Thought For the Day: Ministry and Servanthood

The Navigators organization is a parachurch organization headquartered in Colorado Springs.  Basically, it is an evangelistic organization that trains Christians how to share their faith.  They also provide resources to churches such as study booklets and other literature.  One thing they stress in their training is servanthood.

Lorne Sanny was once a president of the Navigators.  A businessman once asked him how he knew if he had a servantlike attitude.  He responded, ‘By how you act when you are treated like one.”

There is a lot that can be said about how a leader is supposed to serve.  Certainly, Jesus turned the idea of “one man” at the top upside down:

 24And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.

 25And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.

 26But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.

 27For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. (Luke 22:24-27, King James Version; Cf Mt 23:8-12)

At one time, UCG pushed the idea of servant leadership.  It was renamed twice and ended up as the “Godly Leadership Program” (See United News, May 2005).  In spite of denials that it disappeared, it seems that it has done exactly that.  You never really hear much about it any more, if anything, from Cincinnati (however, I’m pleased to report that Garden Grove’s Homer Moore gave a sermon on it earlier this year, although I haven’t listened to it).

How much of a servant did Christ tell His disciples to be?  Well, it appears that there are two words being used in Jesus’ statement in Mt 23.  To be great, you have to be a “diakonos”, that is, a bond servant.  However, in order to truly be great, you have to become a “doulos”, that is, a slave (Levy, Ralph. (6 July 2002).  Servant Based Leadership – Christ’s Example.  Sermon transcript at

When you think about the difference between someone who is an indentured servant and someone who is a permanent slave, then the act of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet should make us realize that it isn’t just a once in a lifetime or even once per year attitude we are to have.

I realize that not everyone has the same role, and we all serve in different ways.  We have different temperaments, different skills, different gifts and thus we are given different work to do.  However, in all things, “serve” is still the key word.  Those who bear the fruits of a servant will become evident in due time.  Likewise, so will it be for those who expect it to all be done for them without any effort on their part.

Who do we serve?  Well, obviously each other.  Yet, in reality we serve God the Father and Christ our Lord.  They are the Ones Who give us these talents, gifts and opportunities.

Don’t forget: Jesus did a lot more than just wash our feet, as humiliating as that was in that culture.  He washed away our sins with His blood.


  1. Brian Drawbaugh

    Good post John. In 1999, when I saw United beginning to embrace Servant Leadership, I thought "this is something I can support and be part of," so I asked them to recognize my ministerial credentials (and they did). Unfortunately, almost as soon as I got on board, the composition of the Council changed and Servant Leadership was (purposely) gutted and all but abandoned by the regional pastors and the majority of the leadership. Eventually (in 2004), I gave up and resigned from United's GCE so I could go back to fellowshiping in a broader circle, as I had before. I can tell you from the inside that the ministers in the current leadership were NOT pleased about what happened to Servant Leadership back then, and I am certain that they will make it a priority once again as soon as the powerful opposition to it either leaves or becomes less powerful.

  2. @Brian: I'm sorry to hear that, at least in one sense. Not sure if you remember me or not, but IMO, UCG's loss is the "broader circle's" gain.

  3. @John- yes we have fond memories of your family from Thailand. As you may know, I went back and taught for 3 months after that. We were also there again for the Feast this year and were disappointed not to see you there.

  4. @Brian: Thanks for your kind words. Life has thrown us some curve balls, and so we haven't been able to go there for the Feast recently. However, I cannot complain seeing what some of the brethren are going through recently.