Biblical Leadership VocabularyPicking up where we left off …

In previous posts, I have been reviewing the primary terms employed in the Bible to describe leaders—terms clearly intended to contrast with the prevailing secular notions. To be a leader is, first, to be a servant of the LORD. In this post, we continue our exploration of the second major biblical leadership metaphor: servant of all.

Infected leadership notions

Considering the subtlety and permeability of sub-biblical leadership values from age to age, we should not be surprised to discover that even those disciples in whom Jesus’ teaching and training efforts were most extensively invested were deeply infected with perverse notions of what a position of leadership entails.

We are told that as Jesus’ mission marched toward its presumed culmination, the disciples engaged in an increasingly petty dispute and resorted to craven maneuvering—to the point of James and John attempting to leverage their mother’s influence—relative to their personal status in the much-anticipated new regime. Jesus scolded them: “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all” (Mk. 10:42-44) [emphasis added].

Greatness expounded

Jesus’ most extensive exposition on this subject, recorded most fully in Matthew 18, instructs us that greatness in His realm would find expression in:

  • childlike humility instead of entitlement;
  • preoccupation with the weak and vulnerable instead of pandering for patronage;
  • joyful affirmation instead of envy;
  • moral vigilance instead of moral indulgence;
  • priorities aligned with God’s redemptive heart instead of public popularity;
  • redemptive pursuit of reconciliation with offenders instead of condemnation and separation; and
  • profound extravagance toward others born of a profound sense of indebtedness to God for His extravagance toward us instead of petty retribution.

Infection cured?

Did Jesus’ teaching readily extinguish his disciples’ tendency to view leadership in terms of status? We’ll see about that in my next post …

*Note: This post is excerpted from my 2013 book, The Leader’s Palette: Seven Primary Colors

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