Jesus as Servant (Upside Down Leadership)
Peter Upside Down, by Sherry Camhy
Thank you to Jeff Roop (not to be confused with Jeff Roop, Actor: Vampire High; born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Canada) for weighing in on Leadership today with this article.
Servant leadership is a common theme within Vineyard churches with the emphasis on function rather than position or title. With mega-churches to simple church networks covering the spectrum of faith communities in the Vineyard, how the function works out will vary depending on the size of the church. I have reservations with churches adopting business models of leadership. The church is not a business with a CEO but the Body of Christ with Christ as the head.
The life of Jesus is the oft cited example of servant leadership. Some have raised the question though of service over leading [TheJesusVirus.org] Authority is often the issue under consideration regarding matters of leadership. Jesus puts it to rest as far as hierarchy goes: not so among you, the greatest is the servant of all. He presents the upside-down view of the Kingdom of God regarding authority.
Kingdom authority is different than the leadership offered in the business world. The world system is (often) beastly with no worries of serving others (although this is changing on some fronts). Those within the Body of Christ are called to submit to one another and to Christ. This would seem to include those in leadership.
Now with this level playing field of mutual submission, what of Hebrews 13 and other references to leadership? If we interpret these passages in light of the example of Jesus Christ, I believe authority and leadership will look different from commonly understood. Consider the following:
1. Recognize those in leadership as gifts to the church. (Eph 5) We often recognize the manifestation of certain grace gifts (charisma) in practice so why not recognize those people as gifting the church?
2. Reflect on their influence. As I’m seeing leadership, influence and persuasion are key. The words shared by them are not ultimate but should lead us to contemplate on the final Word, Jesus Christ. The ultimate authority is in Christ and any other authority is derivative of Him and reflecting His character.
3. Look to their example. In a few places the Apostle Paul encourages an ‘imitate me as I imitate Christ.’ I’m sure such imitation will not be 100%, yet we should be able to see something of Christ reflected and modeled in their life.
3. Help them and befriend them. Often in traditional churches, those in leadership face crushing loneliness and spiritual fatigue. If the opportunity presents itself, be a friend and support them as a friend, not as a leader. Allow them to be a simple brother or sister in Christ.
4. Reserve judgment. Too often when someone in leadership falls for whatever reason we tend to rush to judgment. Remember, they are frail human beings like the rest of us. They too can stumble and fall. They are not out of reach of grace. If you face this in your congregation, help to lovingly restore them in a spirit of gentleness.
5. Always look to Christ. Any leader in the church should point others to Christ, who is the True Shepherd. If the leader creates dependence on themselves rather than Christ in the church, the authority of Christ is being subverted. I’ve heard too much talk of leadership, authority and submission lead to fear and control. Those in leadership are to be a sign to others, guiding them to freedom, love and service found in Christ.
Only Jesus Christ is the head of the church, the question before leadership is this, are you willing to give up control for the sake of an authority found solely in service? When did ministry become means of authority rather than the place of service?
Well, friends, let’s continue the discussion. What are your thoughts on Leadership, and servant leadership? Do you embrace the “Upside Down model” Jeff mentions?
My alma mater Evangelical Theological Seminary has an ongoing initiative called Center for Leadership Impact with events and training for leaders in the community and business world. You may find it helpful.