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Servant Leadership

Luke 22:24-27 

 

And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. [25] And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' [26] "But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. [27] "For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves. 
 

For fifteen years, prior to coming to this ministry position, I devoted significant amounts of time to equipping people for the Pastoral ministry. I taught in Seminary Extension in Palm Desert, California and Turlock, California and was an Adjunct professor at Trinity Southwest in Albuquerque, New Mexico while I pastored there. When I moved here, I made a strategic decision to stop training people in Pastoral leadership and refocus my efforts to training lay leaders. I have continued to write for professional journals and to provide resources for over 2000 Pastors a week through my Internet websites, but by and large my writing ministry and teaching ministry has made a dramatic shift when I moved here from training the clergy to training lay leaders.

In talking with our church leaders here, I came to believe that I could have a greater impact for the Kingdom by moving to The Monterey Peninsula and pastoring a church that trains lay leaders for churches around the world. We do not develop leaders for our church, we develop them for churches around the world. Because there is a steady flow of people coming through the church, we have a unique calling and a unique opportunity. Now, I don't want you to think that I brought this vision to this church. The vision was here before I arrived. It was a vision God gave this church years ago and it was a vision He gave me when He appointed me to be your Pastor. It wasn't a new vision for you, but it was a new vision for me. As I said, prior to moving here, I focused on training clergy, not laymen. 

We've made some strategic changes to facilitate this vision. For one, we've nurtured a multi-generational, multi-ethnic church. We are cutting against the grain of the conventional wisdom of the Church Growth movement. It says that to be effective, we need to target an age group and sculpt our ministry and programs to meet their unique needs. Instead, we've fostered "intentional dissatisfaction" among our membership. We've said, that we don't want to build a church where just the old or just the young attend. But we want our church to include everyone. Because we are multi-generational, we know that no one group of people will like everything that goes on in our church. As I often say, "If you like everything that is going on in our church, you're not paying attention." Because not every program, service and ministry was designed with you or your age group in mind. We don't ask you to like everything we do, just to support the vision of being a church where all generations can attend. Where the young can learn from the old and where Paul can remind Timothy not to despise his youth.

I am convinced that people grow more by being involved in ministry than attending a class so we involve as many people as possible in ministry. The old and the young alike. This is a strategic decision. I know it doesn't foster satisfaction among everyone, but it does give every leader, regardless of age, an opportunity to grow as they serve their Lord. We try to mix up the generations when we form our committees and ministry teams to give the opportunity for cross generational fellowship and provide natural opportunities for mentoring to take place.

But we've also provided some classroom training opportunities. Beyond our traditional Sunday School and pulpit ministries, we've made a substantial innovation in church life. For several months, the retired ministers in our church and I met regularly to discuss how to build leaders. We worked on one question, "how do we develop 'make a difference' Christians?"-the kind of laymen that stand beside their pastor to make a difference in their churches and their world. From those discussions emerged a change that the deacons of the church and the Church Council embraced-Encounter. Today, we have more people gathering on Thursday evenings to receive training than used to attend Sunday Morning when I arrived at the church.

God is blessing our efforts as we work together to build Church leaders. But in recent days, I've begun to question a key component of the philosophy of ministry that guides my life work. For years, I've focused on building leaders, either for the pulpit or the pew, regardless, I've focused on building leaders. Today I question whether that is what I need to be doing. Yes, it is important to be able to run a committee meeting or guide a church to fulfill a vision, but today, I don't believe it is the most important thing I can do with my life or with our church's resources.

Forget about me and us for a minute. Think for a minute about how Jesus spent His time. Did He teach His disciples to be leaders? Think for a minute. Was that the thrust of His parables? What about His sermons? Was that the thrust of His sermons? How about His miracles? Did His miracles result in teaching His disciples to be leaders? To some degree, He did, but He did more than that. 

Jesus taught about being a Kingdom citizen. He called His followers to obedience, sacrifice and a life of service, not just to be leaders. I know that what I'm saying right now isn't in vogue, and perhaps you can prove me wrong, but I'm convinced I'm right about this. And thus comes my own self-evaluation. Is God calling us just to train Christian leaders, or to nurture in each another a radical lifestyle of high character and service to others?

Now there is nothing wrong with developing leaders, it is only wrong if God is calling us to do something else. And I believe He is. He is calling us to make servants out of leaders. Something I've learned by watching you. Whether it is cleaning up after a wedding because the family of the bride and groom failed to live up to their responsibilities, or stocking the food pantry so we can serve hungry people, or moving the furniture around in the fellowship hall to prepare a place for the homeless to sleep when it is our turn to host I-help, or training our young people to run the sound system-our church is filled with leaders who have learned that their callings are to be servants. They are men and women of high character who are willing to do the unglamourous because they love their Lord and His Church.

In the time I've served you, you've rubbed off on me, and I've come to understand that my life mission is not to train church leaders, but to train church servants. In our text today, Jesus doesn't impart leadership secrets to His disciples, instead He tells them to become servants. John's gospel tells us what He does next. Look at John 13:5 "Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded." Jesus didn't wash their feet to teach them a lesson about servant leadership-He washed their feet because He was a servant.

Today, Jerry, we do not ordain you just because we see in you the capacity to be a Church leader-we ordain you because we believe you have the character and the humility to be a Church servant. In the years to come, I'm sure I'll hear how you and your family have impacted Churches around the globe and how your leadership has made a difference. And if I do, to be honest with you, I'll be proud of you. But what I really hope to hear is what a humble servant you are, then I know, that your Lord will be proud of you. And then, I'll know, that we've accomplished our mission and our calling. 

Impact Preaching: A Case for the
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