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Servant Leader or Leading Servant - Part Two

*Michael is the manager of a small, country hotel tucked away in the beautiful New Forest. He arrives early each morning and works hard. He can often be seen behind the front desk checking in customers. Or waiting on guests in the dining room. Sometimes, he joins the sous-chef and cuts vegetables and even makes beds with the chambermaids. His staff love him. He rarely takes an afternoon off, preferring to do paperwork when the hotel’s quiet.

*Jimmy runs a similar-sized hotel in the New Forest. He chats with arriving guests, charms them while they’re having lunch or dinner, but he spends most of his time either on the phone conducting sales calls or training his staff.

He never cuts vegetables or makes beds. Nor does he wait on tables.

Jimmy plays tennis in the afternoon and leaves on time.

Michael is feeling rundown.

Jimmy’s profits have been going up.

Michael’s hotel is struggling.

A business might not be a church but there is a message in here, surely. So let’s deal with that oft-used business slogan – Don’t work hard, work smart! Is this about ‘working smart?’

Perhaps. But in a church setting, this is about a lot more than ‘smart working.’ This has to do with the very definition of ‘spiritual leadership.’

Why do church leaders burn out?

What drives a church leader?

Why do long hours worked by church leaders so often lead to a sense of dissatisfaction?

Something’s going wrong here. And this short blog post isn’t going to fix it, of course. But if you’re one of those trying to figure out why your long hours aren’t ‘working for you,’ then here’s the beginning of an answer. Two words.

Equipping and releasing.

Ephesians 4.11-12 is a key text for spiritual leadership: So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

To equip his people.

One of the chief temptations of all leaders is to ‘do it for others.’ After all, shouldn’t I be serving alongside my people? Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do? First, there is nothing in here which prohibits a leader from serving ‘alongside his people.’ The genius of the Bible, though, is that its wisdom goes to the root. On leadership, rather than being prescriptive and narrow, it simply highlights a broad principle. Ephesians 4.12 addresses the primary goal of a leader.

Leaders are there to equip God’s people for works of service. That’s it.

If your congregation is not ‘being equipped,’ then something’s not right. The Lord knows each and every circumstance that a church leader faces. So if you’re a church leader, he knows what you’re facing. And he doesn’t ask the impossible.

Equip your people. Then release them.

There’s no point in equipping them if they have no opportunities for using the gifts and knowledge they’ve gained. So that means you’ll have to trust them. It will also mean you won’t be the centre of attention.

But of course there is so much more to this discussion. So this week, I’m handing over to Paul Coulter, whose wise words will take you much further than I can here. Here’s the second part of his article on servant leadership . . . or leading servants. Click here.

*Names have been changed, but their experiences are ‘based on a true story.’


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