the Gentile churches for the poor Jewish saints. He hoped he would be able to travel from Jerusalem to Rome and then to Spain. After his journey to Jerusalem, he longs to come to Rome and minister to the Romans. It is this spiritual mindset that a servant possesses as he lives for Christ. It is this selfless attitude that must exist in those who minister the gospel of Jesus Christ to others. It is one thing for us to know the gospel, but something else to put it into practice. As leaders, we need to walk the walk and talk the talk. We must be willing to love, to forgive, and to be led by the Spirit of God.
Remember, Paul was willing to submit to his will and desires to God. Paul completely re-ordered His understanding of who God was, and of his relationship to Him, as a result of his encounter with the glorified Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-25). This required him to eliminate the personal pride that he took in his background. So devoted was Paul to this effort, that he subsequently acknowledged that he was the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and not worthy to be called an apostle (1 Corinthians 15:9). He also further demonstrated his devotion to serving Christ by his willingness to undergo the hardships that he had to endure in connection with his missionary work (as Paul also enumerated in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28), even to the point of eventual imprisonment. Paul’s entire life was about serving the King of Glory because he was ablaze with love not only for God but for all people. Paul as a leader was dedicated to serving the Kingdom so that all mankind may know the truth of John 3:16.
In Matthew 21 we read of Jesus: “Your king comes to you, gentle…’ (verse 5). This is not a characteristic of leadership that the world expects. Yet it was right at the heart of Jesus’ leadership. The Greek word for ‘gentle’ means considerate and unassuming. It is the opposite of aggressive or self-seeking. Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. What a contrast to so many other leaders in history, secular and religious, who have traveled with pomp and ceremony and ostentatious entourages! Jesus’ mode of transport was a sign of great humility. It is the opposite of pride and arrogance, which can so easily creep into human leadership. Again, it is not about us, but about God, about the lost and His Kingdom. We are thus reminded that who you are is far more important than what you do or what you have, in terms of possessions or position. And thus we must know who we are in Christ. Jesus’ authority did not come from having a high position in some hierarchy. It came from who He was as a person. He had a natural authority. He was the Son of God who served and loved unconditionally!
Galatians 5:19-21 speaks of the works which include hatred, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, drunkenness, James 4:1 says “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?” Thus, any true leader, thus any true disciple, must continually walk in the Spirit of God. For in the Spirit of God we walk in God’s kindness, joy, love, gentleness, and faith which is so important when it comes to leading the flock. A true leader who walks by the flesh will walk in strife and cause division. This is not the way of Jesus. A leader who seeks not the ways of the Spirit will seek the ways of his heart and the ways of pride and arrogance. And such a path beyond the Spirit of God is the wide road that leads to destruction and a fall.