Biblical Models of Servant Leadership

Topics: Jesus, Gospel of Matthew, Leadership Pages: 36 (13234 words) Published: May 1, 2012



There are basic attitudes which we see in the lives of those whom God called to servant leadership in the Bible. These include a serving attitude where the leader sees his[1] primary responsibility to those whom he leads as to serve and develop them to fulfill their God-given mandate. The leader serves by putting on a redeeming attitude, like Moses and Joshua. In other words he takes responsibility for those he leads, recognizing needs and reaching out to meet those needs rather than positioning himself for power and prestige. We see these virtues demonstrated by Jesus. His life was completely lived to serve the course of the Father through reaching out to the disciples. He trained and gave them confidence to move into leadership and do even greater tasks (John 14:12-14). This chapter takes a look at a few Biblical models in the enterprise of servant leadership considering the principles they used. The Old Testament identifies two main servants of the Lord: Israel and the promised Messiah (Isaiah 49; 50; 52:13f; 53). God showed that to be named a servant is to be recognized as one whom God has shaped with special care and for whom God is personally committed. We see both these themes in Isaiah 44:1-2. As we look at the leaders God called and used, it becomes evident that a covenant relationship was involved. It is this same attitude we see in Jesus who Himself was the greatest Servant of all. For Jesus, “leaders are servants who stoop to minister from the servant’s position and bring cleansing to the body of our Lord.”[2]

1. Moses and Joshua: The Preparation of Servant Leadership

Preparation is considered an important aspect of any endeavor in order for the fulfillment of a successful enterprise; in particular, the business of leadership built upon principles of servant leadership. Jesus referred to it as “counting the cost,” or the “taking up of one’s cross” as a reference to considering the consequences of the task ahead (Luke 9:23). Suffice it to say that few are willing to take the slow path of preparation and so face the temptation of choosing to cut corners and move ahead to the next rung of taking up leadership responsibility even without being prepared. It is in Midian that Moses received his preparation to serve in leadership. His sphere of preparation being found in the shepherding of Jethro’s flock agrees with “the literature of the Near Ancient East and later” that says “the role of the shepherd symbolizes leadership…and shepherding is considered a training ground for those destined to lead.”[3] On the other hand, Moses’ humble beginning that resulted in a drastic change in his early status from a slave‘s house to the palace (Exodus 2:1-10; Acts 7:20-22) may have had a drastic effect upon his personality. He grew up to be the proud child of the Pharaoh (Exodus 2:10), yet in his heart burnt the Hebrew love (Exodus 2:11-12)! But considering the way and manner he went about, one can not help but notice he needed to be prepared for the task ahead (Exodus 2:11-15). Moses thought he was doing God’s will in God’s own way when took the initiate to defend the poor Hebrew slave by killing the Egyptian (Exodus 2:11-12)! It only led to confusion and failure. He realized that “people can not be managed; people must be led.”[4] His willful defiance could not attract him a followership from his Hebrew brethren until he showed deep respect for their aspiration for deliverance forty years later. Notice that he believed himself to be the deliverer, many years before he received his commissioning at the burning bush. “He assumed everyone else would realize it, too. He thought all he had to do was start the ball rolling and the Hebrews would rally around him, hailing him as their champion.”[5] If defining a leader includes people following him, then certainly at this...
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