Among all models on leadership, there is one significant image that can be used as a template for all Christians who want to understand leadership and become a leader–the servant model. According to this model, a servant must always be a person who serves other people and not the other way around. A leader is, above all, a servant to his/her followers or constituents! The teaching of the Gospels on leadership is still the best model for all those aspiring to become Christian leaders in their chosen field.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matt. 20:26).
John Maxwell, a well-known Evangelical Christian pastor and popular guru on leadership knows more about the Christian model of leadership, being an expert on the Bible and Christian ministry. Maxwell is a leadership expert, speaker, and author and founder of INJOY, Maximum Impact, The John Maxwell Team, ISS and EQUIP, organizations all focusing on leadership development to help business leaders. Overall, Maxwell basically applies the servant model in the field of business management and aims to form Christian leaders.
Qualities of a Christian Leader
The Biblical model of leadership transcends all other theorizing on leadership. The Christian model has the following important characteristics as illustrated by some Biblical stories:
The Story of the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-12). A Christian leader protects his/her followers from external threats to their personal and social security. With great faith in God, a Christian leader is ready to die for what is good for his/her constituents. A Christian manager, for instance, knows how to protect his/her employees from retrenchment, unjust accusations, violence, threats, politics, and unfair labor practice in the workplace.
The Last Supper (Mt. 26:17–30, Mk. 14:12–26, Lk. 22:7–39 and Jn. 13:1–17:26) . A Christian leader joyfully serves his/her followers. S/he does not desire to be served by those who depend on him/her. Christ washing of the feet of the apostles symbolizes a humble leader who does aim for public praise and social prestige of becoming a leader. A Christian leader does his/her job as a shepherd to his/her followers because it is part his/her response to God’s calling that those want to be the greatest must be a servant to all. Christian leadership is not driven by the desire for success or wealth but to establish God’s Kingdom in the workplace or society. It requires a strong spirituality of work and a drive to follow what Christ said that He came to earth to serve and not to be served.
The Story of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-12). The story of John the Baptist in the Gospels implies that a Christian leader must also be a prophet to society. To be a prophet is to preach the Christian message in the midst of oppression and exploitation of people in the workplace or society. A Christian leader must have a strong social awareness of what is going on in his/her social environment and courageous enough to point out to powerful people and enemies the social injustices they have done to his/her constituents or followers. This personal courage of the leader emanates from his/her strong faith in God.
For Christians, there is no other model but Christ Himself who died on the cross to save humanity from personal and social sins. Christ does not expect people who want to imitate Him as a leader to live a comfortable life. There will be persecutions and all forms of suffering for Christian leaders who aim to establish God’s Kingdom on earth. But Christ assured them with these words:
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3, NKJV).
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