7 Qualities of Servant Leaders

For the one year anniversary of my arrival at Naval Air Station Meridian, a guest preacher, an ordained retired Navy Chief, filled the pulpit for me. His text was Mark 10:44-45 ~

“Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

So Chief’s sermon was about servant leadership, and the 7 qualities of a servant leader:

  1. A servant works to please God regardless of the consequences.

consequencesUltimately, our service is not about our own greatness. That’s the paradox of Jesus’s statement on greatness. The disciples desired greatness. Jesus said, “If you want greatness, humble yourself.” You see, servant leadership serves for a purpose outside of the self. The disciples approached life with a “What’s in it for me?” mentality. That kind of thinking limits our service because we have our eye on the end result. If negative consequences are in the future, we won’t serve. The authentic servant leader works to please God regardless of the outcome.

  1. A servant positions himself/herself daily to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

Since pleasing God is the goal of the genuine servant leader, we must align ourselves with God on the regular. How can you know which way to walk if you’re walking your own path? When we position ourselves to follow Jesus, we don’t have to be concerned with developing the path – we walk His.

  1. A servant understands we may never see an earthly reward.

cups-1444419_1920Earthly rewards are nice, but if you’re in it for the reward you’re still in the “What’s in it for me?” mentality. When we serve for God’s sake, God’s glory is the ultimate goal. It doesn’t matter if we receive accolades or rewards. I’m reminded of every great preacher and theologian I’ve ever heard or read. My thought always comes back to, “Who was it that introduced this person to Jesus?” While the famous preacher/theologian gets the recognition, the person who started them on their spiritual path often gets none. But look at the fruit of their labor! Because of their service, unknown numbers hear the gospel. We serve for God’s glory, not our own.

  1. A servant understands that everything he/she is and has needs to be yielded to God.

Since we serve for God’s glory and at God’s pleasure, everything we have and are need to be surrendered to God. This isn’t about you! If you think it’s ever about you, you’re in the wrong line of work. Being a servant leader is never about the self. Since it’s ultimately about God, the servant leader surrenders everything to God. The right attitude says, “This is who I am and what I have – I give it back to you to use for your purposes.”

  1. A servant will be ready to walk alone.

sand-768783_1920When we follow a higher calling, we’re going to have people walk away from us. Some will fail to understand what it is we’re doing. Some will flat out reject what we’re doing. The servant role isn’t the popular role. It’s not the role that wins positions of power and the head seat at the table. While influence and power might be the result of authentic servant leadership, it’s never the goal. Genuine servant leadership is unattractive to many because it calls us to place others first. That’s hard to do, but it’s a path we need to be ready to take.

  1. A servant sacrifices for others.

The Bible has multiple examples about putting the needs and desires of others ahead of the self. The Apostle Paul said, “Consider others as MORE IMPORTANT than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). And the ultimate example is that of Christ, who sacrificed EVERYTHING for the world. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We didn’t earn his sacrifice – he offered it. Thus…

  1. A servant is never greater than the Master.

bible-1245795_1920It’s kind of hard to even contemplate the servant being greater than the Master when the Master gave everything in His service. In the military and law enforcement we see examples of men and women who will sacrifice themselves for the sake of their battle buddies – the Marine who jumps on a grenade, the cop who gets shot while dragging a partner out of harm’s way. We (rightly) hold such individuals in a place of honor – self-sacrifice like that is too rare. But Jesus died even for messed up people. Jesus died for his enemies. His sacrifice has no equal. And if Jesus was willing to sacrifice for everyone, are we too good to attempt the same?

As Christ-followers we’re called to be servant leaders to this world. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you came from, or where you’re going. This is a call upon all of our lives.

Are you willing to step up and answer the call?

What Christians Can Learn from the Seattle Seahawks

Super Bowl 49

Like millions of other people around the world, I was watching the Super Bowl Sunday night as the Seattle Seahawks took on the New England Patriots.

Of course the entire world is talking about the final Seahawks play of the game. With mere feet to the endzone and a renowned running back, the Seahawks opted to throw the ball rather than run it. What looked like a sure score and Super Bowl victory turned out, well, disappointing for the Seahawks.

For the last couple of days I’ve heard lots of criticism and jokes made at the expense of the Seahawks coaching staff. But it’s easy to be an armchair quarterback – to criticize things from the outside looking in – even though we have never (and will never) spend a second playing in the big game.

There are others who point to the fact that the play call was NOT, actually, a bad call. The New York Times posted an article looking at the Super Bowl through Game Theory and posited that the call was actually the smart move.

Fox Sports said something very similar:

So what’s the lesson Christians can learn from this whole debacle? Cross-apply the principle of armchair quarterbacks to armchair church members and the lesson is this:

We shouldn’t be so quick to criticize play calls made by Christian leaders.

It’s easy to be removed from the situation and criticize the play calls and the ones making the calls. I see this kind of behavior on social media and in real life. People are quick to criticize the decisions made by pastors, elders, or ministry leaders. It’s easy to stand back and, in hindsight, say, “That was a terrible decision! You should’ve done it differently!”

But in the middle of living life we don’t get to make decisions with the luxury of hindsight. Sometimes a play can be a perfectly viable play and still go horribly wrong. If the Seahawks had made the play and scored, Pete Carroll would have been a hero instead of a goat and the brunt of internet jokes:

Pete Carroll

Yes, I know that the coach, pastor, leader (whatever) takes the heat for bad calls. It’s the reason why the project manager of the losing team usually gets fired by Donald Trump in The Apprentice. But Christians can act with grace, knowing that sometimes people can make viable decisions that have poor results. It doesn’t make the leader a bad leader. Sometimes it just means that the other team’s defense stepped up and made a better play.

Instead of blaming church leaders every time we perceive a bad call, let’s act with love and grace.

‘Cause that’s kind of how the Bible calls us to act.

Shut up! Stop talking about me!!!

shut-up-fool

Sometimes a story really gets under my skin. In the last couple days I’ve come across three separate news stories about powerful men seeking to silence critics.

The first story that caught my eye was about Dave Ramsey.

The second story was about Mars Hill and Pastor Mark Driscoll.

The third story was about Peoria mayor Jim Ardis.

Powerful people have a way of silencing critics. It is tragic when people use power, influence, and wealth to mute those who raise valid concerns and criticisms. This is nothing new, but that doesn’t make it any less tragic…

Or wrong.

I can’t speak to Jim Ardis, I know very little about him, but I do know a bit about Mark Driscoll and Dave Ramsey. Both are Christian men, leaders of their community. Yet the way they are handling things goes against a biblical view of leadership.

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

The idea that a leader would try forcibly to silence critics and maintain an iron grip on all under him doesn’t seem to fit the general direction Jesus is trying to take his disciples.

I understand that there are always two sides to every story. I understand that a news article may not give the whole picture. I hope and pray that these situations are not as bad as they appear to be. My concern is that they are just as bad, if not worse.

Everyone who does anything is going to receive criticism. Shoot, I get criticized for things I haven’t even done! (ask me about the latest rumor sometime and we’ll laugh together – or cry?)… And, while we cannot control what others say, we can control how we respond.

These men have responded poorly.

As Christians we can do better. We NEED to do better.