My topic for the past many sermons has been that of Servant Leadership. Yes, the leadership style that was advised by Jesus Christ when he said to his disciples “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)
Over past many sermons on this topic, we have established that Servant Leadership is not for those “others” we call Leaders, but it is for every one of us. This is so true in our Church. We are all called to be leaders and we are all called to be Servant Leaders. So the question is what does it take to be a Servant Leader? Again over the past many sermons I have dwelt on different aspects of this. This time I am going to touch upon a subject called “Building a community”. We will see that one of the ways to become a true Servant Leader is by “Building a community”
Leadership is a fascinating topic. There is plenty of research available out there on this topic. There has been research even on leadership behaviour among non humans. Let me give you some examples.
• Bee leaders do a “waggle dance” that lets other hive members know where to find the best nectar. They perform a “figure-of-eight movement,” skipping wildly around. The direction the bee faces points to the nectar’s location. The length of the waggle dance indicates the distance to the nectar.
• Temnothorax ants employ “tandem running,” in which one ant leads another to a food source. The leader ant – who knows the way to the food – periodically slows down so the follower ant can acclimate to new territory. When the follower ant is ready, it taps the leader ant, and both resume full-speed running.
• Elephants are matriarchal. When searching for waterholes, they normally trail an elderly female. Follower elephants value her “long memory.”
• Chimpanzees live in “dominance hierarchies,” with alpha males on top, taking their pick of “food or mates.” Chickens exhibit similar social structures. The alpha chicken pecks other birds, but they cannot peck back. Hence, the term “pecking order.”
But let us get back to Human leadership. In ancient times human beings used to live in closed communities. The community meant everything for them. It used to take care of every need of the individual. However, we living in the modern times have lost that advantage. We have moved out of communities into very individualistic lives. That has got it’s dangers, and many of the social issues that we see around us are a result of this. I strongly believe that all of us have a great role to play here. I believe that Servant Leaders have a great role to play here. Servant-Leaders are aware that the shift from local communities to large institutions as the primary shaper of human lives has changed our perceptions and caused a sense of loss. Servant-Leaders seek to identify a means for building community among those who work within a given institution.
And we have a great advantage; we belong to the Church, the universal Church, which is the body of Christ. Church is the highest form of community that we can think about. And Christ has given it to us. He has entrusted His body to us. As leaders of the Church , it is essential that we continue to take action to build this community.
But before we see how we can build this community called Church, let us address the question, Is today’s Church an Institution or is it a community? We all have heard this statement multiple times “This building is not the Church, we, the people are the Church”. Let me substantiate this. The English word “church” is derived from the Greek word kyriakon which means “belonging to the Lord.”. The Hebrew word qahal means simply an assembly. However, it does not necessarily refer to a religious assembly (Gen. 28:3; 49:6; Ps. 26:5), nor even to a congregation of human beings (Ps. 89:5), though most often it does refer to the congregation of Israel. The Greek word, ekklesia, meant an assembly and was used in a political, not a religious sense. It did not refer to the people but to the meeting; in other words, when the people were not assembled formally they were not referred to as an ekklesia. However, when the Greek word is used in the New Testament, it takes on much richer and fuller aspects to that basic secular meaning. For example, the people themselves, whether assembled or not, are the ekklesia. The word translated on the basis of etymology would mean “called together”.
So, Church is simply a community of people, who are called together to “belong to the Lord”. Of course, to make this community effective, the early Church leaders set up some institutional structures like the Church leaders (Elders, Deacons, etc). But soon the Institutions became bigger than the Church itself. The so called leaders started building a protective wall around them selves to prevent others from hurting them or hindering them. The distance between the “clergy” and the “laity” increased. That was the trigger point for the reformation movement. The “Universal Priesthood” or the “Priesthood of all Believers” became the bye word of the reformed church. However, even within the reformed Church, Individual leaders and Institutions like that of Boards, Trustees, etc started becoming more powerful than the community itself.
And this is not surprising. After all we do live in a fallen world still, till the second coming of Jesus. Whether we belong to the clergy or the laity, we all are subjects for deception by the evil one, the Satan himself. The enemy works to destroy our intimacy. He wants us to build walls and isolate ourselves from God and each other. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 talks about tearing down walls as a type of warfare: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down ‘strongholds,’ casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God..” The word here for “strongholds” in the Greek means “Castle or Fortress.” A castle normally has very high and thick walls and sometimes a moat. It is designed to keep people out. The enemy tries to get us to build walls to isolate ourselves. He wants to steal our intimacy. Jesus came to take these walls down and restore intimacy so that we can be one with Him and with each other and show us His glory! The truth is that the gospel is meant to restore intimacy with God and each other. Jesus taught that we are to “Love God with all our hearts and our neighbor as ourselves.”
So how do we break the walls and make the Church which is more of an institution today, into a community that we want it to be? Paul gives us some tips in Ephesians 4:1-6. “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” So there we have it , some seemingly very simple ways to turn our Church and the universal Church into a loving, thriving community. There is a lot of talk today about revival and wanting to see the glory of the Lord. If we would seek after the glory we must also seek after having oneness with other leaders. In the book of Acts we are told that the disciples were gathered together in the upper room and were in “one accord.” It was then that God poured out His Spirit upon them and share His glory. They could now be trusted not to use it selfishly for their own gain. You see, we become a community, when we become of one accord.
But let me tell you the most important aspect of being a community and not being just an institution. Leslie and I have been discussing about what we will do after I retire. Among many other ideas is the one of opening a company for crazy people. To make normal people crazy, and to make crazy people even more crazy. Then we can send them to Neville, who is studying Psychology for that very purpose. We have thought of many names for the company. All the name options start with MADLES. But whatever the name that we choose, when we finally register the company we will add these three letters to the company “MADLES Crazy services Ltd”. Why do we add those three letters Ltd? When we register a body, a trust, when we register a company, a partnership, a Private company or even the public company, the legal requirements stipulate certain “limited” liabilities for the parties who form the company or the partnership or the directors. That is why we always suffix the term Ltd to the companies names. Maruti Udyog Ltd, Maganlal Pvt Ltd. Etc. The term Ltd in their names ensure that the parties who own and manage that Institution have only a limited liability to those who invest in those Institutions or use their products and services. So Institutions are designed to limit their liability.
Can a Church be built on such a principle? Can we, the members of the universal Church, who are called to love each other, have a relationship with each other, can we manage that with limited liability. You see that is the beauty of “love”. For the World, “love” is an undefinable term. For us Christians, “love” has been demonstrated on the cross. Was the love that was demonstrated on the cross, a limited liability? Was it limited liability when our Lord declared in Isaiah 43: 4 (Message Bible) “That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.”. Just close your eyes and picture our Lord Jesus Christ hanging on the cross, and saying “Father Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”. Was that limited liability? I think we know the answer. Christian love cannot be defined and bound by limited liability clauses. Hence in a Church, the liability of our members to each other cannot be limited. The moment, one’s liability to another is qualified to any degree, love is diminished by that much.
So that is the BIG differentiator. Unlimited Liability. A community should be built upon unlimited liability clause.
This is the question, I want us to remember and think about when we leave this service this morning. Do we want to be members of an institution named BBF Ltd? Or are we willing to take the risk of becoming members of a community called BBF Unlimited? I will leave you with this question.
Let us pray