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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Is the Biblical Concept of Servant Leadership Really Practiced Your Church? (Part 1)

Leadership in the New Testament is defined in a two-fold manner: leading and serving. The passages speak to each of these facets.

Mark 10
42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

John 13
12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

Acts 20
17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them: . . . 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.

Peter 5:1-4
1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of I God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Even though these passages are familiar to most Christians, the question is, to what extent does the dual concept of servant leader really exist in churches today.   Consider the following church organizational chart.


DISCUSSION:  The question is, is this model Biblical?  Does it pictorially represent the concept of servant leadership found in the Bible?  Personally, I don’t think so.  What is your opinion?  This should make for an interesting and needed conversation.




Unique_help_1  © 2005 Kenneth C. Newberger
Ken Newberger, an experienced church conflict resolution and development specialist, earned his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, has ten years senior pastoral experience, and is in the dissertation phase for his Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University, one of only two accredited doctoral programs of its kind in the United States. If your church needs help resolving conflict, if you need individual coaching, or if you would like to develop a communicatively healthy church,  please visit Ken's website  at www.ResolveChurchConflict.com  or call 301-253-8877.

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September 22, 2005 in Church Conflict, Leadership Issues | Permalink

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We teach and model servant leadership in our church. We talk about the head of the leader and the heart of the servant. The leader function is concerned for vision, direction, mission and tasks. The servant function is concerned for people, relationships, equipping, and process. The two functions are both needed. When you have a servant leader who understands and can practice both, you have a person of tremendous influence. I love the way Ken Blanchard explains these two concepts in Lead Like Jesus. He identifies the head with the tradition top down triangle, with the leader being responsible to cast the vision and the people responsive to follow. He identifies the heart with an inverted triagle with the servant leader on the bottom, responsible to equip and release people for implementation of the vision and followers responsible to use their creativity, gifts and passions to implement the vision. This all assumes Godly leaders who are spending time to discern God's heart, direction and vision for your team, organization or church. Maybe we differ with semantics. My definition of a servant leader is someone who is serving God's purpose (head) in the lives of people (heart). I have served in ministries and churches with and without servant leaders. I will never serve again in a place that doesn't understand and teach this style of leadership.

Posted by: Kim | Sep 22, 2005 11:18:13 AM

It by association becomes a semantic arguement because of people's pre-conceived ideas of these two terms.

That having been said, what does Scripture teach?

The leader's responsability is found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 4:1-5. Doing so in Love as a servant.

As the leader does these things, he will equip his fellow workers/staff members (as that is what we ALL are, workers in Christ) and in turn the laity.

Do I agree with the pictorial presentation? No. Nor do I agree with the inverted triangles.

We are all on equal ground with a variable in responsability. Both concepts imply that one group has a certain knowledge (head) while the other group has another knowledge (heart). All believers ("the man of God" ) should be thouroughly equipped for every good work. The Pastor, elders, deacons, laity and even the New Believer. All working together in Sound Doctrine and Holy Practice (doctrine and deed).

If I had to draw a pictoral, it would have the pastor at the bottom along with the elders, deacons, laity and new believers each racing to the bottom to serve one another.

Is it practiced? No. Not even in my church and many times, not even in my own life. That I might acknowledge this in my life to repentence but I am waging war.

A better question: Is it truly practiced in any church? No. I know this will start a firestorm but it is true because humanism has crept into the church and specifically into doctrine (and what is worse, most church leaders are not even willin to test this - primarily because they don't care "I want to spend my time reaching the lost, not discussing doctrine" - as though doctrine is of no real consequence - it IS consequential of the utmost kind!!!!).

It will only BEGIN to truly be practiced when #1 all leaders in the congregation know and understand sound doctrine (believe it or not, this will be an almost unsurmountable hurdle - but God is Faithful to His Own and those that are His will eventually come around BUT it will start with humility/humbleness which may come in the form of disaster or persecution or both) and #2 they are all willing to teach it at all cost and uphold deed (church discipline for those who do not live it - getting them "outside the camp" - this too will be unsurmountable at first but it will clearly seperate the Believer - so much so that persecution may soon follow - severe persecution).

Anyway, my three cents worth.

Posted by: BeHim | Sep 22, 2005 3:37:50 PM

Look at that org. chart at the top for a minute, and print it out, if it helps, for this exercise. Top down clearly is not the model Jesus teaches. I've served in a church where the pastor turned it upside-down (if you printed it out, try that now), much as Jesus turned a lot of our expectations upside-down, putting the pastor in the most "serving" spot. I think that's close, but not exact. Try this. Turn the org chart on it's SIDE! This pus everyone on the same footing. I think that's it. Jeus called us friends. That's how friends lead. From beside you...

BeHim states "It will only BEGIN to truly be practiced when #1 all leaders in the congregation know and understand sound doctrine (believe it or not, this will be an almost unsurmountable hurdle - but God is Faithful to His Own and those that are His will eventually come around BUT it will start with humility/humbleness which may come in the form of disaster or persecution or both)"

I'm so glad that I'm not saved by the soundness of my doctrine, but instead by the blood of the Savior. And I'm so glad that I'm not being smitten by some disaster just because my views on the millenium aren't exactly perfect, or because I view communion as either a sacrament or an ordinance, or neither. And I'm even happier that my God is a God of grace. That fella on the cross next to Jesus died without doing any good works as a believer, and without sorting out the whole Calvinism/Arminianism debate. Shame on him. ;-)

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Sep 23, 2005 7:34:23 AM


I have replied to you via email as I've learned not to argue off topic here but I will ask... how can you appeal to the Grace of God if doctrines are not important?

Posted by: BeHim | Sep 23, 2005 12:16:51 PM


I've responded off topic in an email back to you, but for the benefit of all here, and to make sure I'm not mis-represented, I never said doctrines are not important. I do however, think that the simple message of the Gospel is vastly superior to the kind of doctrine that I hear so often preached, especially in certain denominations and groups. And I am guessing that actually you do, too.

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Sep 23, 2005 1:28:54 PM

You are correct in your assertion that The Gospel is vastly superior to "denominational" doctrines. I too believe this as long as the Gospel is not watered down to easy-believism or changed completely to "another gospel".

Posted by: BeHim | Sep 23, 2005 3:29:40 PM

I can remember one glorious Sunday when God really gave me a wonderful teaching, the kind that when it's over you personally received more than you think anyone else in the congregation.... 10 minutes after the church let out I found that an elderly member had become sick and made a big mess in the womens restroom, no one left to clean it up, so guess who cleaned it up?... I'd say servant leadership was practised in our little church... on all levels... I remember that day... keeps a preacher humble... and thats not a bad thing.

Posted by: Tom Riggs | Sep 29, 2005 12:41:25 PM

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are leading the way at this years MTV Europe music awards with four nominations.

Posted by: Russell Limon | Jun 22, 2007 2:43:42 AM

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