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CENTERBOARD: Wanted — Servant Leaders

January 2010
By: Tom Lothamer
"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 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 your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:25-28

I've had the privilege of serving on various boards over the years and observing others in action. Some are harmonious while others are dysfunctional. What explains the difference? In a word, servanthood.

Executive boards are made up of individuals. To the extent each member walks closely with the Lord will, in part, determine the overall character of a board (and, consequently, the success or failure of a ministry).

What attitudes are represented on your board? Do your members display smugness or humility? ("I have a lot to offer because of my expertise" vs. "I offer myself as a sacrifice to the cause of Christ and this ministry.") Compare the leadership styles of King Saul and Moses. Which style characterizes your board as a whole, and members individually? Which do you resemble? How does one become a servant leader?

Years ago, I worked with former BFL executive director Ray Paget to develop a workshop based on Philippines 2 entitled The Quest for Servant Leadership. First, servant leadership requires a Ministry Mindset. Philippians 2:2 says, "Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind." The servant leader . . .

Knows the divine resources personally, is a believer in Jesus Christ, and is a student of the Word of God.

Is compassionate to the human needs represented and has a sensitive spirit.

Is willing to become a channel of God's resources and doesn't consider himself/herself a reservoir of God's blessings. (Ministry takes place when divine resources meet human needs through loving channels to the glory of God.)

Gives God the glory for every opportunity. It's all about Jesus and His call on our lives.
Second, servant leadership requires a Ministry Method. Philippians 2:3 says, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." The servant leader . . .

Understands that he or she is a distributor, not a manufacturer, of God's riches. (The mentality of a "manufacturer" places the emphasis on one's own abilities and talents, not on God's grace, for accomplishment.)

Recognizes that it is God who supplies everything needed for ministry.

Understands that his/her mission is to be a servant engaged in building God's Kingdom, not his or her own kingdom.
Third, servant leadership requires a Ministry Model. Philippians 2:4-5 says, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus." The servant leader . . .

Has serving Jesus, not just other people, as his/her primary focus.

Depends on God's eternal principles and unchanging promises.

Understands that Christian service is not based on feelings, but rather upon obedience.

Understands that Christian service is not aimed at self-satisfaction, but rather on following the example of our Savior's self-sacrifice.
As a Christian leader, I'm responsible to humbly serve the Lord. I seek His will for my life and for the ministry where I'm called to serve. As incongruous as it sounds — and as opposite the world's style of leadership as it may be — servant leadership calls me to submit my will to that of my team members, to see that they have what they need to perform their tasks in order to fulfill the mission of the organization. Together we'll work to discern the Lord's plan for ministry and carry it out for His glory and for the sake of the Gospel (Philippines 1:27).

My goal is to be that type of leader in 2010 and beyond. I invite you to join me in the quest of true servant leadership. The Apostle Paul's prayer in Philippians 1:9-11 is relevant: "And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."

As 2010 begins, we're all aware of the uncertainty of the times. Now more than ever, we need godly servant leadership at the helm of Christian ministries. A ministry will rise or fall based on the quality of leadership exhibited by its board and staff.

Tom Lothamer is President of Life Matters Worldwide in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

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