“I just want to be a boss!” This came in response to the question,”What would you like to be when you grow up?” We thought the question would make a great ice breaker for our high-school aged youth group back in the days when Alan and I were co-leading with our pastor and his wife. There were a lot of enthusiastic and thoughtful responses—most of which I don’t remember 20 years later. But, I’ll never forget that particular answer!
Probably her older sister won’t ever forget it either! Most of us were caught off guard and looked at Melanie* curiously, trying to figure out if she was joking. She was joking, right?! Maybe not; she looked completely serious. An awkward hush fell over the room. Some smirked; some smiled; some looked a little dismayed. In Brethren circles twenty years ago, being “a boss” wasn’t considered PC as the express intention of anybody, but especially not a petite highschool freshman!
“Melanie!” her older sister protested, trying to save the situation, “You don’t really mean that, do you?”
Melanie glared fiercely at her sister. She was fifth-born in a large family and a budding teenager, so I suppose she had some legitimate desire to be out from under the watchful eyes of her parents and older siblings! ” Yes! That’s exactly what I want to be! I want to be in charge!”
I must say that twenty years later, this beautiful young lady is—in many ways—in charge . . . of her lovely children. She’s married and I think happy. She never became the “boss” of a large company or business, but she is definitely one of those proverbially virtuous women who directs her home with tender (but also firm) care. She’s a good boss, but I suspect that didn’t come without a lot of pain in the process!
In the Bible, Jesus’s followers more than once debated who was the greatest and who should have preeminence when Jesus reigned as king. In that context, Jesus taught them: “He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he that is chief, as he that serves” Luke 22:26). In reality, Jesus didn’t overthrow the Roman government (as some of his disciples thought). As it turned out, Jesus’s kingdom was a spiritual kingdom, not a physical kingdom. Jesus will someday reign over all the earth, but in the cross hairs of BC and AD, Christ’s mission was to die as a sacrificial servant to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind.
Who became the leader after Jesus died? Really, all of the remaining apostles, but it cost them all their lives.
They led by example, constrained by the love of Christ, not for any glory for themselves, but so they could testify to the truth of the gospel for the love of man and the glory of God.
Jesus died so that the world could be saved. Stephen, one of the first servants of the church, died as a martyr, but through his death Paul was converted. Paul was martyred, but through his death multitudes came to faith. And on and on!
Leadership in the church of Jesus Christ has never been intended to be for the glory of individual people. True leaders suffer greatly. Jesus calls us to servant leadership—being willing to suffer so that others might hear, believe, and be saved.
Are we willing?
Here are a few quotes on servant leadership worth pondering:
Texts for this meditation: Matthew 23:10-12, “Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. Matthew 20:25-28, “But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 9:33-37 “And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’ And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.‘” Mark 10:4 2-45 “And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Luke 22:26, “But he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.“
(*Melanie is a pseudonym, since this charming young woman is alive and well still today.)