I’ll just tell you right now, I’m frustrated. Certain aspects of our modern culture have insinuated themelves into the fabric of the church, deterring or outright corrupting its ministry. Values such as a corporate policy and philosophy have been bought into by the church, where the ABCs of church reality became Audience, Buildings, and Cash. The pastor becomes the CEO and the elders operate as the board of directors. Offerings or tithes become income, or worse, profit; people become measured as “giving units” and the Gospel becomes reduced to little more than a product to be pushed.
This “pastor as CEO” mentality bleeds into and out of our cultural ideas of leadership. Leadership becomes about power, prestige, and possessions except translated through Christianese: we can have more people reached for the kingdom, more people fed, and a larger congregation or church edifice (the pastoral equivalent of measuring penis size). Even the term servant-leader is a capitulation to this mentality when we should all strive to be “just a servant”.
The frustrating part is that some leadership structures view the servants of their communities as commodities. Parts to be used rather than as people. The servants aren’t so much people but rather “just” folks who do the work of church. Servants are little better than light bulbs: as soon as they burn out or otherwise “break,” they are either discarded or hoped to be repaired so they could go back to doing the work.
The word “king” and the word “gens” (common folk) come from the same root for tribe, clan, or nation; that little etymology lesson tells me that there’s a closer relationship between leader and led than we may think. Yet a corporation mentality leads to focus on ridiculous job titles to the point where the title becomes the seduction (I know many folks who got improved job titles rather than, you know, an actual raise). We become about the title rather than the role played or the work being done. And sometimes we don’t want what comes along with a title because those extra intangibles get in the way of the actual work.
Servants are the people who run the church and make it work, wielding the informal power and influence that comes with service. Too often preachers, as important as they are, are reduced to plug and play ear ticklers. We want more of a servant mentality among our people. We want everyone to be like them, but we don’t appreciate them. We need to invest in nurturing them. They are the shepherds, constantly serving the sheep, getting them fed, guiding them, protecting them, co-pastors of a church.
Kingdom leadership is informal, without many official positions. The model of leadership we present is Jesus and yet, he led by serving. He saw needs–physical, emotional, or spiritual–met them, and THEN spoke. It was more important for him to walk alongside his disciples and pour himself into their lives—getting a towel and washing the feet of those who walked beside him—rather than isolate himself so that he could prepare sermons every week.
Not everyone is meant to “lead” or, better said, hold office. Better the “leaders” find their people’s individual passion and gifts and then let them loose. Life is short and we have too little time to not be the people God intended us to be. Striving to be a servant seems to be the best way to subvert our natural inclination to “will to power.” The corporate mentality forgets that loving others isn’t efficient, and we need to be about loving well rather than running efficiently. Loving people well influences. Loving people well is kingdom work. Loving people well is true leadership.
“We express our gratitude to those who serve because to serve is godlike. If Jesus is our window to God, then we are never more like God than when we serve others. Our chief identity is that of children of God, but the best means by which we reveal our identity to the world is through service to others.
“More than any other description, the great apostle Paul called himself “the servant of Christ and of God.” Paul understood himself to be following in the way of the Master – that of self-giving service to others. He remembered his Lord’s teaching that our greatest goal in life should be to hear these words of approval from God: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Sadly, this is something Jesus’ own disciples often forgot”.