servant leadership

8 Characteristics of a Servant Leader—part 2

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In a previous post, we looked at three characteristics of servant leadership as seen in the example of Jesus in the first five verses of John 13. This post is a follow-up that covers five more characteristics of servant leadership. These are drawn from John 13:6-17.

If you want a refresher on the first three characteristics of servant leadership, click on this link— 8 Characteristics of Servant Leadership.

4– Authority with Purpose (verses 6-9)

Authority is one of the most misunderstood and abused elements of leading others, regardless of circumstance—work, home, church, business, even within the military. Webster’s definition speaks of—power to influence or command—but also—freedom granted by one in authority.

When it comes to the role of authority as a servant leader within the Kingdom of God, Jesus is our prime example. He received His authority from His Father. Those of us called to be leaders within God’s kingdom receive our authority from Jesus and Him alone. Not a government, nor a board, nor any ecclesiastical (church) authority.

Authority—as seen in the life and ministry of Jesus—is both a responsibility and a privilege.

It is a privilege extended to us by the Lord for His purposes and it carries a double responsibility. We are directly responsible to the Lord whenever exercising any authority within His kingdom, which includes any and all local churches. We are responsible for those Jesus gives us charge over. Abuse of authority happens when a leader loses sight of this double-sided responsibility.

This is what we see of Jesus through His example in washing the disciples’ feet. Sometimes our authority over others needs to be set aside, just as we see Jesus setting aside His outer clothing to strip down to the level of a servant (verse 4).

At times, the Lord’s authority must be exercised for a purpose beyond the immediate situation. This is seen in Jesus’ dialog with Peter in verses 6-9. Jesus was washing the disciple’s feet as an example but Peter didn’t understand this. So, Jesus exercised His authority as Messiah to make it clear Peter needed to allow Jesus to wash his feet.

Whatever authority the Lord extends to anyone is a gift because it has value and purpose beyond the person who bears it. It’s not ours to wield in whatever way we want. Its purpose is to bless and strengthen others. Authority in the role of a servant leader is not a position held or a role to play but leadership that guides others with a gentle strength.

Authority given by our Lord Jesus is both a responsibility and a privilege

5– Discernment and Restraint (verses 10-11)

When the Holy Spirit reveals things to us about others, we don’t have to reveal it to them. We need to use discretion. Discernment is too often lacking or neglected by many leaders, as well as learning to wait on the Lord. Patience isn’t just a virtue it’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us as believers (Gal 5:22).

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8 Characteristics of a Servant Leader

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In a previous post, I shared the story of Jesus washing the disciples feet as an example of servant leadership. As mentioned in that post, the idea of servant leadership has become more popular wherever leadership is discussed. However, transferring talk into action is always a challenge.

Knowing why we need to be servant leaders is answered by Jesus in John 13:12-17. But knowing how to do it—how to actually be a servant leader—is not always clear.

First of all, for pastors and leaders in churches it is fitting for us to be servant leaders because that’s how we see Jesus lead. This is reflected in what Jesus says about Himself and for His followers in Mark 10:43-45—

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

It is also the very nature of Jesus—

… and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart. (Matt 11:29)

But what if you aren’t a pastor or leader, at least not in a recognized sense?

All believers are leaders in some way in various roles in life. Wherever we have influence in people’s lives—whether among family or friends or at work—as believers, we are called to be examples and this is an important qualification for any leader.

Even within the church, whether we are recognized by others as people having influence, we are called to fulfill God’s purpose for our life within His church body (Eph 4:15-16). 

Here are the first 3 of 8 characteristics of a servant leader—seen in the leadership of Jesus (John 13:1-17)

1– Motivated by love (verse 1)

This is always our first priority. We are to be compelled by love to serve others with our leadership—not ambition, nor obligation.

We need to see people as Jesus saw them and love them as Jesus loved them. Jesus had compassion on people as “sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). Jesus was compelled by His love for the Father. It was always His number one priority. But is it ours?

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A Mystifying and Unexpected Event

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Servant leadership. It’s talked about a lot in books, conferences, and social media by church leaders and business leaders too. But it’s not so common. Talking about it and living it out are two entirely different things, as we all know. Sadly, the chasm between talk and action can be pretty wide.

Chapter 13 in the gospel of John opens with Jesus knowing His hour had come. It was the time of the Passover, a national festival and memorial. It would be the last Passover Jesus would eat with His disciples but one He would fulfill prophetically to provide redemption for all humanity (Luke 22:15-16).

John’s narrative makes clear what is meant by His hour had come (John 13:1-3), which prefaces an unexpected and still misunderstood event—Jesus washing the disciples' feet. The first five verses paint a paradoxical picture—the Son of God—sent from heaven—stoops down to wash the feet of His closest followers.

Have you ever pictured how this took place?

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