Servant Leadership

I was just reading the passage in Matthew where Jesus tries yet again to explain to his disciples just what life following Him is really all about. They don’t get it, which is easy to look at and laugh nowadays. (I’ve been keeping a mental tally of the number of times Jesus predicted His death and resurrection — and yet the disciples were surprised when it happened! Talk about deluding yourself out of the truth!)

But on the other hand, I don’t think we really get it most of time, either.

I’m in chapter 20, and I’m talking about Servant Leadership. I capitalized that because the term is really overused in protestant Christian circles, to the point where we forget what it really means.

So in this story, James, John and their mom have this plan. They want to be reigning with Christ in His kingdom. Now really, this isn’t as audacious a request as it seems at first glance, because just a few chapters ago Jesus already told them that they’d be judging the twelve tribes of Israel — with the other disciples. What’s got the others so upset about this request is that J&J have asked to be put over the other disciples, on top of ruling everybody else!

Is it me, or does this sound really familiar?

Of course Jesus defuses the situation and says something totally crazy — a) that in order to lead, you have to serve and b) that even Jesus has to give Himself up to the point of giving up His life. (chalk another one up on the board, please)

If I were a disciple, I bet I’d be focusing a lot more on that last part. They probably didn’t learn this lesson, at least not right away.

This blog is only nominally anonymous, so there’s a good chance that some of you know I have had experiences with several Christian organizations, both church and para-church. And I can tell you first hand that we have still not learned this lesson. I know for sure that I haven’t.

Get any group of people together, Christians or not, and there will be politics. People will talk behind each other’s backs. Middle management will be in and out of favor with the Big Bosses, and the peons will be used, leaned on or even totally ignored. If you’ve never worked for a Christian company you may not believe that a group of Christians, who are there to serve God, could be capable of this. But trust me, it happens.

Christians just use different wording.

When you want to gossip, you say “can I ask you to pray about this?” When you’re presenting your favorite idea you say “God can do the impossible” if anyone tells you it must fail. And when you want to rise in the ranks, you call yourself a “Servant Leader” and talk about how God is really at the top of the company.

That’s not to be down on Christian companies, or to say that all of the above is always bad. But Christians are still people. And very few have learned what Matthew 20 means.

What is a Servant Leader? It’s someone who doesn’t demand that their projects and ideas always come first. It’s someone who knows everyone — not because of what they can do for them, but because they want to know them. It’s someone who loves God so much that they can’t help but love people, just because God loves people. It’s someone who thinks what your heart looks like is more important than what label suit you wear. It’s someone who cares more about the project than who’s in charge of it. It’s someone who gives up their rights. It’s someone who doesn’t name drop. It’s someone who steps in whenever and wherever they can help.

There’s a lot to it. But mostly, I think it’s someone who wouldn’t think to capitalize Servant Leader and make it a title. They’re just too busy being one.


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