Originally published 3/1/14 by Worship Leader
What is servant leadership and how does it relate to worship?
According to Hebrews 12:28, 1 Timothy 4:1-6, Galatians 5:13, and Joshua 22:5,
Servant Leadership is motivated by a desire to serve others, sensitive to what motivates and benefits others. According to Henry Blackaby, one definition of servant leadership is “moving people on to God’s agenda.”
Hebrews 12:28 informs us that reverence and awe of God is required as an intrinsic part of our worship of Him. Having grateful attitudes for receiving unmerited favor leads us to have a proper attitude in leadership that nothing we have been entrusted with is ours to do with of our own whim, but that we have received a kingdom that is not ours. We ought to proceed in fear and respect for the One whose kingdom it is that we are acting as stewards of.
1 Timothy 4:1-6 informs us that we are to receive everything with thanksgiving, counting it as made holy by the word of God and prayer. It says that a good servant makes truth known to his brothers and sisters, and is a person who has been trained in scripture who can discern good doctrine - and not only knows it but follows it! This passage makes an example of various characteristics that would seem to be the opposite of a godly leader, and so a servant leader would be one who holds to the truth of the faith and rejects deceitful teachings. A servant leader would be one who has a clear conscience, and enjoys freedom from man-made rules as one who gives God honor in creating all things to be enjoyed with thanksgiving.
Galatians 5:13 tells us that while we enjoy freedom in Christ, this freedom is best used to serve each other. Sometimes that means we must limit our own freedom for the sake of others, in so doing to love others and serve their needs ahead of our own. Being others-centered instead of self-centered is at the core of servant leadership.
Joshua 22:5 reminds us that to love God as his greatest commandment is to obey his law in all the ways He directs. Serving him wholeheartedly is what He desires. This commandment is repeated in Matthew 22:36-40, when Jesus gives the instruction again, with the clarification that loving the Lord and loving others as much as we love ourselves results in the fulfillment of the law in its entirety. Serving others results in godly obedience.
The primary people that we owe the greatest service of love to are the ones whom we lead directly, serving by equipping and training them to do the work of ministry they are called to, enabling them and giving them opportunity to do so within our church body. Sometimes love isn’t just shown through words of appreciation, however – love also means correction, discipline, instruction, and investment. I strive to be well balanced in my approach to these areas, though they are not always well received. When they are not well received, I do make it a priority to establish peace and unity by leading in humility and grace.
Receiving instruction and correction – being teachable – is a requirement of a leader, and that is an example to live out that is challenging and often painful, but necessary both for the leader himself as he or she is honed by his elders and church family to be more Christ-like, as well as for those being led.
A good sign that we are being consistent in showing love to our church family is the fact that so many bring us their problems, asking us to help them. The day people stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them, or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.
Striving to be consistent in responding to the needs of the members of the body has long been a staple in my walk as a believer and a leader. If I can serve someone, I will do it. Whether it’s the mundane: helping them with a ride to the doctor, tutoring their children, fixing their car, or the serious: taking the time to listen to their concerns, accompanying them in grief and sorrow, being present during trials... my heart is for the people God has brought into my life to shepherd and care for.
“You cannot lead someone somewhere you have not been before yourself.”
– Chris Tomlin
“A servant leader never asks anyone to do something they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves.” – Ken Blanchard
“Hold lightly the things of this world. God has called you into a stewardship relationship for the time, talent, and treasures He has put at your disposal for His purpose.” – Phil Hodges
“When spiritual leaders wait patiently on the Lord, regardless of how long it takes, God always proves himself absolutely true to his word.” – Henry Blackaby
To die to self, to put others ahead of you, that is the core of servant leadership – the core of what Christ did for us and modeled for us in his leadership. That is the essence of spiritual leadership. If we are to lead our people in worship, being a servant leader is not optional. It is a requirement.