"He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, 'Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.'" - Mark 9:35
Are you a leader or a servant? We love leading, but do we love serving? We attend leadership conferences, workshops, and read books and blogs. When is the last time you attended a serving conference or read a serving book or blog? If everyone is leading, then who is serving? I have never heard anyone confess, “I am just a servant. Leadership is not for me.”
Over the last ten years of traveling to dozens of countries, I have journeyed with amazing leaders who have modeled what it means to be a servant. They view themselves as just plain old servants. They are not obsessed with titles, positions, accolades and accomplishments. They are humble, God-glorifying servants.
They have taught me a new way to view leadership, and I now believe there are three types of leaders:
Leader-Leader: This type of leader is one that enjoys being in charge. They live to lead and to make sure that others know it. King Saul was a Leader-Leader. He liked his title more than he liked the people he served. Leader-Leaders are everywhere. They seek positions and desire to be on top and first. They are marked with pride, control and arrogance. Unfortunately, the western culture breeds this kind of leader, even within the Church. They lead so that people will follow them. It is a top-down leadership style that puts people in their place. Their primary job is to amass personal accomplishments, and make sure no one climbs higher than them. King Saul did whatever possible to keep David from power. White-knuckled leaders grasp their position with everything they have.
Servant-Leader: This type of leader desires to be a servant, but is not willing to let go of the title of leader. A Servant-Leader is actually an oxymoron. Jesus expects us to take the low position of a servant, not the high position of a leader. Jesus taught on being last and being a servant. Nowhere did he talk about being a Servant-Leader. It is a modern, man-made term that allows leaders to think they can have best of both worlds. A Servant-Leader is one who is willing to be a servant, but does not want to be treated like a servant. Peter was a Servant-Leader. He desired to follow Christ and be a disciple, but when others identified him as a follower, he denied Jesus. He loved power. Being an out-front-leader was easy for Peter, but being a broken, surrendered follower of Christ was not part of the plan. He changed after Pentecost and realized that being a Servant-Leader was not the answer.
Servant-Servant: This type of leader is just a plain servant; a bondservant who has no rights—a servant of servants. A willingness to serve others in sacrificial, humbling ways. A Servant-Servant is one who is not only willing to be a servant, but is willing to be treated like a servant. No complaining and no murmuring. No need for praise, thanks or encouragement. The Servant-Servant does not judge others for not being a servant, but has a pure desire for them to experience the joy of being a servant of servants. Barnabas was a Servant-Servant. He served Paul and the church, and he expected nothing in return. He was described in Acts as a man full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. No task was beneath him. He had nothing to prove. He served to give not get. He was never worried about his popularity. A Servant-Servant seeks to develop a Christ-like character, not a man-made reputation.
God calls us to be a Servant-Servant. Period. Ask Him to show you what it means to be a Servant-Servant. He would love to hear that prayer. He can do a lot with that simple prayer. How would being a Servant-Servant change your family, school, team, church, community or country? I have met many men and women around the world who are Servant-Servants. They are changing the world!
Lord, teach me what it means to be a servant of servants. I want to be a Servant-Servant who is transforming my community. Amen.