A great part of the life and ministry of Jesus was teaching by example. He taught the disciples many things in words, which they wrote down for our instruction, and He also provided visible examples of what He was teaching in His actions.
Often in this world we see the exact opposite. I personally have seen people who are teachers of various disciplines, but in reality they have no clue what it is like in the real/working world. They live in their theories and have never practiced those theories to see if they are indeed the truth.
The Lord is not just seeking people who just “know” His word but He wants people who are living His word. He wants us to learn it, understand it and practice it. It has been said many times that you cannot really know a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes. And Jesus walked a mile in mankind’s shoes so that He could understand our weaknesses and foibles, but equally to give us visual examples of how to live and have victory over this world.
The Humble Servant
To be a humble servant is almost expected. One who serves should show humility as typically the one being served is greater than the one doing the serving.
Does it always happen that way? Not in my experience! There are times when we go into shops, cafes or restaurants and the service is anything but humble. The service and hospitality people are arrogant and rude. They seem to forget who is paying their wages and later wonder why patronage has fallen off as word gets around.
No one wants to be treated with arrogance, especially by someone who is supposed to be providing a service.
This is especially true in the Christian church. If a minister is arrogant and proud they have no place in the ministry. They need to be pulled up and counselled so that they can learn what their true attitude and behaviour needs to be. They are in a position of responsibility in the church and need to act not as overlords, but as servants.
Which brings me to the example of Jesus in this section of scripture.
The Humble Leader
Jesus had just completed washing the feet of the disciples, which I discussed in the last few posts. When he had finished He sat down at the table and taught his disciples.
12 When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?
13 You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.
Jesus explained His actions. He showed them that He was both their Teacher and Lord. He showed He was the leader and in a position of authority.
And yet despite His position as the leader, He stooped to wash the feet of the disciples. A dirty, smelly and messy job for anyone and one often relegated to the slaves or servants of that time.
He said in essence, “If it’s good enough for me to serve it’s good enough for you.” That is the message of verse 15 and we see that He didn’t just tell them they should be servants, He showed them. His actions were consistent with His words. What He said, He did for Jesus was no hypocrite.
He was teaching the disciples that as leaders in the church, which they were to becomes once He left them, they needed to be servants. They needed to take the attitude of humility and serve the flock. Their role was not to lord it over the people of God but to guide, lead, teach, comfort and serve them for THEIR benefit and to point them towards the Lord.
The Servant Leader
This is the essence of leadership in the church. It is the role of the servant leader that is most important for those who have leadership positions in the church. Their is no place for an arrogant or proud leader in the church, and if one arises the Lord will deal with them.
The servant-leader leads by example. They practice what they preach. And most importantly, while they are leading the flock of God, they are not doing it for their own benefit but for the benefit of the flock. They do not point the flock to themself but they point them towards Jesus.
The role of the servant leader is like that of those who receive the gifts of God given to the Church as described in Ephesians 4:11-14.
11 And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;
14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.
You can see that those who receive these gifts are those we would normally consider to be leaders in the church. But what is their role? It is to serve the flock so that the flock will become mature, strong and able to stand against the wiles of Satan, false doctrine and the cunning of men.
The servant leader leads people to Jesus so that they can grow and be nourished by Him and through the Holy Spirit.
Finally we see Jesus say in verses 16-17,
16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.
17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
The key to the whole servant leadership approach is contained in these verses.
Firstly, the servant needs to know his place. The servant is not greater than the master. And we are sent to be servants to the people of God. We must understand that first.
Secondly we see in verse 17, the blessing is not in knowing these things but in doing them. The servant leader receives the blessing of the Lord through acting as He acted and serving as He served. As Jesus said Himself, “I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27) And so to His people He says we need to know these things, but more so to do these things for that is where the blessing exists. And the blessing is bringing people to maturity in the Lord.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Heather Sorenson)
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