In an age where there is a tendency toward hierarchal language like “apostles” or “fathers” we need to be reminded that servanthood is true mark of a Christian leader. We need passionate and capable leaders to step into key roles in city-reaching efforts, but they will find no one is following them if they see it is an elite position.
Your typical pastor can smell a desire for promotion from a mile away. The “Diotrephes” spirit which drives someone to strive for pre-eminence will kill any cooperative effort. Fortunately working on city-wide efforts doesn’t often attract this kind of motivation. City-reaching leadership teams do not have the levers of power and control that many other organizations use. Everyone coming to the table does so of their own free will and hopefully motivated by a desire for the common good and cause of Christ. In most cases all participants are volunteers, and even where there is some remuneration it is usually far below the going rate
It’s sadly true that I have seen a few examples of pastors who thought getting involved in a city-wide effort was their ticket to influence and fame. The biggest challenge for these “wannabes” is that when you are working with many other leaders, they also know the temptation for power and they avoid those who have succumbed to it. In almost all cases they didn’t last too long. Because it takes too long to see steady progress. Collaboration is hard work, when you really strive to get churches and Christian ministries to find ways to labour together. It’s not a fast track to glory!
Servant leadership on the other hand is winsome. In the business community studies are showing that humility is the key to successful team building. A recent study out of the University of Buffalo School of Management “using data from more than 700 employees and 218 leaders, confirmed that leader humility is associated with more learning-oriented teams, more engaged employees and lower voluntary employee turnover.”
Robert K. Greenleaf who pioneered the modern servant leadership movement stated it this way, “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions.
For those of us follow Jesus, we know that he embodied this attitude. He also required it of his disciples.
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
It is no accident that many city-church initiatives have consciously named their core group “SLT’s” or Servant Leadership Teams. It’s a reminder to those who have been selected by their peers that their chief role is not to advance their own agendas but to serve the larger Body of Christ.