Serve to Lead

Servant leadership means long hours of doing the tasks you thought you could delegate to someone else.  Being a leader requires being faithful with menial tasks, in order to achieve God’s large scale vision, and the bigger the platform, the greater the responsibility of leading as a servant first.  Servant leadership creates a lifelong inspiration and desire to put others first, honor commitment, and often is not the glitzy choice.  Look at King David – when Samuel anointed David, before he was called as the harp player to Saul, he went back to tending his sheep (1 Samuel 16:19).  He didn’t run around proclaiming he was the new King, he continued to be patient and carried onward with the daily mundane task of being a servant, finding joy in where God asked him to serve.  He did these tasks until he took over the kingship, in God’s timing.  I am reminded that servant leadership starts and ends with the conditions of our HEART (yes, there is an acronym for that!).  Let me show you what I mean:


We need to approach ministry in humility. The word “humility” itself means to have a modest view of our own importance.  To take it a step further, Strong’s Greek defines humility (tapeinophrosýnē ) as living in complete dependence on the Lord, i.e. with no reliance on self (the flesh). Charles Swindol nails this in his book on the character of King David: “You have a servant’s heart, you’re humble.  You do as you are told.  You don’t rebel.  You respect those in charge.  You serve faithfully and quietly”.  This means you do as much behind the scenes, as in the spotlight.


Enthusiasm is defined as intense and eager enjoyment, interest or approval.  The Greek word for it is zelos, which literally translates “bubbling, burning over, like a pot of water”.  So, like a pot of water, we need to be enthusiastic about what Jesus is doing in our own lives, before we can translate that into those we lead.  If you’re not excited about the work of Jesus in your life, how can you lead others?  Servant leaders find enthusiasm in the small joys of serving Christ.


As a servant leader, what is your attitude?  If you are up in front of people, do you give God glory, or do you bring the spotlight to yourself?  One on one, do you elevate God first in your conversation, or yourself? As a mentor, do you go to God first before you offer life changing advice to someone else?  Is our attitude one of honoring our commitments to serve, or do you flake out last minute because something more appealing came along? Our human tendency is to want glory and time for ourselves, and offer our scraps to God.  We need to reverse our attitude to be that of Jesus – Seek God first, serve, and then be equipped to lead.  


If we have a joyful, thriving relationship with Jesus behind the scenes, where others can’t see, it will pour into other people.  We will want to be in relationship with those we lead as well as those we serve.  Our heart will hurt when they hurt. We will ask for God to remind us throughout the day to pray for them.  If strife occurs, a relationship will allow for the issue to be worked out, not set aside.


Trust is mutual, however, it does have to start somewhere.  Servant leaders trust those whom they engage in ministry.  I remember being entrusted with teaching one hundred grade one and two kids, at eighteen, with no children or husband of my own.  I was given a goal (to teach them all sixty six books of the Bible in order), and told to be creative.  Being trusted with a part of ministry to “own” is the greatest way to show servant leadership, and to cultivate new leaders. It means setting up team members to succeed, while serving and nurturing our team.

Jesus was onto something when He took the water basin and washed the feet of the disciples in John 13.  He knew servant leadership would bring our heart the ultimate joy.  By leaving his throne in Heaven, He served God, and then others, with the end goal of bringing all people to God.

Charles Swindol sums it up, the true reflection of the HEART of a servant leader. He writes: “A servant has one great goal, and that is to make the person he serves look better, to make that person even more successful. A servant does not want the person (s) he serves to fail.  A servant doesn’t care who gets the glory, just so the job gets done.”  Charles Swindol (David: A Man of Passion and Destiny. Page 8, emphasis mine). 



By Anna Koehn

Anna loves the current state of daily chaos in her life – being a working wife and stay at home mom to four (most days awesome) kids.  When not wiping noses, bums, or answering emails, Anna loves serving at Maple Ridge Baptist Church with women and children. Walking along side moms and young women, and drawing them intentionally to a thriving relationship with Christ in the confusing, complicated and busy times of their lives is Anna’s passion. Nathan and Anna have been married for 12 years and live in Maple Ridge BC.  They are parents to four kids – Katelyn (7), Caleb (5), Cecilia (4) and Hannah (2) who all provide lots of material and stories to share.

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