I read a lot of leadership books. I listen to a number of leadership podcasts a week. I send out a monthly leadership newsletter to our staff. So, I really appreciate and value the necessity of good leadership.
The problem is that the Bible talks about something so much more than “leadership.” The Bible talks about serving. For all of our culture’s focus on being a leader, the Bible seems to want to place the focus on serving and being a servant. And, this is a crucial distinction to make in our current culture and world.
To be a leader, you often talk about being in front, ahead and being an example, and – here is the main point – where people can see you. Because you want to show them the way, you want to inspire them and you hope to motivate them forward through your efforts.
But, true service has the same inspiring outcome, but through a different means. You are not out front getting recognition, but in the background doing what needs to be done. You aren’t trying to be an example, you are simply being faithful. The point isn’t for people to notice you, but for you to notice others.
It is very easy to fall into the leadership trap in our current culture. We think that what will save the church is leadership – that what we need is better and truer leaders. And, while I’m certainly not against leadership, I think we need to regain a focus on serving. It is so easy to assume that to be a leader means being a leader like we see in our culture, but, for Jesus, leadership doesn’t look like our culture, it looks like Him and serving.
Jesus says, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 20:25-26, NLT)
While I think being a leader matters immensely, what I know is this – that the best leaders were first, and primarily are, servants. And, the worst leaders are those who never serve, but command and direct.
So, I write all this, with books on leadership on my shelf, this article going out to you and a desire to lead well as a reminder: Leadership is never the main thing, service is.
And, for all our culture’s preoccupation with leadership, I think it’s time to do something countercultural: Serve.