Leading By Serving

Excerpted from “Through the Dust” by Denny Gunderson (YWAM Publishing)

wash feet1.  The true servant, with nothing to prove and no vested interest, takes joy in seeing others grow beyond himself. In the words of Henri Nouwen, “The beginning and the end of all Christian leadership is to give your life for others.”

2.  The leader who wishes to emulate Jesus resists the great temptation to build a ministry around himself. He chooses to abandon himself to the will and pleasure of God on a moment by moment basis. Thus, communion takes precedence over causes, and obedience over opportunity. Leadership pleasing to God is reserved for those servants willing to enter the crucible of divine dictate, often forfeiting opportunities for advancement in the process.

3.  By humbly choosing to serve behind the scenes, doing the things that others avoid doing, we are in no way negating our leadership call or gift. Rather we are strengthening it by recognizing that no one is so great that certain tasks are beneath their dignity. 

Servanthood is the antidote for status, and it is the opposite of the corporate leadership structure which has invaded today’s Church. The aspiring servant leader must follow in the footsteps of the Master, not the steps that lead to the top of the corporate status ladder. Again, the words of Richard Foster are so appropriate: “Servant leaders are people who are servants before they are leaders and will be servants when the tenure of leadership is concluded.”

4.  Accountability is another invaluable advantage of leading by example and inviting others to scrutinize our life. Unfortunately, much of the emphasis on accountability today is in the context of organizational structure and flow charts. In addition, many of those highlighting the need for accountability want to apply it downward to those “under” them, while conveniently ignoring any application in their own lives.

But accountability is not purely a function of structure. More properly, it is a function of relationship. A leader cannot sustain a modeling relationship for long if he is a phony! A follower will tolerate flawed reality, but not phony perfectionism. Effective role-modeling presupposes close relationships and therefore serves as a protection to both leader and follower.