Christ-like servant leadership PDF Print
Articles - Leadership
Written by Dr. Samuel Mathai   

To obtain God’s best, we must give our best. In her book, The Mark of a Man, Elisabeth Elliot gave an excellent illustration of leading by serving. She told of a relative who was the dean of a Christian college.

One night some boys in a dorm had been rowdy, smearing the walls with shaving cream, peanut butter, and jelly. When the dean heard about it, he wondered what action he should take. He could force the young men to clean it up, or he could order the janitor to do it. Instead, he went to a closet, filled a bucket with soapy water, and began to clean up the mess himself. Soon doors began to open, and before long, the guilty ones were helping him wash the walls. Because he was willing to take the role of a servant, he solved the problem and taught the boys a valuable lesson. This story reminds us of the Christ-like servant leadership (Jn.13:3-16). 

Perfect Leader 

Jesus’ demonstration of servant attitude was epitomized in His illustrative act of washing the feet of His disciples. Christians struggle to attain the level of becoming “like Jesus” and often find themselves diminished into their own inabilities. Yet, the demand is placed upon us to walk humbly before the Lord. The ethos Jesus Christ conveyed to His disciples in His teachings regarding servant attitude validates the heart of the leader-servant. The following Scriptures are some examples that are self-explanatory and speak the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ: 

Different From the World 

“But it is not so among you, but whoever whishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you 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” (Mk.10:43-45). “But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves” (Lk.22:26,27). “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mt.20:28). “But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Mt.23:11,12).  

These ideological teachings of Jesus are very different from the teachings we receive from the natural world. The concept of service according to the world system is different from the service that Jesus taught. Success in carrier is the natural man’s goal whereas the goal of the godly or spiritual man is to depict the character of God. The Bible clearly teaches us that we must be willing to die, as a grain of wheat dies before it can bear fruit in the ground (Jn. 12:24,25). It tells us that we must not conform to the standards of this world, but seek God’s transformation in the way we think and serve God (Rom.12:1,2). 

Frank Damazio in his book, ‘The Making of a Leader’ illustrates the differences in service between the leadership of the natural man and the spiritual man. The natural man focuses on power, whereas the spiritual man on submission. The natural man emphasizes freedom, but the spiritual man emphasizes responsibility. The natural man’s concern is for gain, but that of the spiritual man is giving. The natural man desires immediate fulfillment, but he that is spiritual desires lasting achievement. The natural man aspires to be served and longs for self-gratification, whereas the spiritual man aspires to serve others and long for self-control. The natural man years for the praise of men, but the spiritual man years for the approval of God. 

Christ-like servant leadership means to deny oneself and put on the character of Christ: His humility, His compassion, His unselfishness. J. Oswald Sanders noted that “spiritual leadership is a blending of natural and spiritual qualities. Even the natural qualities are not self-produced, but God-given, and therefore reach their highest effectiveness when employed in the service of God and for His glory.” To sum it up, in the words of Oswald J. Smith, a Christ-like leader should note that “to obtain God’s best, we must give our best-to win, we must surrender-to live, we must die-to receive, we must give.” 

Copyright © July 2012. Samuel Mathai

Author: Dr. Samuel Mathai is the Principal of Susamachar Theological College and Seminary in Bhopal.

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