Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership

Thursday, 25 August 2016  | Karissa - Assistant Principal - Secondary
If you asked me, “When did you know you wanted to be a leader?” I am not sure that I could tell you. But in pondering that very question, I think the reason for my lack of response comes not from my inability to articulate that ‘key’ moment, but rather from the perspective that I look at what leadership is all about; that is, service. So the question should actually be “When did you know you wanted to be a servant?”

In the book of John, Chapter 13 we read John’s account of the last supper, where Jesus did something so outside of the cultural norm: ‘3Jesus knew that the Father has put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.’

In this upper room, in a ‘private party’ where he is preparing himself for the journey ahead, the cross that lies before him, Jesus becomes very aware of his authority. So what does he do? He immediately humbles himself in the service of others.

‘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 this 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.”’

As followers of Christ, we are to emulate Him, serving one another in lowliness of heart and mind, seeking to build one another up in humility and love.

I don’t know how many of you know the hymn ‘The Servant Song’ by Richard Gillard:  “Brother, Sister, Let me serve you. Let me be as Christ to you. Pray that I might have the grace to let you be my servant, too. “

The words of this hymn have always held a special place in my heart; I strongly recall ‘praying’ these words as I prepared myself to volunteer on my first Scripture Union Beach Mission when I was 17. I remember the shift that took place that year; for so long I had holidayed at Wilson’s Prom as a ‘camper’: weeks on end with no schedule, endless beach days and evenings free, but this particular year God had placed it on my heart to join the Team: two weeks of busy schedule, early mornings, stricter bed times, talking to strangers, performing in front of crowds with very little preparation, continuing with the program despite poor weather, wearing Clown make up in 35 degree heat, looking after other people’s children (in my holidays)…. and to tell you the truth I am so thankful for the opportunity.

Whilst the list above is some of the realities of the experience, they are in no way my ‘memories’ of this opportunity to serve. What I do strongly recall are the smiling faces of children and families that I would connect with that year (and the years following), praying a simple prayer with a 10 year old as she welcomed Jesus into her heart, late-night conversations with a struggling teen about the grace and love of Christ, seeing the ‘refreshed’ face of a mother who had been able to have some rest from having five children ‘trapped’ in a tent in the rain, assisting children to make friends and later seeing them playing at the beach together, worshipping God and all His Creation on the top of Mount Oberon, ministering to campers in line for the showers….

I learnt more about myself as a leader, and grew as a servant of the Lord in those two weeks (and another five beach missions and overseas mission trips in years following) than I had done in any ‘leadership position’.

For me, the example of Jesus is clear. In order to be an effective leader, I first must be a servant; my focus is not on growing my capability, but in supporting others’ inability.  And when we have that servant’s heart, the Lord has promised; we will be greatly blessed. (John 13:17)

As Sam J Ervin Jnr (US Senator and supporter of civil rights) once said “A person who is worthy of being a leader wants power not for himself but in order to be of service.”

So, when did I know that I wanted to be a servant? When I decided I wanted to follow God and serve only Him; actively participating in any opportunity to serve others; walking in the footsteps of Jesus, so that the world may know my Father in Heaven. It has been through my role as a servant that God has equipped me to be a leader.

So perhaps it’s my turn to ask you…“When did YOU know you wanted to be a servant?”

Got something to add?

  • Your Comment