Water for the Thirsty
Weekly Devotional

Water for the Thirsty

Servant Leadership

Weekly Devotional

‘As the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you, O God’. (Psalm 42:1)
‘…Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink”…’ (John 7:37)

In the nineteenth century, Lord Acton wrote that all power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The founding fathers of the United States of American would not have disagreed, as it was a primary reason why they wanted a system that had democratic voting.

It was not because they trusted the wisdom of people as a collective; in fact their writings show that they were very nervous about giving too much power to popular vote. But they wanted a mechanism for voting people out of office, replacing them with others. That way, no one in power could unceasingly accumulate power: sooner or later the people could turf them out, and without bloodshed.

Jesus perfectly understood the nature of power in all governmental hierarchy when He said to the disciples,

‘…You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them’. (Matthew 20:25)

Now it’s sad to say that church leadership or ‘power’ is not immune from this, all too often it can be equally corrupting. That is why Jesus sets out a radically different programme for all who aspire to be church leaders:

‘Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave’. (V.26-27)

It is of vital importance to the health of the church and each congregation that we understand the meaning of this passage correctly.

Here are three reflections we can focus on:

1. The ultimate model in servant leadership is Jesus

‘and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’. (V.27-28)

This is not only a great text about the substitutionary nature of the atonement Jesus achieved when he died on the cross but powerful insistence that the life and death of Jesus are to constitute the measure of Christian leadership.

2. Becoming a slave of all does not mean that leaders must become servile, stupid, ignorant, or merely nice

Jesus’ leadership and sacrifice wasn’t characterized by such incompetence. In the very next chapter we see Jesus taking charge in the Temple, which made Him very unpopular with the religious hierarchy:

‘Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’” The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant’. (Matthew 21:12–15)

3. Becoming a slave does mean that Christian leadership is to be profoundly self-denying for the sake of others

In the garden, Jesus provides us with the ultimate example of self-denial for the sake of others, when He prayed,

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)

So the lesson for us is that the church must not elevate people to places of leadership who may have many of the gifts necessary for high office, but who lack this one.

A person may be able to lead, organise, or teach, but to be qualified as a Christian leader following in the steps of Jesus they must also be committed to self-denial for the sake of their brothers and sisters in Christ.

As Peter instructs would be church leaders,

‘Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away’. (1 Peter 5:2–4)

Let’s pray that God would cultivate a servant heart within each of us and raise up servant leaders for His church, for they are desperately needed.

Have a good week serving.

Pastor Barry

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