Servant Leadership

Steve Hayward recently led a post-service discussion of “Reclaiming Jesus,” a lengthy statement from a wide range of theologians subtitled “A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis.”  There is a good deal of food for thought there, but I was particularly drawn to the notion of leadership as servanthood.  The statement postulates that “Christ’s way of leadership is servanthood, not domination.”  It goes on to quote Jesus saying “whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.” Quite a concept—simple yet profound.  And hardly reflective of behavior prevalent in our world today.

I had this a bit on my mind the other day while at Burnt Cove Market, where I was on a mundane errand, picking up eight boxes of extra large pizza for a function I was shortly to attend.  The boxes were big and heavy and cumbersome.  As fellow Burnt Cove pizza buyers know, the pizza department is all the way to the rear of the store; the checkout counter all the way to the front.  So I had a bit of a challenge.  The best I could do was to balance the eight boxes on a grocery cart and carefully roll them up to the checkout counter. 

I did make it safely up to the counter, and as I was paying for the pizzas, I heard a young boy’s voice behind me: “I want to help him.”  The next thing I knew this ten year old boy and his dad came up to me, gathered up the boxes and led me out to my car where they put them safely in the front seat protected by the seat belt.

A simple and brief encounter which suffused me with feelings, gratitude obviously enough, but more than that—a sense of the sublime value of servanthood.  Imagine how differently I would have felt had I commandeered the boy and his father to help me—grateful still, but not with the depth that this spontaneous encounter engendered.

So, what is the value of this encounter beyond the moment? What can I learn from it? If I had seen someone in my situation, would I have stepped in like the boy did?  Maybe.  Hopefully, yes.  But beyond that, how can I live more fully into the idea that “leadership is servanthood?”  How can I think more about my neighbor, my friend, my acquaintance, and less about myself?

And perhaps there are lessons for our church community as well.  Indeed, how can we as a church community think less about ourselves and more about the community in which we are situated?  How can we replicate that boy’s call: “how can I help him?”

Far easier said than done, I know.  But worth thinking about.

Woody Osborne

To comment on this post, click on the title above.

Comments Policy: We ask that your comments be kind, nonpolitical, and on-topic.  We reserve the right to delete comments that are divisive or hurtful.  Thank you for your willingness to contribute in a positive way.