Yesterday’s post on Initiation generated some excellent discussion among the comments. Thanks. Here’s an insight from Dave G: Well, who we are seems to be dealing with character. Is humble, servant leadership dealing with character? If so, I am ashamed to say that I so often see circles of leaders as “good ole’ boy” clubs where one is entitled to certain perks and levels of respect. I’m sure most people would not say that directly, but it seems to be how we live leadership out in our organization. I would love to hear some thoughts on this.
OK, here you go. New Testament leadership language contrasts greatly with most every culture’s normal perspective. Think about the words we use: I’ve always appreciated being under your leadership. He’s over me. She’s under the HR director. He’s over everyone in this four-state region.
When Jesus was challenged by James and John (and their mom!), two of his closest men, to place them in positions of authority over the other 10, sparks flew. Jesus basically said no.
And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. 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.” (Mark 10:41-45, ESV)
Note that Jesus addresses two types of leaders who rule or exercise authority over: those who are considered leaders, and even their great ones. Christ then turns the org chart upside down and strongly states in contrast: But it shall not be so among you.
I confess I didn’t expect such teaching from the ruler of the universe. Did his words stick? Did the disciples get it?
Fast forward 25 years later. Peter, arguably the most forceful personality among the disciples, whose name showed up first on most of the leadership rosters in the gospels and throughout the New Testament, wrote some great advice to church leaders. Let’s see what Peter said:
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4, ESV)
Yep, I think it stuck.
Lesson for change agents: Take the next 7 days to listen for the leadership language of over/under or among. What do you hear others saying? What do you hear yourself saying?