I recently had coffee with a pastor who expressed concern over the use of the term “leadership” in the Church. While he agreed that it is important to cultivate effective church leaders, his concern was over the connotation “leader” often has. A leader tends to be someone with lots of power, a fancy title, and the ability to tell others what to do. Many of us are indeed skeptical of leaders, worried they are concerned more with themselves then they are those they are supposed to be leading and serving. Leadership is indeed incredibly important in the Church, but we need to follow the Bible’s example of powerful servant leadership rather than the worldly (and often fatally flawed) models we see around us.
In his final meeting with church leaders from Ephesus Paul comparted some amazing principles of powerful servant leadership. These are principles I believe we should be putting into practice not only when we hold formal leadership positions, but throughout our lives.
“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:18-24
Look at the first two principles Paul mentions: humility and relationships. Leadership is not supposed to solely be about controlling others, but about making others better. It entails interacting with others on a deep, relational level with the humility modeled for us by Christ on the Cross. Paul then tells us to teach the good news to others. This is not only something that happens in a church building, but within our own families and in our personal relationship. Next, Paul implores leaders to follow the Holy Spirit. This is a powerful reminder that no earthly leader is the ultimate leader: that role belongs to God alone. Every leader, whether they lead one person or 10,000, needs to follow the lead of Scripture and the Holy Spirit. We need to remember that leadership is not about our will, but God’s. This is how Paul can end this teaching saying: I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24
Are we leading others in the manner Paul urges us to? Our we striving to make others better in humility, through relationships, through teaching, and by following the Holy Spirit? I pray that we may all take up the role of powerful servant leadership God has called us to.