Eight years ago, I read Robert Greenleaf’s seminal book, The Power of Servant Leadership. When I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. Quite frankly, that book took my breath away (and still does). I have tried to read everything and anything on servant leadership since that time, and all of it has served to sharpen my leadership focus and teaching. I was surprised to find that most of the books on servant leadership were not written by church leaders, but rather business leaders. This surprised me, since I knew that Jesus initiated the servant leadership message. Yet somehow the servant leadership message had escaped or circumvented the church. I determined at that point to introduce or reintroduce the message wherever and whenever possible.
To do this, I’ve reflected on what the Bible and Jesus had to say about servant leadership. More importantly, I studied what Jesus did as a servant leader. Here are some of my findings:
1. Jesus had no official title or position. He was called rabbi, which means teacher, yet he had no synagogue that he used as a base. He was an itinerate teacher in His three years of ministry work.
2. Jesus built no organization. Jesus had followers, but He never tried to formalize His network. He was content to teach, travel, heal and train leaders.
3. Jesus did not recruit followers to a paid position. Instead, Jesus recruited people to fulfill their purpose. He never promised a salary or benefits, yet He never apologized to anyone for calling them to do what they were created to do. Jesus never recruited anyone through guilt or manipulation, but through love.
4. Jesus was content to teach and model. Jesus influenced people by what He taught and how He lived. He did everything He could to deflect attention from Himself to God the Father. Jesus never put pressure on anyone to follow Him. In fact, He discouraged some who wanted to do so. He sent them home to live their lives and share their testimony of He had helped them.
5. Jesus never clarified who He was. When people asked Jesus who He was, He asked them, “Who do you think I am?” He never took time to defend Himself from false accusations, but stayed focused on His purpose.
I determined after reading Greenleaf's book and studying Jesus' life that I wanted to be a servant leader. And that has led me to evaluate my life and make changes that would allow me to do so. But I saw that God began to prepare me for servant-leadership a long time ago. I’ve never had a high position in any organization. When I was a pastor, I was happiest traveling and teaching. I now have an organization that allows me to teach through my books, personal appearances and website, but there are no employees. The purpose message has influenced many and I believe that the best is yet to come. But I have done all this without a title or formal team and I believe I was able to do it all because of my decision to become a servant-leader like (but certainly not equal to) my Lord and Master.