“I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27)
The mode of leadership on the godly model is to serve. Jesus himself is the model, “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27). And with that he took the apron and basin of the slave, telling us that we were to follow his model (John 13:1-17). Notice that in Peter’s instruction manual for the leader we have been considering, he calls on us to take the initiative, to humble ourselves. He doesn’t tell us to pray for humility or to feel humble or to say humble things. No, the leader is to act in humility. He is joyfully to accept orders from those to whom he is responsible, to serve others, to fit into their arrangements, to confess his sin, to share his leadership role with others, to do the servant thing. Maybe “servant leadership” isn’t such a useless term after all! Just be sure to fill it with Peter’s meaning.
Whether male or female, in differing roles, some in a spiritual office and many in leadership, we are called be among God’s people as one who serves. Without seeking to be exhaustive, let us note some of the major characteristics of God’s authoritative leadership. We take our cue from one whom some have called the first prelate, the prince and lord, the pope of the Church – Peter, whom we shall discover did not arrogate to himself those lordly titles. We will consider six characteristics of leaders today and five characteristics tomorrow.
- Shared Authority. The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder…. (I Peter 5:1). The Trinity is a beautiful model for what God seems to have intended in human leadership. Although God the Father is preeminent in the relationships of the Trinity, the Godhead is a shared authority. Not only does the Trinity share in authority with one another, God has chosen even to share his responsibility and authority with people, as we have seen, even to exercise his authority through human beings.
Leadership that becomes solitary rather than participatory, drawing all authority to itself, is actually Satan-like rather than God-like. It is marked by unaccountability, inaccessibility, pretensions of infallibility and stubborn immutability. In shared leadership there is often an order of preeminence in role as in the Godhead and in the family, but this does not in any way detract from the Trinitarian model of shared authority and responsibility for leadership.
- Loving. Peter testifies that he is a witness of the sufferings of Christ (vs. 1) and John gives the same testimony: …we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world…And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him…as he is, so are we in this world. (1 John 4:14-17)
God is love by nature, the very Trinity itself bound together by living bonds of love. Then, in the overflow of that love we are redeemed and bound together to him (vs. 15). But even more – we are bound by those same love-bonds to one another. If not, says John, we are none of his at all (vs. 20, 21). In the world, strong leadership can be exerted successfully through bonds of fear such as the fear of consequences if one does not obey. God’s bonds are bonds of love.
- Purposeful.…the glory that shall be revealed (vs. 1). When God’s purposes are brought about in and through his church, what honor it brings him! But let’s not be more spiritual than the Bible, thinking God’s glory is the only legitimate goal. It is the ultimate goal of course, but there are many contributing goals or outcomes. For example, Peter says that he looks forward to our participation in that glory. He also says, you will receive the crown of glory that does not pass away (vs. 4).
God’s leadership, then, is marked by the dynamic of a great unity of purpose in the Trinity. In the same way, God-like leadership is goal-oriented. God is active and his activity has an end, a goal, a destination. Some human relationships are not voluntary, as with children in the home. But the church is a voluntary organization. It is the unity of purpose, the shared objectives that challenge to participation and holds the body together. Because of this a leader who follows God’s model must have a clear vision of what the group should be and do. This is what the Guidebook is given for- to define and refine that vision.
- Shepherding. Shepherd the flock of God which is among you…(vs. 2).
God himself as the chief shepherd (vs. 4) is our model as under-shepherds. The shepherd role (literally, pastor) hints at what the leader should be – guide, caregiver, counselor, friend.
- Strong. …serving as overseers… (vs. 2). God rules with authority. His leadership is positive, not passive. He takes the initiative. And he is the one who appoints the leaders of his people. In any human organization a strong, positive leadership is essential to success in achieving the purposes of the organization. Weak, passive leadership will not do. Technically speaking, the office is that of presbyter and this person functions as a shepherd or overseer. This responsibility is assigned by God (for example, 1 Peter 5:2,3) and is a responsibility to supervise, give direction, provide, protect, discipline, and teach. God-like leadership should be positive and with authority.
- Free of Compulsion. …not by constraint but willingly…(vs 2). Jesus was under no compulsion to come but did so freely. He gave not only life itself but gifts beyond measure free of charge. That’s why we call them graces (charis often translated, “gift.”) And so the leader is called to give unstintingly of life. Leadership is painful, like crucifixion. Jesus told us on at least four different occasions that we are to take up our cross and that such action is a continual action — daily, he says. We are to give and give of time and energy and emotional resources, not because we’re compelled to, nor for the money, says Peter. Willingly. That’s the way our Model lived. And that is the way he died.