Summary: Successful servant leaders display humility towards those whom they serve.
Every denomination has heroes of the faith. Perhaps if you are Baptist – it is Charles Spurgeon! If you are Pentecostal, it may be Aimee Semple McPherson or Phoebe Palmer! Or if you belong to the Alliance Church – it may be A.W. Tozer!
These people are not only an inspiration to the people of their own denomination but an example for all Christians. In the early days of the Salvation Army, we had such a man Commissioner Samuel Logan Brengle – an American Officer.
The story is told that during his College years, Brengle was a brilliant law student who was very gifted in the art of speaking. The Lord called him to the ministry of preaching. After he received his Bachelor of Arts degree, he became a circuit preacher with the Methodist Episcopalian Church.
During the following year he was recognized as an excellent preacher and was recommended to become the pastor of a large city church. His leaders even saw in him the potential to be a bishop one day. As a result Brengle decided to enroll at the Boston Theological Seminary to pursue a Bachelor of Divinity degree before moving to more responsibilities.
It was around this time that the Salvation Army was established in Boston. Brengle was attracted to it and in due course he resigned from the Methodist Church and offered his services to the Salvation Army. This meant that he had to go through a training period to learn the nuts and bolts of Army ministry. This is when he wondered whether he had made a mistake!
His first assigned duty was not to preach to a large crowd, but to clean and polish the boots of his fellow officers in training! He found himself in a little room with eighteen pairs of muddy shoes, a can of shoe polish and… the temptation to quit… To him this was an obvious waste of his time and talent. He had proved himself to be a brilliant speaker; a preacher with a very promising future. He asked himself: “Is this the best they can do for me in the Salvation Army? Did I make a mistake?”
Then in his imagination, he saw a picture: Jesus was washing his disciples’ feet! In his journal he wrote:
Quote. “I could see my Lord – who had come from the bosom of the everlasting father and the glories of heaven and the adoration of its hosts – bending over the feet of uncouth, unlearned fishermen, washing them, humbling Himself, taking the form of a servant. I immediately fell on my knees and prayed: “Lord, you washed their feet; I will polish their boots.”
Brengle learned an important principle that day in Christian leadership: the call to regard and to serve others with humility. (attitude and action).
Philippians chapter 2 is a challenge for us to evaluate our attitude and service towards one another. The principles of humility apply to all believers, and I believe it is particularly important for those of us in training for Christian leadership to make sure we serve God and others with all humility.
The letter to the Philippians is referred to as a letter of joy… Phil 1: 3 – 4 says:
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the Gospel…”
… yet some commentaries indicate that there was perhaps a hint of division, or at least a possibility of one, especially among some of the church leaders. Paul emphasized the necessity of unity among the brothers, the need to be of one accord, a quality that is possible only when there is true humility.
Perhaps in our local church everything appears fine. Perhaps there is no hint of division, yet it is wise to take Paul’s advise to ensure that our ministry is successful.
• In what way can we show humility towards those we serve? • How is Jesus’ example of humility going to affect our lives? • What particular aspects of His example on humility can be articulated in our ministry as Christian leaders?
The Apostle Paul answers this question first of all by pointing that true humility starts an attitude of the mind. He says:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (v. 3)
Nothing should be done out of selfishness. When we go to our churches, after studying at Seminary, we may be tempted to boast of our knowledge. We may be tempted to show off what we’ve learned, to discuss theology and use words that people don’t understand.
This is particularly true for those of us perhaps who minister to a congregation where some are unlearned. How easy to baffle them with words.