May 18, 2009 Tony Morgan

My Theology of Leadership (part 2)

Leaders are servants. It’s counter-intuitive. It may be unlike the leadership you’ve experienced in the marketplace…or even the church for that matter. But biblical leaders are servant-leaders.

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (I Peter 5:2-3).

It’s interesting that of all the roles outside the church, God chose the shepherd to be the model of leadership within the church. When you think business titan or political leader, you probably don’t think shepherd. God’s way is different, though. He wants leaders who are ready to serve. He wants people who will not lord their leadership powers over those entrusted to their care.

Jesus, of course, was the perfect example of embracing and championing this servant-leader approach. Here’s what he had to share:

“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–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’”(Matthew 20:25-28).

Clearly Jesus is teaching a distinction between an authoritative style of leadership and leadership that is focused on serving others. You wouldn’t typically think leaders are first servers, but that’s how Jesus designed it.

Most of what makes a servant-leader is our attitude towards ourselves and others. Paul explained it like this:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

The key is the attitude of humility. Rather than focusing on our ambitions and our own interests, Paul suggests we need to also focus on the interests of others. Here’s what I know about the interests of others: they’re sometimes different than mine. It takes a confident yet humble leader to follow God’s calling in his or her own life while also considering the interests of others around them. We have to live in that tension in order to experience God’s design for the church. That’s how we accomplish his purposes.

So, here are some questions you may want to consider about your leadership:

  • When people consider who I am as a leader, do they think “servant” first?
  • Do I lord over those in my care?
  • Am I pursuing my ambitions, or do I consider the interests of others?
  • How would those people I lead respond to these questions?

I hope you’ll join me in wrestling through these passages and these questions. The Church needs a new kind of leader. That’s the way God designed it. And that’s what he demands of those who are called to lead others. This isn’t just a model for church leadership. This is a model for how we are to interact with people all around us.

Are you a servant-leader?

Other Posts in This Series:

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.
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Comments (8)

  1. Arthur

    A servant is who you are…it is a matter of identification with Christ. Being a leader may be my assignment, but my identity is as a servant.

  2. Bill Bliss

    Tony, great post indeed. Servant leadership also applies to business leaders as well as pastors. I have recently prepared a half day workshop on this topic of servant leadership and I am currently writing a chapter on servant leadership for a leadership book that is being written for the Christian business leader. I’ll share what I have with you when we meet in a couple of weeks.

  3. Tony I try to be a leader by serving. I’m at the bottom of the totem pole or subordinate leader. I guess that makes me a Servant- Subordinate Leader.

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