In the matters pertaining to servant leadership, the word “Servant” cannot be overemphasized or talked out of fashion because this is all that matters when it comes to leading. I know a lot of people desire the office of a leader or lead in any capacity as the opportunity presents itself. This is a good desire. Even the Bible says “if any man desires the office of a Bishop, he desires a good thing” (1 Timothy 3:1). So, to have the urge or feeling to lead is a good thing.
However, the challenge usually arises when it comes to transitioning from being a leader to a servant leader. This is where a lot of our supposed leaders today, whether in politics, ministry, organization et cetera; get it wrong. There are so many leaders, but not many servant leaders.
To be able to lead effectively, a leader must put on the role of a servant. I mean, this was the model that Jesus Himself, the greatest leader of all time, gave to us when He walked the face of the earth some thousand years ago. The Bible says even “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men”(Philippians 2:6-7, ESV). Even though Jesus was God in every way and ramifications, the Bible says He took upon the role of a servant. Why? Because he needed to assume this posture to be able to reach out and communicate effectively to the people He had come for.
Also, we read and notice from the Scriptures that Jesus didn’t just take this posture of being a servant leader alone, we also saw Him entrenched this principle by teaching them to His own disciples. In other words, He lived out this principle and He also taught His disciples to follow in that same pattern. In Luke 22:24-27, the Bible recorded an argument that broke out among the disciples as to who should be the greatest among them, and Jesus was there. It took the intervention of Jesus to put a permanent solution to that idea of who should be superior in their midst.
“Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. 25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ 26 But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. 27 For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.”
Notice Jesus said something very profound at the latter part of that passage. He said “Yet I am among you as the One who serves.” In other words, even though He was there, He still presented Himself as the one who serves in their midst. If you read John 13, from verse 4, we also discovered how Jesus practiced this principle as well by washing His disciples’ feet and also wiping them with the towel with which He was girded with. You see, I have come to realise that the ultimate challenge some certain leaders encounter in their leadership journey is how to transit from title of “the leader” into becoming a “servant leader.”
Jesus’ servant leadership principle and example remained relevant with His disciples throughout His short stay on earth and even beyond. No wonder we saw the same being manifested in the lives of other disciples, apostle Paul, Timothy and the others. It was a principle that remained with the disciples till other disciples came on board later on and they also followed it. You know, apostle Paul testified of Timothy as someone who serves with “sincerity”, and someone who puts the need of others before him. Let us read the portion of the Bible below.
“But I trust the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me.”
What does servant leadership entails? It simply is “putting the needs of your followers before you constantly.” In leadership, it is not about you the leader, it is about those that the Lord has assigned to you to lead. Apostle Peter puts it this way in 1 Peter 5:2-4. It says:
“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”
Did we see that? It says to “serve as overseers.” I checked the Merriam-Webster dictionary to have a rounded knowledge of the word “serve”, and I came across a number of definitions. However, these two resonated with what we are talking about in this piece, and they are “to render service or to be a servant.” So, when that Scripture says you are to serve as overseers, it means you are suppose to render service to the people you are leading, and that is about all that servant leadership entails.
So, when apostle Paul wrote about Timothy thus: “who will sincerely care for your state”, it is because he knew Timothy to be a servant leader per excellence. Perhaps you have been struggling in your leadership call or assignment, part of it may have been that you have not been able to transition from just being “the leader” to being the “servant leader.” I want you to look inwards as you read this and examine yourself for the possible areas you think you need to make amends.
Thank you for the gift of your time and God bless you.
[Centre for New Dimension Leadership]