In our article “Safe Behavior,” we laid a foundation of safe behavior so that every individual is treated with respect, dignity and worth as a person made in the image of God and loved by Him. In our article “Avoiding Tangled Webs in the Healthy Church Community,” we built on that foundation a structure of healthy communication so that we do not end up with tangled webs of division and competition but handle conflict in the way that Jesus taught us to in Matthew 18: Go directly to the one we have a problem with and resolve it peacefully. In this article, we focus on the importance of servant leadership in creating healthy biblical community.
When Jesus stated that the world sees leaders “lord it over” others, He emphatically stated that it was “not so with you” and explained that those who would be a leader are to be a servant to all (Mark 10:41–45). This is an inversion of the world’s hierarchical system, as biblical leadership follows the model that Jesus gave us in which the leader not only has followers but also carries them on his or her shoulders, which is not surprisingly shown to be the most effective model of leadership.
The healthiest congregations are not measured by their size or even by the number of “sinner’s prayers” that are said. Health is measured by the maturity of the disciples who are increasingly willing to lay down their lives for others, which reflects the character of Jesus Christ.
This servant-like humility is shown by the social sciences to be the most effective type of leadership as well. Jim Collins, in his book “Good to Great,” studied effective organizations and found that the most effective are led by what he describes as a “Level 5 leader.” This leader is one who is humble and serves his or her team by finding the right position for each team member so that everyone succeeds.
Similarly, in his teaching on “Tribal Leadership,” Dave Logan found that the most effective person in the creation of a movement is not the person who gathers everyone around himself or herself, but rather the one who is adept at connecting others for their and the organization’s mutual advancement — and then stepping out of the way.
In both of these discoveries, the teachings of Jesus are reinforced. That Jesus’ teachings are true in business and social movements is not a surprise, but the many incidences in which the church often chooses to use a hierarchical structure instead should be considered to be not only a surprise but also a problem to be addressed and rectified. Consider how your congregation is organized. It is not obvious at first glance. The central question is this: Does the pastor see his or her primary responsibility as that of helping staff pastors and lay leaders find their place of influence and service, who then help the congregational members find their places of influence and service, all for the sake of serving Jesus, the larger community and the world, or does the organization seem to serve the advancement of the pastor’s position or place of influence? Do the staff and leadership serve the pastor and strive to please him or her, or do they lay down their lives in service to their congregation so that together all may answer God’s call for servanthood? If it is not clear in which direction the congregation is focused, in service to the pastor or in service to the community, then perhaps it would be helpful to have a discussion about this as a congregation.
Prayerfully seek God’s guidance in how to become a servant leader as Jesus modeled for us with His disciples.
Denny Wayman is the lead superintendent of the Free Methodist Church in Southern California and the senior pastor of the Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara. Cheryl Wayman is a licensed therapist and the director of counseling ministries at the Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara.
DISCUSSION: Consider for yourself (or as a group) how you see yourself in the life of the church. Are you a servant leader, who uses your position and influence to help others find their place and voice in God’s kingdom?  Have you found ways to lay down your life for those you serve?  Do you expect others to serve you or fulfill your agenda? 0