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Servant Leadership

Jesus exemplified servant leadership, the name being coined from this statement, “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26, Today’s New International Version). Lussier and Achua define it as “leadership that transcends self-interest to serve the needs of others, by helping them grow professionally and personally” (Lussier & Achua, 2007, p. 515). The lack of self-interest distinguishes it from transformational leadership (Winston & Patterson, 2005, p. 26).

In challenging the process, enabling others to act or encouraging the heart, the only way to be sure of acting as a servant leader is to be in close communion with God, asking ourselves, “Whose approval are we seeking?” This morning in reading 1 Thessalonians 2, I was struck by these few words “approved by God” (1 Thessalonians 2:4, New Revised Standard Version). Paul’s focus was “pleas[ing] God who tests our hearts” (4b) (Gauvin, 2008).

It must flow from relationship with God because our hearts are not trustworthy (Jeremiah 17:9). Paul struggled (see Romans 7:21-25), as do we. Our only assurance is reliance on God’s grace, not our own efforts. Martin Luther often said we are simultaneously saints and sinners. In Table Talk, he said:

The Holy Scriptures, especially St Paul… ascribe unto Christ that which he gives to the Father, namely, the divine almighty power; so that he can give grace, and peace of conscience, forgiveness of sins, life, victory over sin, and death, and the devil. (Luther, 2004, p. 62)


Holy Bible (1995). The New Revised Standard Version. New York: Division of
Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the
United States of America.

Holy Bible (2005). Today’s New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Gauvin, I. (2008, April 16). Kix, Politics, & Approval. Retrieved April 16, 2008,

(Lussier R N Achua C F 2007 Leadership Theory, Application, Skill Development)Lussier, R. N., & Achua, C. F. (2007). Leadership Theory, Application, Skill
(3rd ed.). Mason, OH: Thomson South-Western.

(Luther M 2004 Table Talk)Luther, M. (2004). Table Talk [Electronic version]. Grand Rapids: Christian
Classics Ethereal Library.

(Winston B E Patterson K 2005 An Integrative Definition of Leadership)Winston, B. E., & Patterson, K. (2005). An Integrative Definition of Leadership.
Working paper. Regent University School of Leadership Studies.

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steve martin said…
An excellent Law/Gospel posting!

Jesus commands us to love one another, to become lowly servants, to forsake our own wants and desires for the sake of others.

How are we doing? Are we doing all we can, or are we merely tipping our hats at Jesus once in awhile for appearences sake?

That's the full force. It exposes us. It condemns us.

But then the word of the gospel comes..."you are forgiven"..."I love you"..."you are mine". "...neither do I condemn you...go your way and sin no more."

I think real leadership is to lead people towards both words. Towards the Law and towards the Gospel, that they may be encountered by the One, the only One, that gives authentic life.

Thanks Ivy! Keep up the good work!

- Steve Martin
Ivy said…
Thank you, Steve. I consider that high praise indeed. And you've been posting some great stuff on your site as well. You keep up the good work. God bless.
steve martin said…
Awww shucks...

Thanks Ivy!
sheri said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ivy said…
This comment has been removed by the author.

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