“The best leaders are servant leaders. They're the first to put their people's needs before their own and they never stop working to make their people better. They inspire their people to do their best and to be their best.” - Simon Sinek
“Talented people are attracted to those who care about them.” - Adam Grant
“Servant leadership is the only approach to leadership that Jesus validates for His followers." - Ken Blanchard
There are hundreds of leadership attributes a leader may possess, and Jesus — the world’s greatest leader — is the preeminent example of every leadership attribute worth having. Yet, there is only one approach to leadership that Jesus confirms over and over — servant leadership.
The best way for a leader to put action behind words is through service and sacrifice. Shrewd sacrifice authenticates servant leadership. Nothing is more endearing or inspires more loyalty than a leader who serves with great sacrifice — modeling the actions necessary to achieve the mission for their teammates, countrymen, employees, customers, followers, family and friends.
A Sacrificing Servant King
Jesus modeled servant leadership perfectly by deploying every gift imaginable as our ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King — all for the benefit of and service to others. Jesus came down from heaven and gave everything He had — even His life on a cross — that we would have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).
However, Jesus did not serve and lead merely to die. Jesus also came to serve as a model for His followers. Jesus and His followers have been incredibly successful as the movement they started has gained over five billion people. He came to show us how to live, love, and lead.
Jesus demonstrates perfect servant leadership through shrewd sacrifice. He was shrewd (Psalm 18:16) with His gifts, His life, and His communication. He served His followers by teaching them perfect truth, as He met their needs (John 8:32). He was shrewd with His life as He sacrificed for those He loved — giving His life (John 15:13). And, most importantly, Jesus did all of this with a relentless focus on His mission — to bring the Kingdom of God to earth and to save us from our sins.
When we accept Jesus, we get a new life, which includes a new record and a new purpose for living, loving and leading. Our new purpose is this: to do the very same work Jesus did. We are called to lead like Jesus in all the ways above, and we are called to make disciples / followers of Jesus by teaching and leading like Jesus so that all of the earth may know Him (Matthew 28:19-20).
A Perfect Communicator
As Jesus was preparing His followers for a life without Him, He would send them on journeys to proclaim the good news of the kingdom, heal the sick, drive out demons, and even raise the dead. He explained to those who would follow Him that the world is dangerous and that they need to use their gifts with wisdom and compassion. Here is how Jesus prepared His followers for their journey and life mission.
"Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” - Matthew 10:16-25
In this passage, we see some very important things about how to follow and lead like Jesus.
Jesus knew His followers would face danger. However, He did not want them to risk physical harm unnecessarily. Jesus modeled this as He knew when to withdraw from danger and when to stand firm in the face of danger. He did not let anyone take His life — He gave it willingly. His shrewdness — having and showing astute judgment — was not for self protection, it was to enable His mission. He wants us to be shrewd the same way.
Jesus knew His followers would face great temptation — especially as their popularity grew. Temptation to follow the ways of the world and go after money, popularity, comfort, and temptation in every way. He knew they would be tempted to seek personal gain. Jesus knew His innocence legitimized His witness. He wants us to be innocent the same way.
Be A Servant
Jesus knew His followers would face the very things He faced — such as being beaten, persecuted, and put on trial. He wanted them to follow everything He told them and serve just as He did. To tell the Good News, care for the sick, help people overcome their sins, and model a sacrificial life — all for the mission. Jesus knew He was giving His life for others. He wants us to serve the same way.
We are all good at being shrewd when it is conducive for our personal gain — to meet our personal, business, or organizational goals. However, Jesus commissions us to something far greater. He commands us to be shrewd, innocent, and serve God and others with all of our gifts. We have been given much. We lack nothing for the mission (Psalm 23:1). Jesus expects us to follow Him and do as He did. “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” - Matthew 10:38
"Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me." - Matthew 10:39-40
As followers of Jesus, we have the reward of living a life full of purpose as we introduce others to a life with Jesus — as we give people the opportunity to welcome Jesus into their lives and welcome us as friends. Yes, the rewards will be even greater in the life to come, but life on a mission to build the kingdom also has great rewards now. Let’s go and make disciples!