This topic now draws together the key aspects of being a Christ-centred Servant Leader modelled on the example of Jesus.

Additional Key passages covered in this topic are:

Matthew 12:34-37
Matthew 4:19
Matthew 28:16-20

Christ Centred Servant Leadership

We can now collect together a number of perspectives that begin to describe what Christ-centred Servant leadership is.

  • Take a Moment: What have you learned about leadership modelled on Jesus? Compile your list of Christ-centred Servant leadership characteristics

It’s about Character (Matthew 12:34-37)(Luke 6:45)

Jesus , once more in dialogue with the Pharisees, gives insight into character and outcomes. He shows that all behaviour reflects the condition of the heart, that is, one’s true character.

He makes his point with the analogy of fruit trees. Good fruit is to be found only on good trees and bad fruit on bad trees. In another strong statement he explains: it is “out of the abundance of the heart [that] the mouth speaks” and that “the good person, out of his good treasure brings forth good”.

The controlling factor is our heart, our character. If we are to be leaders modelled on Jesus then we must have hearts that are centred on his servant character. This means that we must willingly and voluntarily submit our character to him that it may be formed by him to be like him. The outcome is a servant heart and as leaders we will be servant leaders considering others before ourselves. In this way as Christians and, in our context,  as Christians who are leaders, we would reflect the Son of God as Paul described him in that amazing passage in Philippians 2.

However, as we have seen, our service is not simply towards others but also towards God as we fulfil our part in his redemptive plan, in the manner to which he calls us. This is the higher purpose that directs us as leaders and in which those we lead are engaged.

The key, therefore, of being a servant leader is the growth of a character that is centred on Christ.

  • Take a Moment: How can our characters be further transformed to be centred on Christ and exhibit greater degrees of Christ-likeness?

  • Take a Moment:  How would you describe Jesus’ relationship with the disciples from the perspective of leadership?

It’s about Relationship and Influence (Matthew 4:19)

When Jesus called the disciples he promised to “make them fishers of men”. This promise invited them into a long term relationship that would transform them from fishers of fish. It’s not a quick a process, it’s not about reading tips in a book or gaining a skill, it was about developing an outlook and attitude – character – and that takes time.

As we read through the gospels we see that Jesus took time and spent time with the disciples. He got to know them and they got to know him. The relationship was close but respectful. They recognised him as their leader and Teacher and eventually, Peter at least recognised him as God incarnate.  Jesus exercised authority but did not impose his will or character upon them; he nurtured and grew the disciples.

He did not lead in the command and control style of the world. Just consider his example compared to that of Nebuchadnezzar for instance. In Daniel 3 we read how he wanted to make people worshipers of his idol. He cared nothing for the people, only himself and he commanded that they worship the idol on pain of death. This is a relationship of oppressive, dictatorial leadership: “Do it or else.”  Jesus, the Son of God, was surely the one man who had the right to exercise such power and authority, but he did not because of his nature. He chose a relationship and he gradually and gently nurtured people so they could fulfil their calling. This was a process of influence.

  • Take a Moment: What in your mind is the difference between control and influence. If you placed them at opposite ends of a scale where would your leadership style fit?

It’s about a common and shared purpose

We see in several places in the Bible expressions of God’s purpose which forms the higher purpose to which all Christians contribute. From Revelation 5: 9&10 we see that when applied to Jesus Christ this is about ransoming and redeeming a people for God, that they might become a Kingdom which serves him, as is fitting. Since the Fall, all of God’s dealing with man have been focussed upon this purpose.

This is the big big-picture and it’s difficult to see from that specifically how we might contribute. We can see from Scripture the role of the Son of God and the Holy Spirit in this but how do ordinary people contribute?

We see in Matthew 4:19 that Simon (Peter) and Andrew, and by implication all the disciples, were called to be fishers of men. Jesus taught them what that meant. His final instruction was the Great Commission recorded in Matthew 28. This was the purpose to which they were called and which they shared.  Paul’s specific  purpose was to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Romans 11).

God tends to call people, as Paul and the Disciples, to fulfil some purpose and he makes that clear to them. This may lead to the development of an organisation and its call and purpose to be captured in a Mission Statement. Teams within that organisation will be asked to achieve specific goals which contribute to the fulfilment of the Mission.  The servant leader’s task is to help each person they lead to understand and engage with that Mission (the common shared purpose) through their specific goals and activities.

This shared purpose and the vision it encapsulates is the destination of the journey that is shared by the leader and those whom he leads.

Enabling Others to Achieve Their Full Potential

The servant leader’s goal is then to enable each individual under their leadership to be able to do what is necessary to achieve the purpose.  Examination of the Gospels shows that Jesus spent much time showing the disciples what to do by modelling it himself as well as teaching,  developing and coaching the disciples so that they were equipped to become the leaders that they would need to be. When they were ready he empowered them to be the people God was calling to them to be. An example of this was sending out the 12 and the 72 (Matthew 10 & Luke 10).

In Psalm 32:8 David is told that God will instruct, teach, guide/counsel him, keeping his eye on him. God promised David that he would impart knowledge (instruct), that he would show him how to use that knowledge (teach) and then be there with him and coach him (guide/counsel). This is how God grows his servants and this is how Jesus grew the disciples. This is the model to be used by Christian leaders who seek to be centred on and imitate Jesus.

Servant Leadership is Self- perpetuating (Matthew 28:16-20)

In “The Great Commission“ (Matthew 28) Jesus commanded the disciples not only to go into all the world but to make disciples, teaching them all that Jesus had taught his disciples. This is a reciprocating, self-perpetuating command. It means, amongst other things, that as Jesus taught the Disciples to be Christ-centred servant leaders, each generation of disciples must do the same for those that they disciple. In other words, servant leaders are to grow more servant leaders.

This is what Jesus did with the Disciples, what Paul did with Timothy and Barnabas did with John Mark. We see in the various epistles that growing people, including leaders, to develop a servant heart was a major concern.

Plainly, not all disciples will be formal leaders of the church in the way that the original disciples became. They may become the leaders of an individual fellowship or a mission organisation, or a team, or a specific project, however small, or occupy a formal leadership position in the secular world.

Also, not all leaders are formal leaders. There are many informal leaders. At some point most people become informal leaders of others, even if it’s only helping the new-person find their way around. Informal leaders, in Christ, need to be as much Christ-centred servants as any other leader, enabling the people they serve to achieve their full potential as they serve a shared and common Kingdom purpose.

  • Take a Moment: What conclusions do you draw about being a Christian leader? What characteristics should you exhibit?