LCN Article
What is Servant Leadership?

July / August 1999

Roderick C. Meredith (1930-2017)

One of the vital themes I have emphasized over the last several years is Servant Leadership. It is a concept and a practice that I hope we can continue to implement in the Living Church of God. “But,” some continue to ask, “what is Servant Leadership?  And how can we practice it?”

In all human history, the best example of Servant Leadership is that of Jesus Christ. He had been with the Father from eternity. He had awesome glory, power and majesty. As the “Word” or Spokesman for the Father, it was His voice that said: “Let there be LIGHT” (Genesis 1:3). At the very throne of God, He was surrounded by indescribable beauty and majesty. Over 100 million angels were there, worshipping and praising Him and the Father (Revelation 5:11–12).

Yet, since the Word and the Father had decided to bring millions of human beings into Their Family, this great Being was willing to “empty” Himself—as the Greek word is correctly translated in Philippians 2:7. He took the “form of a SERVANT.” Then, “being found in appearance as a man, He HUMBLED Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (v. 8).

As the second Person in the God Family, from eternity, He had been best able to serve us by acting for the Father in creating us, guiding our ancestors in ancient Israel as the Spokesman and “Rock” of Israel (1 Corinthians 10:4) and in inspiring the Old Testament prophets to teach and warn the people and to write the Hebrew Bible. But the Levitical system of the Old Testament NEVER fully reconciled rebellious humanity to God. It never made possible the giving of the Holy Spirit. It never made possible the needed CHANGE in our very nature.

So what did this great Being DO—this Logos or Spokesman for God and the One who had been with the Father from eternity? Did He argue and complain and say: “I am NOT going down to the earth and let those puny human beings persecute Me, curse Me and finally beat and crucify Me! No way! That’s not fair and I won’t put up with it!”

Can you imagine your Savior talking like that?

No, of course not. The One who became Jesus now saw that the best way He could SERVE these potential sons of God was to give up all of His divine glory and DIE! So He did just that. He willingly “emptied” Himselfof the transcendent glory, power and majesty which He had shared sitting at the Father’s right hand. And He allowed Himself to be placed with-in the human flesh, not only to die for us, but to set us an EXAMPLE of the way humans ought to live, to act and to interact with one another.

In the human flesh, Jesus “gave” of Himself all day long. He lovingly and patiently taught, He healed, He blessed, He encouraged, He SERVED. When Jesus knelt down and washed the feet of His disciples at the last Passover, they may have been puzzled over the meaning of this act but were certainly not shocked. For Jesus must have been helping them constantly in physical as well as spiritual matters throughout His ministry.

Jesus had very clearly taught His disciples: “Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your SERVANT. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to SERVE, and to GIVE His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26–28).

Dear brethren, if you, each of you, see that you can better SERVE your brethren, and the people in the world whom we must “witness” to, and God Himself by taking a certain action—then you should take that action. You should constantly be thinking of better ways to give,to help, to serve—REGARDLESS of any title or immediate reward that may come your way. THIS is Servant Leadership!

Some can serve the most by playing or singing special music. Some can serve best by performing the physical duties of ushering, passing out song books, serving in the hall kitchen or parking lot, etc. Others may truly serve more by simply being a loving and encouraging friend to other members in visiting with them before and after services, writing or calling them when they are home sick and other things of this nature. All of us can serve by fervent, heart-felt PRAYER for our brethren, for the Church at large and for the Work we have all been called to perform.

Remember the Apostle Paul’s inspiring account of Epaphras who served in this way: “Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis” (Colossians 4:12–13).

In all these things, however, the emphasis must be on serving—NOT on pleasing the self or exalting the self or seeking a bigger “position.” A loving father may actually best “serve” his feisty little son by giving him a few whacks on the behind! For God says in Proverbs 13:24: “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.”

A loving minister—IF he is doing it to serve—may best express Servant Leadership at times by CORRECTING the brethren over some continuing sin or problem. This may NOT always be “politically correct,” but it will be carrying out Servant Leadership if done in that spirit and if it is truly necessary! After all, God the Father, no doubt the greatest SERVANT in the entire Universe “spanks” all of us from time to time. “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6).

But all of us—ministers and layman alike—must constantly humble the self through God’s Spirit, and try to be sure that we are genuinely motivated by a spirit of SERVICE in whatever we do. If we have to take a lower position for a time—as even the Son of God did—in order to better serve, let us graciously do this and THANK GOD for the opportunity. If we are NEVER rewarded with some big position or title within God’s Church, we still may be WAY AHEAD of those folks who are always pushing for position, power and prestige!

For the great CREATOR of us all has this to say: “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and HUMBLE SPIRIT, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would fail before Me, and the souls which I have made’” (Isaiah 57:15–16).

God is watching and God is “testing” the attitudes of every one of us! He wants to know IF we are truly learning the lessons of Servant Leadership. Are we willing to take the “lowest seat” if that works out better and helps us serve more? Are we constantly thinking about how we can best use our talents, our time and our resources to better SERVE others and to prepare for the Kingdom of God?

John, the beloved Apostle, tells us: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). Let each of us in the Living Church of God learn to “lay down our lives” for one another in all of our thoughts, our prayers and our actions. Let us be truly be motivated by a spirit of giving, helping, serving and encouraging one another. Then, without doubt, we will be granted entrance into our Father’s everlasting Kingdom which will be totally based on that spirit of LOVE, kindness, patience, service and profound JOY.