This, to me, is the most missing characteristic among our modern day leaders. I’m not sure when that fact changed. It has been my experience that a lot of leaders now think that they should be served instead of being the ones to serve. After all, that’s the way we do it in our Westernized Christianity. Christian leaders have their entourage and their “gophers.”
We have to look no farther than Jesus Himself as our example of what it means for a leader to serve.
Author Alan Nelson describes it like this:
What underpins servant leadership is the motivation behind our actions as leaders. If personal desire was the sole decision criteria, Jesus would have chosen not to go through the pain and suffering on the cross. In the garden at Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, 'Father if you are willing take this cup from me, yet not my will, but yours, be done.'(Luke 22:42) The weight of the burden of taking not only our guilt but also our sin, had become too heavy. Even at this point, Jesus could have got up and walked away. Jesus' leadership modeled servant leadership throughout his ministry. This will require us also to set aside personal gain, to make sacrifices, and to put the needs of others above the direction we may prefer for ourselves. You've probably met people who are highly career minded, people whose main motivation is to get him or herself in a position where they will gain some reward. This is the complete opposite of the leadership Jesus demonstrated.
Many years ago I was asked to help
a non-profit Christian radio station with an on-air fundraiser to help meet the budget. I was producing a nationally syndicated radio show for my own non-profit ministry at the time and had to learn how to fund it by asking for listener support. So, I had gained experience in this area. The station was a church-owned station and the fundraiser went from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. It was the first time in my life I had helped with such an event for someone else’s ministry but Christian music had been a big part of ministering to me in my teen years and I knew God could use music to change lives. I also knew Christian radio is primarily supported by listeners.
I walked into the station and was greeted by the new program director, a guy whose integrity and commitment have since taken him to a ministry position much more significant. The reason I say that is because what later transpired.
This new program director told me and the three other men who came to help them that day that the pastor of the church had fired almost everyone at the station and that the only person in the building who knew how to do anything on air was him. The three friends I was with and myself were all involved in radio to some degree and told him we would make it happen and for him not to worry. I volunteered to run the board (pick and play the music, run the microphones, etc) so he could get a break. All seemed to be going well....until.
The front door of the station opened and I watched as a man entered followed by an entourage of people. One was carrying what I later found out was the man's briefcase. The other two were also carrying some of his things and were there to just...whatever. With an abrupt entrance, he came into the studio and introduced himself. It was the pastor. A few minutes later, he sat down, pulled the microphone up toward his mouth and handed me a CD and said, “Cut 6.” I looked for the CD player, found it, hit the eject button and loaded the CD. While I was doing this, the program director came down the hall and tried to dialogue with the pastor. It never really happened.
The song faded out. I slid the pots up to turn on our microphones and the pastor jumped in on the air. After his ramblings, he said, “and here's another reason you should support this ministry,” and pointed at me, my cue to start the CD. Thank God for those moments, I had the gift of mind reading. Unfortunately, the CD player did not. It miscued and played cut number seven instead of cut number six.
I only wish I had video recorded the reaction of the pastor. He went ballistic. I can't begin to describe the dialogue that followed. It was all about him.
The program director heard the calamity of the situation and came back down the hall and the leader of our group asked the pastor to step out into the hall. I sat in the chair dumbfounded as the church's praise group CD played out over the air. This pastor had forgotten what he was supposed to be about.
Have we as the church forgotten our role? Have those of us who call ourselves leaders forgotten our role? I see so many of us in the church building up kingdoms when I thought we were supposed to be about building HIS kingdom. If I see this as a believer as you probably do too, don't you think the lost world sees this and looks at us as dumbfounded as I did that day?
I'd love to tell you the pastor apologized, but it never happened. The leader of our team explained to him that since he had fired everyone in the building except for one person who knew how to run everything that we (unlike him) were there to serve and help them with their event. I had volunteered to run the board that day and help raise money for (his) station. I never did get an apology but a few years later their station went off the air.
How sad that we have missed what servant hood is all about. Who do you know that is a great servant!