Jesus demonstrated true servant leadership in His kingdom that was in stark difference to the leadership of the kingdom of darkness and the current form of leadership exercised in the Jewish religious system of His day. The kingdom of darkness leadership is a top down authority structure in which the leaders exercise authority over those under their charge. This was the style of the leadership among the Gentiles. But you notice that the Jewish religious system had the exact same kind of leadership structure. The Pharisees and Sadducees exercised authority as rulers over the people.
When Jesus taught that true servant leadership was exercised by being a servant and being a servant was the main task of the leadership this was revolutionary. It was totally opposite of what was happening. He was saying that whoever was not acting as a servant to the people were not truly leaders and would not be able to be leaders in the kingdom of God. True servant leadership leads by his example of being a servant, not trying to lord it over anyone.
He said to His disciples that if they wanted to be great in His kingdom they had to learn what it meant to function in the role of servant leadership.
Matthew 20:25-28 -- “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:43-45 -- “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you, shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
He gave them an example of being a servant at the last supper. The disciples all came into the upper room and the custom of that day was that a servant would wash the feet of those who entered the room, but there was no designated servant there. None of the disciples offered to wash the others feet because it was considered to be demeaning labor. So Jesus used this time as as an example of servant leadership and knelt before them and washed their feet as a lowly servant. He was giving them an object lesson that if they wanted to be great in the kingdom of God they has to learn to be the servant of all.
Leadership in the kingdom of God is not about being in the exalted position and being served by others. It is being the greatest servant. Jesus demonstrated this revolutionary concept for us by giving His life to serve all of humanity even while we were still living in the fullness of our sin nature and refusing to allow God the right to rule in our lives.
He also taught that nobody was to be recognized by a title such as Father, Rabbi, Teacher, Leader, etc. Nobody was to be recognized by their position as one having authority over others. We are all brothers and sisters in His kingdom. Even titles such as Pastor so-and-so, Evangelist so-and-so, Apostle so-and-so, Bishop so-and-so, Elder so-and-so, etc. in the Church today are forbidden by Jesus because these titles place someone above someone else into an “office” position. There are no "offices" in the kingdom of God, only "functional gifting" to enable someone to be a better servant.
Matthew 23:8-12 -- “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are called brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called leaders, for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
Ephesians 4:11-12 -- “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, …”
These ministry gifts that are given by Jesus are not for position, or titles, or offices to lord it over anyone else and to be served by them because of the title. These gifts are ministry functions to be used in servant leadership in serving people by equipping them to function in ministry themselves. Even the word “minister” means “servant”. Ministers are to lead by their example of serving others. They are not to be exalted because they are good orators, or administrators, or public relations people, or teachers, etc. We simply acknowledge and thank Jesus for them for it is He who has given them the ability to do what they do in order to serve us. Never, ever put a minister, or ministry, up on a pedestal as being anything great or special. Simply thank Jesus for them and give any honor to Jesus because it is He who is serving you through the gift He is allowing to flow through them. A servant leader is first and foremost a servant, not a leader. Jesus is our Leader.
All gifts and talents given to us by God are not to be used to exalt us or lift us up in pride, but are to be used to serve others and build them up and to meet whatever needs they have. We are servants of the King and have been commissioned by Him to be His ambassadors to represent Him as the one willing to give His life for their benefit.
Because there is such a lack and misunderstanding of servant leadership the body of Christ on earth is suffering, especially in the western Church. Our entire “system” of institutional Christianity is functioning more by kingdom of darkness methods than by the revolutionary methods and concepts set forth by Jesus Christ, the King of His kingdom.
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