What is leadership? One definition is to exercise influence over others – if that is the case, then we all have the potential to be leaders to greater or lesser degrees in all areas of our lives. So that makes most of us a leader – for good or for bad – as we influence those around us. Jesus certainly influenced those around him, but he said very little about the topic of leadership, but what he did do and say cut against the very understanding of power and authority that dominated secular thinking of his day.
What Jesus did and said emphasised that the foundation of Godly leadership was servanthood. John 13:5 shows Jesus dressing himself as a servant and washing the dust of his disciple’s feet, and then telling his disciples to follow his example. However, the worldly paradigm of leadership was hard for his disciples to shake. Their expectations of rewards and power continually clashed with God’s way. They even argued among themselves as to who should have the best seat in the coming kingdom (Mark 10:41).
Jesus regularly used the concept of servanthood to realign their thinking – that the greatest was the servant of all and first would be the last (Mark 10:43-44). The Greek word that Jesus used for servant was ‘diakonos’. Diakonos comes from two words, ‘dia’ mean ‘through or across’ (like the diametre of a circle) and ‘konos’ which can be translated as ‘dust, dirt or earth’. Thus, diakonos literally means, through the dust! So, when Jesus’ disciples had disputes about leadership he refused to dignify their discussions with direct answers, preferring instead to demonstrate servanthood.
Jesus also said, that he came into this world not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:35). His intention was always to give his life as a ransom for many. He never forced his will upon anyone – but rather showed them the way that lead to life. We look at success in the short-term – we consider how many come to church; our income or the number of ministries as the measure of our success. Yet, Jesus shows us that real rewards in the kingdom of God come from humility, obedience and a servant heart towards the needs of others – so that in so doing they will see Jesus.
We have a lot of people in the church who quietly serve – exercising Jesus style leadership…quietly going about the things that help the wheels turn. Without their willingness to serve we would be very limited. It is always good to thank and acknowledge those whose efforts often go unnoticed, but it is also important to remember that Jesus went through the dust on our behalf and desires us to follow his example in all of our dealing with others.