Greatest Servant Leader

Do we need leaders in the Church. Let us take a look at this short video. ( I have used the video “Ronnie” from Floodgate Productions:

Have you seen any Ronnies in the Churches of today? Have you come across any Ronnies in BBF? What a rhetorical question, isn’t it? We see them everyday. But then today’s sermon isn’t about those who attend the church, it isn’t about those who change the Church, when they do not like the worship or sermon or the Church elders, or the chairs or whatever.. Today’s message is about Church leaders. So what is the point in showing the video about Ronnie? Well the point is that not many of us think we are leaders of the Church. Many of us are happy to be “members” of the Church, and leave the leadership to some one else. I have said this before. All of us are called to be Leaders, once we decided to accept Jesus Christ. We are not asked if we wanted to be leaders, but we have been asked to be. John 15:16 makes it very clear. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” Does not give us much choice does it? So what does that got to do with leadership? Let us look at some of the well known definitions of Leadership. Noted Leadership consultant and author Ken Blanchard says “Leadership happens any time you are trying to influence the thoughts and actions of another individual to accomplish specific tasks or goals.” John C Maxwell, the noted Church leader, author and Leadership Guru, states in the introduction to the Maxwell Leadership Bible that one of the simplest, but most profound definitions of Leadership that he has come across is “Leadership is influence”. I could not agree with him more. You look at any leaders, you will ultimately realise that they influence the lives of their “followers” in many ways, some of them good, some of them bad. And why do we need to influence? I have already quoted John 15:16. If that is not enough, let us look at the good old wisdom of old testament Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. Proverbs 9:8-9 

Is there some one who still thinks that he/she is not a leader and “just a member”? Am I making some one uncomfortable? If it is any consolation, Let me assure you , today’s message is for those who do not consider them as Leaders, and also for those who consider themselves as leaders. That should cover all of us isn’t it?

In the old testament times, there were two types of leaders that the bible talks about. Let us take a look at these two for a moment. 

The first one is the High Priest. Let us look at a picture of a high priest as per the instructions given in the book of Exodus. Just take a look at the robe and the accessories. Gold and precious stones, fine linen, finest fabric. When you get time, do read Exodus 28. One will be amazed at the richness of the robe and accessories of the High Priest.

Now let us take a look at the other type of leader mentioned in the Old Testament. The King. When we think about the splendor of Israeli kings, the first name that comes to mind is that of Solomon. The trappings surrounding the kings were the most rich and ostentatious of any group in society. Solomon’s palace took twice as long to build as did the temple. His wealth and fame was astonishing. His courts consumed astounding amounts of food stuffs every day. He had thousands of horses (1 Kings 4:22-28) He maintained a vast fleet of trading ships (1 Kings 9:26-28). Interesting statistics about the ships show that the ships used to return every third year with gold , silver, ivory and guess what? Apes and monkeys!!. (1 Kings 10:22) His personal symbols of royalty included royal robes (1 Kings 22:10 and 1 Kings 22:30, 1 Chronicles 15:27), a scepter (Gen 49:10), an ornate throne (1 Kings 10:18-20), a crown (2 Sam 1:10, and 2 Kings 11:12), unparalleled wealth (1 Kings 10:14-29, 2Chronicles 32:27-30), a personal army of troops (2 Samuel 23:8-39), and burial in royal tombs in Samaria (2 Kings 13:13) or Jerusalem (2 Kings 9:28, 2 Chronicles 32:33). Actually the Bible records (1 Kings 10:21)that nothing in Solomon’s Palace was made of silver, because in Solomon’s time silver was “nothing. ”I wish I could get some of that nothing for me.. Not to gorget that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Somebody said that maintaining anniversaries must have been a big problem for Solomon. This is just about the Israeli Kings. If you follow history , we will realise that the wealth, luxury and pomp of larger kingdoms like Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Hellenistic and Roman empires far exceeded that of Solomon and other Israeli Kings. In short, the King’s power, wealth and stature were a symbol of the nations. 

Now let us come to the modern day leadership. Corporate, Political, Social, cultural, sports or religious leadership. Other than some noted exceptions what do we see? Power, wealth, size of following, area of influence etc are the parameters that decide the stature of the leader, and hence the organisation that the leader leads. This is true even of Christian leaders. Worldly modern business teaches that good leadership means self- advancement at all cost. Much of what is done in today’s church is influenced by the business world. Instead of taking the Church and Christ to the corporate world, we have managed to bring the corporate rules and leadership myths to the Church. Goals and objectives are used to measure one’s effectiveness. Self-actualization is extolled as a virtue and success is measured by the size of a leaders’ congregation or “followership”.

But , let us get back to the bible. We are in a Church after all right? You have seen the two pictures. Let us put them together once more and see them together. We have the High Priest, and then we have the king. Now suppose there is a High Priest AND a King in the same person. That is, what happens if we put these two royal, regal figures together, and create one figure? Do we know of a person who is a King and a High Priest? You bet we know, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the High Priest. There are only two people in the bible who hold the title of King and Priest together, the first one is Melchizedek and the second is Jesus Christ (Hebrews Ch7). So let us put these two pictures together and see what is the result.

Surprised? One of the images that sticks in our minds after the Maundy Thursday is the image of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Through that act, He demonstrated the Servant Leadership concept once and for all. It was the Passover meal and all arrangements have been made for the meal. The evening came and they all congregated for supper. The leader realised that the followers have left out one small detail. Those times there were no air-conditioned cars to bring the people for supper. They had to walk to their destinations. The people who gathered all had dirty feet, due to the walking, and the followers had overlooked the need for a servant to wash their dirty feet. The leader looked around and saw that none of the followers were volunteering to do this menial job. So the leader got up, took the basin in his hands, took off the garment that was wrapped around his waist and washed and wiped the follower’s feet one by one, much to the dismay of the followers. This came to be recorded as the greatest act of servant hood, and the greatest act of leading. The first act of Servant Leadership was borne

Now if I asked what you would like to do with your life, I don’t think many of you would say, You know Madana, what I would really like to be in life is a servant, right. Yes, Madana, I want to do those dirty jobs that nobody else wants to do. I want to change diapers in the nursery, I want to clean up the fellowship hall after a children’s party, I would like to distribute food to the poor at our food bank. Now, if we are honest with ourselves, being a servant is not the #1 thing to do on our list. But we don’t have to feel guilty about it. Jesus washed his disciples feet, not make them feel guilty, but to model before them a lifestyle that has the potential of not only changing the life of those whom they served, but changing their lives as well. He used this act to teach some important lessons about Leadership to his disciples and thus to us. 

The term Servant Leadership is in itself an Oxymoron. You know what Oxymoron means. A term which is contradiction in itself. How can Servanthood and Leadership go together? It is against all our worldly instincts. Let me give you some statistics. If you use Google to search the word Leadership, you will come up with more than 90 million results. But just do a search for Servanthood, and you end up with just about half a million results. More interesting is the fact that if you “google” for the combination “Christian Leadership, you end up with around 5 million results, but when you “google” for Christian Servanthood, it returns just about 3lacs or 300,000 results. You see the difference? Do you see the importance (or lack of it) that the world and Christian world pays to Servanthood?

But why blame the world. It was during the last supper that Jesus’ disciples (John and James) started arguing about who amongst them is greatest (Lk 22:24-30). It is the disciples’ mother who seeks special positions for her sons (Matthew 20:20-28). So it is very much there among the disciples themselves. The need for position, power, special treatments etc. But Jesus makes his mission clear, in the readings given above. “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus’ message is very clear. Let me read the Message version of Matthew 20:24-28. “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around…and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served–and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.”

I encourage you this morning to look back at this act. I want you to read John 13:3-4. “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.” What a beautiful demonstration.. Knowing fully well that the Father had put All things under him, and He had come from God, and is going back to God.. with full knowledge of His power and authority.. he kneels down and washes the feet of the disciples. What a beautiful picture.

Let me close with what Jesus asked the disciples to do. John 13:12-17 12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13″You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Over my next few sermons we will examine the various attributes of Servant Leadership and see how we can reach there. There are ten attributes that we will look at. Don’t worry, it is not today. Just for your reference these are the ten attributes. We will look at them one by one, in my future sermons. Before we close let me just quote from Martin Luther .

This morning, the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up His life on the cross for us, is asking us to follow His example of Servanthood. Let us pray. 


“Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and establish you in every good word and work.”

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