Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

The Servant Leader

by Michael McCartney

Thesis: A servant leader is one who has three mottos: I choose to lose; No pride; and I will not quit.

Texts: Luke 22: 24-30; Phil. 2

At Sand Hill Lake Bible Camp a few years back, Kathy and I decided we wanted to raise our own chickens. Which by the way I will never do again. What perplexed me the most was how certain chickens were always picked on and even killed. I discovered later that chickens have a Pecking Order.

Bill Hybels notes: "Take ten chickens, any ten. Put them in a pen together, and spread a little chicken feed. In short order, you will witness an amazing phenomenon. In a matter of minutes, the chickens, previously strangers, will form a hierarchy based on dominance or, in everyday language, they will establish a Pecking Order. Instinctively, they will determine, through a series of skirmishes, who the Number One chicken will be; then the Number Two; the Number Three; all the way down to the unlucky Number Ten chicken.

Much is at stake in this dance of domination. Chicken Number One pecks at and intimidates Chicken Number Two, without experiencing any kind of retribution from Chicken Number Two. Chicken Number Two will take it from Chicken Number One but will turn around and peck away at Chicken Number Three, who will in turn, take out its frustration on Chicken Number Four. The Pecking Order continues all the way down to Chicken Number Ten, who, needless to say, has a pretty miserable life - pecked but no one to peck." (115, 116)

I will add maybe even pecked to death.

This phenomenon of the Pecking Order does not belong exclusively to chickens. We see it today very clearly in the business world. But the truth is, its not just in the business world but everywhere. It happens at family picnics, parties, class reunions, sporting events, conventions, and the Church.

I recall at a recent lunch at a convention for pastors, this very phenomenon. Most of the discussion revolved around a few questions. So where do you pastor? What is your position? How many people attend your church? How big is your staff? Some even ask, "How big is your budget?" I saw pastors, missionaries, and church workers, lining up in the order. The truth is no one is immune to this phenomenon.

We all have the tendency to look at others in terms of their profession, educations, wardrobes, cars, homes, and with the subconscious mind set of fitting them into the Pecking Order.

So, whatís the problem. Itís natural. Here is the problem. Every time the disciples tried to set up a Pecking Order, Jesus rebuked them and taught them they needed to be servants. Note:

Luke 9:46-50
46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all--he is the greatest." 49 "Master," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us." 50 "Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you."

Mark 9: 33-37
33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." 36 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."

Luke 22: 24-30
24 Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

We learn from these texts that Jesus was against the Pecking Order. I today must admit that I too fell into the Pecking Order. Over the last two years, God has brought it to my attention. One day in my office, God laid on my heart three mottos. He wanted me to help me overcome this shortcoming.

I. The first motto is I must, "Choose to Lose".

A. I need to choose to lose to God, first and foremost.

1. I was reminded of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22: 39-46.

a. It was His words which rung out, "Not my will Lord, but your will."

b. I also remembered Phil. 2:5-7
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

c. I needed to decide to be vulnerable to God and follow the example of my mentor and leader Jesus Christ.

2. I needed to start saying, "Not my way nor the worldís way but Godís way."

B. I was also reminded that I needed to choose to lose to myself.

1. The "me first" mind set is rampant in society and has led our society to the edge of collapse. We have perversion, AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, violence, abortion, political scandal, and family breakups. The list could go on but the fact is, it is rooted in "me first" or what I call the "I" syndrome.

a. "I" syndrome has to do with statements like these:

1.) I want it now!

2.) I donít want to hear your excuses!

3.) I deserve it!

4.) I am right!

5.) I want it done my way.

6.) I will quit if you do that!

b. Luke 14: 25-27 We have to die to self daily.

2. As leaders, we must continue to remember to choose to lose to ourselves. It means examining ourselves when we make decisions. We must ask what is my motive and remember the following passages of Scripture.

a. Phil. 2:3
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

b. James 3:16
16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

c. Prov. 18:1
18:1 An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment.

d. Psalm 119:36
36 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.

e. The Word of God clearly reveals that we are to not do anything from selfish ambition.

C. We need to choose to lose the "Image of Perfection".

1. To be a servant leader means to be genuine and vulnerable to others.

a.) Paul showed us his vulnerability by showing and writing that he makes mistakes.

1.) Romans 7:18-20
18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

b.) We must not appear to be perfect or flawless, but genuine.

c.) Paul also acknowledges this in I Cor. 2:3-5

3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spiritís power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on menís wisdom, but on Godís power.

He came to Corinth in weakness and in fear.

d.) Paul showed that he does not have all the answers but that God is the source of power.

1.) Phil. 3: 12-13
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,

D. Application: The decision to choose to lose to God, to self and to the image of perfection is essential in becoming a Servant Leader.

1. We must be vulnerable and obedient even to the point of death to serve God. It is also the vulnerability of being willing to open ourselves up. It means being willing to express personal needs, admitting oneís own limitations, or failures. It means having a teachable spirit, and especially being reluctant to appear the expert, the answer man, the final voice of authority. Remember the worldís view is to win at all costs.

T.S. Choosing to lose is step one, but the next motto I learned to repeat was, "No Pride".

II. The second motto is "No Pride".

A. The "No Pride" motto of Servant Leaders is rooted in humility.

1. Pride is the opposite of humility. We as Christian leaders, must continue to fight this battle. We must never think that we in our heavenly job, are superior to someone else.

a. Romans 12: 3-5
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others

b. It takes many spokes in a wheel for the tire to be attached to the hub. Everyone of these spokes is crucial for the strength of the wheel. Since Christ is the hub of the Christian faith, all the spokes flow from Him to the tire or the world. If a spoke is missing, it creates a weakness in the wheel.

c. This illustration shows us that everyone is valuable to the structure of the Church. No one should think that they are more important than someone else.

d. We need to remember that we are in our position because of Christ.

1.) II Cor. 3:5
5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.

2. Spurgeon makes this statement about pride: " . . pride is a breach of consecration. As soon as I begin to get proud of what I do, or what I am, what am I proud of? Why there is that pride, the act of taking away from God, His glory . . . Mark this, Christian, God will never give thee (you) strength to glorify thyself (yourself) . ." (247)

B. Christ the greatest leader of all demonstrated this Servant Leader quality.

1. Remember Luke 22: 24-30; and John 13: 1-17.

a. In verse 12 of John, Jesus after washing His disciplesí feet, asks them the question: "Do you understand what I have done for you?"

b. In verse 15, He tells them I have demonstrated how I want you guys to lead my church!

c. Also, remember Phil 2:8, "He humbled Himself."

d. Hybels states, "Jesusí perspective was shaped by a deep sense of humility. It was a humility where none was called for; Jesus, as God, clearly deserved His titles, position, and praise. But as we have seen, Jesus "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped." He wanted instead, to relate with man on an equal level. Where religious leaders of His day relished the separation between themselves and "the common people", Jesus sought to break down the barriers, even those imposed by His divine rights. Humility was at the core of His philosophy. More times than not, He used His power for the powerless, showed love to the loveless, and served those who could not possibly return the favor. With characteristic consistency, He repeatedly rejected a Pecking Order based on conditional response." (121)

1.) See Matt. 23

C. Letís not allow ourselves to buy into the worldís motto, "Be Proud". But do what is pleasing to God.

1. I Peter 3: 3,4
3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in Godís sight.

2. Galatians 5: 19-25
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

3. We need to practice humility as prescribed by Christ in Matt. 5:11.

a.) To the world, this statement by Christ is a contradiction.

They view humility, meekness, gentleness, etc., as "Blessed are the weak for they shall become door mats!", not to inherit the earth. They honestly believe that a leader is one who dominates, controls, manipulates, etc., another person by power not humility and meekness.

b.) The beatitudes in my view, describe a servant leader who is humble.

c.) Note: Matt. 23: 11-12
11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

D. Application: Servant leaders are those who repeatedly cry, "No Pride" every day. They are leaders who practice humility. They are ones who seize every opportunity to tear down pride in the church so that it will not destroy it. Itís a leader who uses servant characteristics to lead not worldly business practices. Itís one who continually reminds himself of
Prov. 16:18
18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

With humility being modeled in leadership each individual is treated with respect and dignity. It also gives permission to each person to contribute to the ministry without being intimidated or driven away.

T.S. The third motto the Lord revealed to me was the mind set of "I will not quit!"

III. The motto of, "I will not quit!"

A. This motto needs to become our mind set in the Church.

1. Paul modeled this mind set for us in Phil. 3:13,14
13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

2. Also II Tim. 4:7
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith

3. A recent statistic encourages me. I must have this motto!

a.) 40% of those in full time ministry today, will not be there in 3 to 5 years.

4. I believe many quit when they experience a loss.

a.) It could be a loss of friendship or a plan they wanted to see.

1.) Consider how Jesus must have felt when one of His beloved staff turned against him. But even when Judas betrayed Him, Jesus did not quit. He was able to take the hit and keep going. He was determined to press on.

2.) Quote Jones, "Nobody can keep you down unless you decide not to rise again." (125)

3.) Servant Leaders do not quit when they suffer loss of their plan or way, but press on to the victory.

4.) Jesus never cried, "This is not fair the way they are treating me, I quit!"

B. Paul was determined. Phil 3: 13-14

1. He said, "I forget what is behind."

2. He did not dwell on past events or even His past failures. He repented, forgave Himself and moved on.

3. He took Deut. 6:5 to heart.

4. Notice Paul never allowed grudges to control Him. He preached love to those who persecuted Him. Phil 3:13-14.

5. He never got mad at God for the trials, but just pressed on to spread the Gospel. Acts 15: 36-41.

6. Paul wrote, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith." (II Tim. 4:7-8)

C. It is important that we as Servant Leaders finish well. Not just start well, but finish well.

1. John Wesley spoke a lot about finishing well. We need to finish well and not quit!

D. Application: We as Servant Leaders must set our focus on Christ. We must mentally tell ourselves not to quit. We must remember that 40% of those in full time ministry today, will resign in 3 to 5 years. Why? Because they did not prepare themselves with the mind set, "I will not quit". I will make mistakes, have problems, but I will press on to the goal.


Remember the mottos:

1. I choose to lose.

2. No Pride.

3. I will not quit.

See Also:

The Upside Down Kingdom: The Kingdom Reversals from Luke's Gospel
by Bob Young

Christians: Use Your Time to Seek Greatness!
by Pastor Karl Walther

St. Bartholomew Sermon
by The Rev. Dustin L. Anderson

Sermons and Bible Commentaries for Golden Friday

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