Not the number of one’s servants, but the number whom one serves, is the heavenly criterion of greatness and the real preparation for leadership. Oswald Sanders
What is Biblical leadership? Everyone seems to know these days and yet no one seems to know. All of us who must occupy a place of leadership know that our feet are of clay and our heart can be deceitful. We can teach others about leadership but, like teaching on prayer and God’s will, it is the easiest thing to speak about and the hardest thing to do. We find ourselves in the conundrum of being an example to others yet desiring to be but a servant only to God. How can we keep our heads about us in a world of ambition, strife, and selfishness?
The pressure around us
The church leader today has truly caught the spirit of the age. Ministry has become a business whose success is measured by one’s ability to build a church, to double a budget, to attract a crowd. Happiness matters more than truth, relationship more than discipleship, entertainment more than atonement, and invitation to speak more than necessity to preach.
Every day brings the pressure to be great, to measure up to what the world around us expects. Even our peers in ministry evaluate us on the basis of what we can produce, not on our walk with God. Sometimes even parents, siblings, and children, can project unspoken expectations of success. If that is not enough, each one of us has an ego large enough to fill an auditorium, and we often do just that. Even our own people can be discouraged at the lack of success and become discouraged in the work.
Yet we are not ignorant of Satan’s devices. He would sift us as wheat, devour us as a roaring lion, take us captive at his will. He would have us build a legacy to ourselves in this life, a trophy case that others will see after we’re gone, rather than to desire a crown in heaven that fades not away.
The Biblical admonition
The pressures from the Scripture are great and rightly weigh upon us. We are called of God to this leadership not of our own will for we might have chosen another occupation; we are given the gifts of pastor, teacher, preacher, evangelist with little natural ability in either; we are evaluated with a list of qualifications that begin with the word “must” and yet we are warned not to be lords over God’s heritage; we are called angels, or messengers, who must herald God’s message and yet we know we are as Moses in ability, hardly able to speak.
At the same time the Word thrusts us into leadership, it also casts us into servitude. We must decrease if He is to increase; we must be spilled out as an evening sacrifice; we must make ourselves of no reputation; we must have this treasure in earthen vessels; and we must not strive, but be gentle unto all men. We must let the mind be in us which was in the meekness and gentleness Christ.
The personal conviction
It should be the office that seeks the man, and not the man the office. We have responded to a calling without knowing what price we would need to pay. We have a commission that expands to the whole world; we have made ourselves debtor, ready, and unashamed of the gospel we preach; we are working for a crown of glory that fades away in this life but not in the next; we persuade men because of the fear of God and yet must be unmoved by their refusal; we will fight a good fight, finish our course, and keep the faith, and know that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty only through God. We will continue to fight to bring every thought into obedience to Christ.
The only foundation
The only foundation for our ministry, the only source of our belief, the only authority for our message, is the written Word of God. We know that in the end we have no other basis for what we do. We may unwisely appeal to personal vision, prophetic unction, or even apostolic authority, but all of these are merely human supposition. When we stand before our Lord, we will have no other reason for our actions, no other authority for our ministry than what was once delivered to the saints, a more sure Word than that of prophecy. Sure, we may see it differently than another man who has the same book, but the Word is unchanging and has been for two thousand years. We may change, but Scripture never! In the end it will judge us, not us it.
The bottom line
Servant leadership! A leader but yet a servant. “O man of God,” was Paul’s address to young Timothy. God has counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry. But I am His servant and that is all. I have no rights of my own when it comes to the stewardship of His house. I am not a man of the world, I am a man of God, His bonded slave, His sole property. It is only required in stewards that a man be found faithful. And praise the Lord for that!