Sudhir Isaiah, Ph.D.
True Godly Leadership – A Rare Commodity
True Godly leadership is a rare commodity today it seems, but true leadership is a very crucial area in the life of a ministry worker, be it a pastor, a missionary, a church worker, or even a market place worker.
Leaders with “Charisma” and Their Great Fall!
There is much noise made about Christian leaders, who are required to be like our Master leader. There are many charismatic leaders who are able to move in the operation of gifts of the Holy Spirit, but deep down Christ-like character is somehow mission. This is quite evident in the lives of many ‘great’ leaders today who have fallen into sin and are no more used of the Lord. Indeed, great is their fall!
Call to Christian Ministry is a Call to Christian Leadership
The call to Christian ministry is a call to Christian leadership. In fact when an individual comes into a personal relationship with our Lord, he immediately starts a journey of leadership training, more so, when he is called to full-time ministry of the filed or the pulpit. In whatever full-time calling position we may be placed into, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to change and transform us into His likeness. The Spiritual foundation of the leader must be built up before the Lord can use that leader. A high-rise building is a good illustration-the higher it is, the deeper its foundation is.
In the Likeness of Our Lord
God is looking for leaders whose character is molded in the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the words of the prophet Samuel, “God looks on the inside, whereas man looks on the outside.”
How true it is that many people are carried away by the so-called charisma of the person these days, although we are not to refrain from charismatic expressions. Of course, it is not always possible to know the inside of a person, only God knows. That is why “many are called but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14).
The Servant Leader
We need to first take two passages in the gospels of Luke and Mark that speak volumes about who a leader should be in the eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them,
The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be liked the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me., so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke 22:24-30.
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him, “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places to those for whom they been prepared.” When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “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 a great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:35-45.
Our Lord’s Emphasis on Serving, Not on Being Served
Our Lord’s emphasis always was on leaders who were willing to serve rather than being served. He Himself demonstrated that very purpose through His earthly life.
The adage “we are saved to serve” cannot be over-emphasized. Christian service is, or rather ought to be the natural outcome of our spiritual experience and an intimate relationship with the Father. Christian service cannot be divorced from knowing and worshipping God. Hence the usual Church bulletin reminder to the Sunday worshipper: “Enter to worship, depart to serve” means a lot in our understanding of who a leader ought to be. Worship and Service go together like hand and glove.
We Serve the Lord
After all, we were servants of Satan and sin before we came to Christ, but we serve the Lord now. In Romans 6:17-19, Paul reminds us that since we were servants of sin before coming to Christ, why not continue being “servants,” but this time servants of righteousness?
How Do We Serve God?
The question now is, “How do we serve God, especially as Leaders in God’s Church” What attitude must we adopt in order to please our Master and serve His people?
On this, as we see in the scripture, our Lord Himself has much to say. We will examine the earlier cited passages to state the point: “Let him, who is the greatest among you be the least of all.” “I am among you as ‘The One Who Serves…” (Luke 22:26,27); “And whoever wishes to be the first among you shall be SLAVE OF ALL, for even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:44,45).
Serving versus Ruling- The Ministry of the Towel and Basin
From the above passages, we observe that the activity of serving stands in contrast to ruling with the world’s authority. Faithful service presupposes humility in the one who serves, in contrast to pride and arrogance. He who serves is in a position of dependence and his worldly freedom is limited, although his freedom in Christ is unlimited. This is the true spirit of leadership.
It is a voluntary act of his will to submit to humiliation on account of loving service to one another and mankind in the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. The leader is a servant by choice and compassion, and not by force as the world would like to have it. Generally, in our present day understanding, servant leadership is called “The Ministry of the Towel and Basin” (John 13).
I believe the world is looking for such leaders today, especially from the Christian church. Let us then ask the Lord to give us hearts to be the servant leaders in the model of our Lord Jesus Himself. Amen!
Sudhir Isaiah, Ph.D.
Bethany International University