Editorial: November 2012
Doctors, engineers, scientists, architects, teachers, professors and a host of other professionals attain their degrees and qualifications by sheer dedication and hard work. Our justifiable ambition to be successful, triggered by the desire to lead a dignified and contended life, motivates us to strive hard in our pursuit of excellence in a highly competitive world. After qualifying adequately, we practice our chosen profession and, sooner or later, realise the necessity to develop or upgrade our skills to be able to face even greater challenges. By and by, some people attain leadership positions in their professions and begin to exercise authority over their subordinates.
Well, so far so good! Regrettably, most of these leaders quickly learn the skill of manipulating their subordinates and start lording it over them. The world looks up to these leaders as 'great' and 'powerful' and 'influential'. They are never referred to as 'servant leaders'.
But our Lord Jesus, the greatest leader of all time, has revolutionised the world's concept of leadership. This concept has not yet been recognised by the world, nor will it ever be! While there is no doubt that the church does recognise her Lord's mandate on leadership, the question is, does she obey it? How many godly servant leaders does the church in India have? Very few! Praise God for those few!
As I was pondering over the 'mystery' of immaturity being displayed by many 'mature' Christians who have been in leadership positions for years, I was reminded of the apostle Peter's exhortation to the growing Christians to whom God had given everything they needed for life and godliness, with great and precious promises, so that they have a share in the divine nature. Yes, a share in the divine (Christ-like) nature! Peter tells them that as long as he is alive he will keep reminding them of these things even though they know them and are well established in the truth. Therefore, just knowing and preaching God's truth is not enough; we need to work hard to prove that we really are among those God has called and chosen. We need to be reminded time and again who we are in Christ and what God expects from us. We must lead by setting an example of godliness so that the sweet fruits we bear pleases God. (Read 2Pet.1:3-15.)
When James and John approached Jesus with their mother to voice their ambition to be seated in honoured places, the Lord knew their intentions were not right. Probably He remembered His disciples' hushed conversation a few days earlier about who was the greatest. When He asked them what they were discussing, they were tight-lipped because they were guilty of harbouring a selfish motive. This time they wanted Jesus to do for them what they desired (Mk.9:33-34; 10:35). But Jesus patiently explained to them, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all" (Matt.20:20-27;Mk.10:42-44).
While Scripture lays down the qualifications for a candidate to be a 'servant leader', there is only one pre-qualification to be an 'eligible servant leader': the candidate's personal, loving relationship with the Master-Employer -Jesus Christ. The first disciples had that relationship and were trained by their Master Himself. This relationship was built up during their three-and-a-half years of field and class-room training under the Master; and, except for one, all the disciples were qualified as leaders; their leadership qualities turned their contemporary world upside down! The world took notice of them that they belonged to Jesus!
Writing to the Christians and their leaders (elders and deacons) in Philippi, the apostle Paul tells them that their attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus "who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness… He humbled Himself and became obedient to death…" (Phil.2:5-8). Christ-like attitude is what should distinguish a Christian leader from a non-Christian leader, a Christian servant from a non-Christian servant, a Christian social worker from a non-Christian social worker. In Philippians 2:6-8 we see four distinguishing marks of a servant leader who has the mind of Christ. A Christ-like servant leader obeys God and willingly:
1. Sets aside his rights and privileges (v.6).
2. Considers himself a servant (v.7a).
3. Identifies himself with the people he serves (v.7b).
4. Humbles himself and invests his life in others (v.8).
Paul's advice to young Timothy who was leading the church at Ephesus, with overseers and deacons, serves as a practical guide for every Christian leader to follow if he has to lead by his own godly conduct (1Tim.3:1-16).
It is His love that compelled God to leave His heavenly glory and come down to earth, not only to save us from sin but also to teach us how to love and serve one another as Paul briefly describes it in these three verses. God Himself is working in us, giving us the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him, not what pleases us (Phil.2:13). As Christian leaders, should we not allow the selfless and sacrificial love of Christ to control us?
It is my earnest prayer that the contents of this magazine will inspire and strengthen you as you apply God's word in your life every day.