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Obedience: Another stepping stone toward Servant Leadership

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The argument has happened on more than one occasion and for more than reason. The premise of the argument is that I am the adult and you are the child. This discussion revolves around the fact that I pay the car insurance and he preforms that chores that I assign. When the chores don’t get done, I complain about I am holding up my end of the bargain and you didn’t hold you yours. “Fine” he says, “then I will just give you the money for the insurance.” Then, here it comes, I blurt out, “I don’t want your money, I want your obedience.” Wow, did I say that? “I want your obedience.” Really? My dad said that to me. His father probably said that to him. Then it dawns on me, our Eternal Father has said that to us “I want your obedience.”

So Samuel said: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”  – 1 Samuel 15:22 (NKJV)

Being demanding, dictatorial and authoritarian doesn’t sound very “leaderly”, if I can coin a phrase. We are supposed to be communicative, empowering, enabling, supportive. How can I stand there and demand obedience? God expects obedience and I do my best to give it, not because God requires it, but because God has earned it.

As leaders we can expect plenty of things out of the people we lead. Respect, obedience, performance, attention, concurrence but that is positional authority. We are instilled with positional authority by title or rank only, it’s power comes primarily out of fear of retribution. There are plenty of  “leaders” who wield that type authority but not Servant Leaders.

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. – Hebrews 13:17 (NIV)
If we want to be Servant Leaders, we must earn the right to be obeyed. Our leadership is conditional on leading with a servants heart, to build a rapport with others, to show that we strive to make lives better by our willingness to serve others. Leadership is influence over the hearts and minds of other people. As servant leaders, we must instill confidence and obedience in those we hope to lead, by showing our integrity and our commitment to serve others  “because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.” We as servant leaders know that we will have to give an account in this world as well as the next.
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The calling of Servant Leadership.

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“I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives” – Ecclesiastes 3:10-12 (NKJV)

What a blessing it must be to know that you are doing what you are meant to do, where you are meant to do it and for whom you meant to do it. That God has a purpose for you. In Christian circles we often hear the phase “heard the calling” meaning of course, that someone had been called into the ministry. A lifetime of devotion to learning the word of God, ministering to his people, tending his flock and trying to be the best example of Christ’s love that you can be. You know, the holy folks that we go to see faithfully, almost every week. These are the chosen ones.

I believed this. Knowing that every church, in every town needed at least one pastor, minister, priest, rabbi (whatever name you give them) needed a leader. That means that somehow, somewhere,  people were making a commitment to become something that God needed them to be, something that God wanted them to be. That must be a glorious feeling, to be wanted and needed by God! I admit, back in the day, I listened for that calling. It didn’t come.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”  – Jeremiah 1:5 NKJV

I decided that mine was to be a calling of a more secular nature, to be in the world but not of the world. The skills and talents that God had given to me  before I was born apparently were not to be called into His service. I was to live my life as the best Christian that I could be, to live out my faith, to be an example to others but I was not “called”.

Over the years, however, I have come to realize that the Great Commission did not mean only a few were meant to make disciples of all nations. We are all called by God to serve others, whenever and wherever we are placed. Being “called” means going wherever God wants us to go and to be his faithful servant. As servant leaders, we are called to be examples, shining lights on the hillside, to all around us. We are called to grow, empower and enrich others, to serve others in the example of Jesus.

If we are faithful and obedient, we will have a God-given task which occupies our days, in the season in which He “plants” us there and in which we can take much joy, knowing that we have been “called” into His service. He has put eternity into our hearts, follow it with passion knowing that He will be with us until the very end of the age.

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Servant Leadership: Authenticity and the Spiritual Journey

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Authenticity

Leading with a Noble Purpose and pursuing a life of service to others only becomes authentic, dynamic and revitalizing when your spiritual practice evolves to the higher stages.

Until then it is mainly a “prepersonal” exercise firmly anchored to your egocentric self.

Being Selfless or Selfish

Leading without a spiritual purpose boils down to a simple ego-boosting technique that may make you feel better, but it will not lead to authenticity and into the ranks of the BIG L Leader.  Doing good and being your highest self is not the same thing.  Doing good can have at its essence an inflated ego drive – at a prepersonal level.

Authenticity and right motives may be repressed by the cocoons of denial and self-deception always assuring you of what a good person you are.  When in reality, Authentic Servant Leadership requires brutal self-honesty (as to your true intentions) and that you truly…

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Servant Leaders: You are not like the others.

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“You know that the 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 your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20: 25 – 28

Among the images that race through our thoughts during Holy week, one that resonates with me is servant heart that Jesus displayed throughout His season on earth. He could have come as a king, the people fed by the miracle of the loaves and fishes were ready to submit themselves to the rule of Jesus, make him their King. But Jesus wanted no part in that, rather He wanted, He needed, to fulfill His destiny as servant of the people and of His father.

On the night before He was arrested, Jesus served communion to His disciples to illustrate the sacrifice that He was about to make for them and the rest of the world. He could have allowed those around Him to comfort Him and cater to Him in those last hours but rather Jesus committed one more act of servitude to the disciples, He washed their feet.

On this Maundy Thursday, remember that it is easy to try and lord over others, to control people around you, but as Christians it is “Not so with you”. The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve others. While He gave His life as a ransom for the sins of many, He left behind atonement and a servants heart for each of us that desire it and believe.

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Choices in servant leadership.

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To me Margaret Thatcher is one of those individuals that truly embodies Ecclesiastes 3:

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven

For those of us that were around in that “season”, we were fortunate to have two great leaders in both Thatcher and Ronald Reagan whose seasons were defined by not only the times in which they lived but also by the strength of their profound faith in God. They projected their faith in God in all that they did, but they also projected their faith in us, as peoples of our counties, of the world, and of the Kingdom of God. In retrospect, whether you cared for their politics, as Christians we should embrace their commitment to the providence of God as the guiding hand for their leadership.

With the recent passing Margaret Thatcher, I came across an interview that she gave after she left office that captures how she embodied her faith in to her very public works. Thatcher identified three “distinctive marks” of Christianity.

  1. Man has been “endowed by God with the fundamental right to choose between good and evil.”
  2. That as creatures in God’s image “we are expected to use all our own power of thought and judgement in exercising that choice,” with divine guidance if we “open our hearts to God.”
  3. That “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, when faced with His terrible choice and lonely vigil, chose to lay down His life that our sins may be forgiven.”

We are responsible for our own actions and inaction, our choices and indifference, they all manifest themselves as our moral fiber and integrity. Each of us is simultaneously blessed and burdened with free will and self-determination, to travel as the true north of our moral and spiritual compass dictates.

If we are to be Christians, truly following the example of Christ, we must know that our choices, our decisions, our judgement, impacts our relationship with God.

We are expected to trust and love God above all and to love other as ourselves. If our choices, our decisions, our judgement, is egocentric and self serving then we fall short of God’s expectations of us.

If we are to lead ourselves, our families and those around us, as servant leaders we must listen to our calling from God and obey the examples put forth by Jesus as he lived out his “season” on earth.  Make choices grounded in the laws laid down by God and the principles exemplified by Jesus. “Choose ye this day whom you will serve”.

What choices you will make today?

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