If you were to ask any random group of people to define leadership, I imagine you would find most answers would be framed in terms of title, power and position. If you posed that same question within the church, my guess is your results would differ only in the use of the word ‘servant’ as a prefix.
Yet I suspect you would find that the addition of that word makes precious little difference to the observable behaviours of many in leadership. Personally, I have seen and heard of too many instances where leaders are willing to use their position to coerce, constrain and compel. Playing the authority card, pulling rank and enforcing conformity are all too common in the church today.
However, Jesus was quite adamant that we were not to operate in this way. When the mother of James and John started lobbying for position for her sons, Jesus actually disclaimed the authority to make that call. (See Matthew 20:20-27)
He then went on to say, “You know that foreign rulers like to order their people around. And their great leaders have full power over everyone they rule. But don’t act like them. If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all the others. And if you want to be first, you must be the slave of the rest.”
He challenged his followers to put aside their desire for high position and prestige, and he set the example by assuming the posture of a servant. He was willing to abase himself before his own creation. He who could claim the throne of heaven stepped down in humility and love, serving those he could rightfully have claimed as servants.
Because he wanted us to understand that in the Kingdom he was establishing leadership is serving. Simply serving.