Serve On Purpose
Servant Leadership. Today this is a phrase that rolls off the tongue of many in an effort to help managers, executives, politicians, pastors and many other types of leaders learn how to effectively manage their relationships with the people they impact. We want to be guided by people who are: (1) Willing to do themselves what they’ve asked others to do, and (2) Serve us in our efforts, so that we can have the greatest chance at success in any venture. These are the types of leaders that are being trained today. From churches to universities to boardrooms the concept of leading with the highest level of effectivity is a topic of great discussion today. At the forefront of that discussion is the servant leader. The selfless giver, who in an effort to build something within others, gives of themselves in order to show, train or disciple those around them.
With all of this discussion surrounding leadership in business, and elsewhere, I think that the term “servant leader” is often used without consideration being given to the implications of that term. After all, what does it really look like to be this type of leader? Are we willing to give up those parts of ourselves that leading through service would require? When we hear the phrase servant leader many of us immediately think of that person who is always willing to “go the extra mile” for those they work with, and this is true. We think of the person who always thinks of others above thinking of themselves – true as well. I think we can all agree that these are attractive, and effective attributes for any leader to possess, no matter the part of culture they’re influencing.
What if, though, the servant leader isn’t merely someone who is giving to others for the sake of giving, or doing for others for the simple task of doing? What if our leadership were purposed and intentional? I’m not talking about having a self-imposed agenda in order to bring about your own ends. No, I’m talking about someone who is choosing to serve others out of their own identity and the confidence in who they are as an individual, and as a son or daughter of God. I think that when we hear the term “servant leader” we often mistake this person for someone who is making a simple choice to give/serve over and over again, on a daily basis. While this is accurate, I think the servant leader, in it’s truest form possesses a level of cultural influence that goes much deeper than the surface impact of momentary service.
Servant leaders, like our most recent podcast guest Sheri Silk (listen here), have learned the value of serving others from a place of knowing who they are. They serve others because they were first served. By who? Jesus, of course. After all, isn’t Jesus the greatest example of the servant leader? If you agree with that, then we must also recognize that Jesus’ time on this earth wasn’t merely for the purpose of serving, but that he was specifically intentioned in his actions. He was subverting a system of political, religious, and sin power all at the same time, and the method he chose to do this through was love and service to his fellow mankind. Nothing that Jesus did, or said, looked, or sounded like anyone else in his day. His compassion for people while simultaneously establishing himself as King of the Kingdom speaks to our purpose in following him. Jesus didn’t heal people merely so they could be whole, although that would have been good enough for him. His ways are so incredibly loving and multi-faceted that he could heal someone for them to be whole, and the would also recognize the Kingdom of Heaven, and begin to live in abundance all at the same time. We’re to be his image bearers, which means that our service to others should be just as impactful and purposed as his service to us.
All to often we’re taught that we can’t have any purpose in our service or love towards others. I’m not sure this is even possible. If really given your full thought, can you remember a time where you did something for someone and got nothing at all in return? I mean truly nothing? At first thought you might say yes, I can remember that time. To which I would say, “What about the sense of accomplishment or joy that you got from loving or serving someone?” Do you still think you received nothing? The truth is that we receive from every personal encounter we have, but we must maintain as Paul did, that it is still more blessed to give that it is to receive. This doesn’t mean that we don’t receive, it just means that our joy is more full in the giving than in the receiving.
True servant leaders recognize this, which is why they continue to perpetuate the cycle of service, giving and love toward others. It’s because they are fulfilled in their giving, and the receipt of that fulfillment is far greater than anything they could receive from accolades, gifts, bonuses, or higher salaries. When we serve others out of our foundational identity in Christ, then we are ultimately recycling to those around us the gift that was first given to us. Christ’s love and service. Give freely, receive joyfully, live fully and serve on purpose!