Summary: Servant Leadership is about how much we invest in developing others to be healthier, wiser, wealthier, more famous, than ourselves.
Servant Leadership - Part 4
It is about others
This is the lent season. It is important for us to focus on the Sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross during this period. We know that the lent season ends with the last supper. The last supper was celebrated in the old testament days as the Passover meal. So let us start this day with a remembrance of the Passover meal which happened 2000 years ago.
2000 year ago, a leader asked his followers to arrange a room for them for supper, for the Passover meal. The followers went ahead with the arrangements and made all the arrangements that they thought will please the leader. The evening came and they all congregated for supper. The leader realised that the followers have left out one small detail. Those times there were not air-conditioned cars to bring the people for supper. They had to walk to their destinations. The people who gathered all had dirty feet, due to the walking, and the followers had overlooked the need for a servant to wash their dirty feet. The leader looked around and saw that none of the followers were volunteering to do this menial job. So the leader got up, took the basin in his hands, took off the garment that was wrapped around his waist and washed and wiped the follower’s feet one by one, much to the dismay of the followers. This came to be recorded as the greatest act of servant hood, and the greatest act of leading. The first act of Servant Leadership was borne. Sounds familiar?
Only John records the washing of the disciples’ feet in the gospels, though the servanthood teachings given by Jesus during the last supper are there in all the gospels. It is interesting to note how John introduces the readers to this solemn ceremony of washing the feet. John13: 1 says “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love”. He now showed them the full extent of His love. Isn’t it interesting to note that Jesus started this demonstration of the “full extent of His love” with the act and message of servanthood? We serve that leader who taught us that to conquer, you have to stoop down, that to lead you have to serve. The message of Servant Leadership is very apt for us to remember during this lent season.
In a world where modern business proclaims that good leadership teaches self- advancement at all cost, the servant leadership model of Jesus stands in sharp contrast. Much of what is done in today's church is influenced by the business world. Goals and objectives are used to measure one’s effectiveness. Self-actualization is extolled as a virtue and success is measured by the size of a leaders' congregation. In contrast to the world's methods of advancement, the teachings of Christ bid us to humble ourselves, take up a cross, and follow His example as a leader who sacrifices so that others may be advanced.
Robert Greenleaf, who is known as the father of the modern day secular literature on Servant Leadership says this about checking whether one is a Servant Leader or not. “The best test is: Do those served, grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely them selves to become servants?” In other words, a servant leader is one, who lets the “follower” become greater than the “followed”. The “apprentice” becomes more skilful than the “master”. The “student” becomes “wiser” than the teacher. Noble ideas, but are they really practical? Is this question not valid for us in the Church today more than ever? Who do we see grow in today’s churches and Christian organisations? Do we see the Leaders grow in stature, wealth, wisdom, health etc or do we really see the congregation members outgrow the leader? How many leaders will consciously and selflessly let the disciples grow more than himself/ herself?
I would like us to ponder over this point, using two examples from the bible.
Let us go back to the story of Saul and David. After David slay Goliath, Saul started admiring him and asked him to stay with him in his palace. Bible records that Saul gave David a high rank in the army. However, after this initial period of admiration and love, Saul becomes very bitter at David, and does all that is possible to eliminate him from the scene. Let us take a look at how that turn-around happened? 1 Samuel 18:7-9 describes the root cause of the enmity between Saul and David . After David becomes the official “Philistine slayer” for God’s people, the people of Saul’s kingdom starts to admire David more than Saul. “ 7So the women sang as they danced, and said: “Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.” 8Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” 9So Saul eyed David from that day forward. “ Saul was unable to bear the thought that David, a man whom he appointed as his soldier was receiving greater praise and respect than himself in his kingdom. This is ancient story. But how often do we see this in today’s churches and Christian organisations? How often do we see this in any walk of life that we can look at.