Mark 10:43-45 (NKJV) 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
We have been looking at leadership as taught by the greatest leader to ever live, Jesus Christ. In these verses, he gives us the foundation upon which great leadership is built. By his definition, great leadership flows from a heart to serve. He said to 12 men who were disputing over who would be the greatest among them that if they wanted to be great they had to serve one another.
I believe one of the main keys in Jesus’ words is the very pointed and practical direction he gave them. It is easy to say we are servants, even servant leaders. Jesus required that they show it to each other. If we are to be great in the Kingdom of God, we must find practical ways to serve each other. This is not an option. Jesus made it the primary thing great leaders must do.
In the kingdom of God, the local church is the place we must begin to practice serving. In John 13:35 Jesus is once again talking to his disciples. This time he is talking about how they should love one another. Love and servant hood cannot be separated. He tells his disciples that the world will know we are Jesus’ disciples when they see how we love one another. They will recognize that love by our servant hood to one another in the church. This is vital to evangelism in the world.
Jesus equated his own leadership with servant hood. In verse 45 he says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” People followed Jesus. They did what he told them to do. Yet his identity was not that of a dominating person. He was the ultimate servant and that is what caused people to follow him so readily. We must recognize that serving does not weaken our leadership, it strengthens it.
As Jesus begins his discussion on servant hood he tells these twelve men that it is desirable that they want to be great in the Kingdom of God. The New Living Translation uses the term “leader” instead of great. It is not wrong to want to be a leader in the Kingdom of God. In verse 44 he tells us it is alright for us to desire to be first. I want to be the best leader among all the leaders I know. How do I become that?
We know that the bible does not condone competition between believers in the worldly sense of the word.
2 Corinthians 10:12 (NKJV) 12 For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
Paul tells us here that to compare ourselves with each other is not wise. When I look at someone else and desire to be better than they are I will create unhealthy competition. I must outdo them to be better than them. Jesus does permit a different kind of competition.
Once I establish servant hood in my life, whatever kind of leadership I am called to will arise naturally. Jesus goes further with the twelve men he is speaking to. He says it is valid for each of them to desire to be first. How can any of them desire to be first and it not become a comparison of their relative gifts and strengths? Jesus tells us. “And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.”
No one would equate slavery with leadership. Jesus is setting down a completely different criterion for leadership. Servant hood is the pathway to great leadership. Slavery is the pathway to becoming a leader of leaders. What is the difference.
A servant has a choice. He or she can choose to serve or choose not to serve. A slave has no choice. If we want to be the greatest leader among other leaders we must make serving our whole life. The “number 1” leader has no choice. He or she is bound to serve all who are under him or her.
This brings to mind an Old Testament custom. There was a type of servant hood that did not come with a choice. One Israelite might be bound to another. Most often this would be because of a debt. No Israelite could enslave another, but they could require a period of servant hood until the debt was paid. If the one who served loved his master and loved his servant hood, he could go to the master at the end of his time and ask to become a “love slave.”
This type of slavery was not forced upon anyone. It was a choice made because of love for the one being served. I believe that is what Jess is talking about here. If we so love the ones we serve and if we love our servant hood we choose servant hood as our life. We take all choice out of the equation. We become love slaves. This is the path to the highest kind of leadership. Everyone who chooses the ministry as his profession is choosing to be a love slave.
We might say, “Yes I choose to be a love slave to Jesus.” That is what you do when you receive him as Lord and savior. Every Christian is a love slave to Jesus. He is the Lord of the church. The degree you submit to his Lordship over your will and your choices, is the degree of success you will have as a Christian. That is not what it takes to be the “number 1” leader.
Jesus is talking about becoming a love slave to the ones we serve. If I want to be the greatest leader in my church I must take servant hood as my identity and my lifestyle. I give up the right to choose if I will serve. I serve. That is all there is to it. That is not always easy to walk out and at times we will fail. Nevertheless, if we want to be first, that is the only way to get there in the will of God.
This is the competition that Jesus calls us to. We are completely free to compete in out serving everyone else in the church. We are free to become loves slaves to our brothers and sisters. When we do that, what position we end up with becomes unimportant. Should we become the leader of leaders, we will have the right heart. We will understand that we lead by serving those under us not by “lording it over them.” Our motivations and our attitudes will be right. Jesus will be able to use us to lead those that we serve into his will and purpose for their lives.
All of this goes against the way of the world. Do not forget. Jesus is the best leader who ever lived. His leadership has endured the centuries. Learn from him and whatever other insights or techniques come your way, judge them against this standard. Do they make me more or less of a servant? If I use them will they cause me to grow or diminish in servant hood. If they do not enhance servant hood and lead you to slavery, reject them and choose the path Jesus defined as the true way to become a great leader.