Leadership Does Work No One Else Wants To Do – part 5

Jesus tells them exactly how it is in the world’s authority structure: The one who sits at the table is the greatest. He said, “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 (NIV, Luke 22:27). The one who serves the table is less important in the world’s authority structure of leadership. But now, Jesus is about to radically change the way leadership works. This radical change affects how the disciples will operate in this new authority structure.

The new model of leadership is spiritual and not of this world. The leader in Christ’s kingdom will be as one who serves the table (John 13:15). The leader will be one who serves as a common house servant serves. Jesus is telling them how they are going to be. He is telling them not to be like the leaders in the world where the greatest is the one being served. He is telling them that from now on, the greatest is the one who is doing the serving. This is a complete shift in the direction of how one gains more authority.

Now, the lower you go, truly humbling yourself before God, the greater Jesus becomes in you in the true spiritual kingdom of God. Now, the lower you go, doing any and all tasks, even the ones that common house servants would do is the attitude that he needs to disciple into us in order for us to have more impact in the extension of his message. The spiritual kingdom of the world is impacted in a greater way because Christ is leading through you. You are down low and out of his way because you have humbled yourself. You have increased in greatness and Christ can now shine through you. You are out of his way because you are serving as a common house servant would serve which is the opposite way to gain leadership in the world’s authority structure. Serving is the opposite of being served. We find the apostles waiting on tables and doing jobs that common house servants would do because it was not them, it was Christ in them.

“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”.

(NIV, Luke 22:27)

In some translations of this verse, the word the is added and the word one is capitalized: “the One who serves.” He also tells us that we are to be like the youngest. The youngest have no authority, no respect, no responsibility, no experience, and no influence. They don’t care about these things because they are children. Children have no interest whatsoever in authority or leadership. They are free from these responsibilities. The youngest are totally dependent on someone older and more capable. We are to be the opposite of worldly leaders having the pure attitude of children. We are the children of God and Jesus is our adult authority who will lead and guide us. We are to be totally dependent on him and trust him. Those who have the attitude of children will be the greatest in the kingdom because they are innocently out of Christ’s way.

Jesus Christ got down on the floor to wash their feet. He was doing the job of the lowest of common house servants. Someone needed to do it. Only common house servants did the dirty job of washing the feet of those who reclined at a table to eat. Jesus was doing a job that no king, ruler, or leader in the world would ever do. It was unheard of. The disciples were shocked. Jesus was not only telling them how to be, but he also showed them how to be by this simple act. He asks them if they understand what he has done for them which tells us that he was being intentional in the act of foot washing. It was done purposely to teach them something. He also tells them to continue this act of washing one another’s feet from time to time. Some Christians have never had the privilege of participating in foot washing. It is rarely practiced in Christian circles because it is extremely humbling for the modern proud Christian. We need to keep this command of Christ in order to remember what he did for us and because he told us to do it. It is an important part of our Christian lives. He understands fully that he is telling us to get down on the floor and do the lowest and dirtiest of tasks that serve one another. It is inconvenient and embarrassing but it has to be done to keep us in an attitude that will facilitate the extension of the kingdom. The next passage of scripture could be one of the most important that we have examined so far.

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them”.

(NIV, John 13: 3-17)

Once again Jesus emphasizes that we are not to ever think of ourselves as greater than he is. We are to do as he has done for us. After Jesus washes their feet, he asks them if they understand what he has done for them. He then tells them that he is the supreme leader. He is the only Teacher and Lord, and if he being the main number one leader, can do the low dirty tasks of the common house servant, then they should also be able to do them for one another. There are a few things going on here at the same time: Jesus is and will continue to stay the only leader of his body, the disciples will not ever be number one, and they should not consider anyone among them greater than the other. Again Jesus does away with hierarchical leadership. He establishes a radically new and different authority structure. They should remember the last supper and practice the washing of one another’s feet to keep them from arguing over who is the number one leader. This act of washing one another’s feet shows them who they really are. You hardly hear of Christians washing one another’s feet anymore and yet Jesus told us to keep doing it. We all are nothing but servants doing what we were told to do (Luke 17:10), which brings us to the next passage we must analyze thoroughly. A once-over analysis of these passages will not help you much.

“Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty”.

(NIV, Luke 17:7-10)

Here Jesus is showing us a specific attitude to have. We are to consider ourselves unworthy servants. Jesus’ teaching was grooming his disciples to be followers of one true leader. His purpose in establishing a new authority structure was so that they would not have any hindrance when it came to spreading his message. His original disciples, and a hand full of others, took the message farther than any other group in history. They could not have accomplished this had they been bickering over who was the main leader. Jesus appointed them apostles and then continually told them to lower themselves and serve. He specifically gave them instructions as to what attitude to have. He modeled this to them by becoming the ultimate sacrifice giving his life in their stead. He was nailed to and died on the one instrument that was the most shameful, and lowest of all known ways to die during their time. It was complete humiliation to die on a cross. The worst and lowest criminals were put to death this way.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God”.

(NIV, Hebrews 12:2)

Jesus appointed them apostles but they didn’t think too highly of the term, because Jesus made himself nothing (Philippians 2:7) and lowered himself to the lowest level of a servant to bring a new kind of leadership into being. The disciples had never seen it before and this is why Jesus had to continually instill it into their lives by teaching them and showing them. While they walked with him during those three years, they were not fully able to grasp it. It was spiritually imparted to them by his final act on the cross and then by his resurrection and ascension. Those were things that needed to be done that he alone could do (Matthew 27:46).

Leadership is seeing what needs to be done and doing it, with or without the help of others

Jesus needed a group of men that would be willing to take a message of great importance out into a resistant world for no pay and no recognition. They would be performing miracles and healings and need to be willing to go to their deaths if necessary. And for being heroes (using the world’s term) they couldn’t consider themselves such. On top of all this, they had to do the lowest dirty jobs that no one else wanted to do. This would require humility and a servant attitude. And all but one would be put to death for spreading the message. The word apostle is from the Classical Greek apóstolos (ἀπόστολος), meaning “one who is sent away”, or is a messenger and ambassador. The purpose of such “sending away” is to take the message somewhere away from where it has already been taken.

Jesus chose apostles who were able to be discipled in the content of his message as well as in the way to spread the message. They would eventually have to be sent away. Can you think of any greater leader than Jesus Christ? Can you imagine any greater leaders in this world than the ones Jesus discipled, and yet they had no interest in establishing who would take his place once he had ascended. They were not doing what our modern-day apostles are doing. Today’s apostles are not lowly unimportant unrecognized servants reflecting glory back to God through the spreading of his message. Christ’s way of training disciples is to submit and lower and humble himself. Christ’s way of discipling is to help them reflect all the glory back to the Father in heaven. If we follow his structure for leadership, we too will be submissive, low, and humble reflecting all glory back to the one who deserves it, God the creator of the universe. We will also take his light away into the dark places. It reflects his glory in those who have never believed before because it is not from us.

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us”.

(NIV, 2 Corinthians 4:6-7)

Everything on this earth, the trees, flowers, birds, oceans, and all the human beings are the Father’s creation. This world now serves as a test to see if mankind will choose him over their own ways. When all is finished everyone will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). There are only two outcomes, some will go to punishment in hell, and some will go on to eternal life in his presence. Everything considered important in the history of mankind will disappear and all men will stand before Christ who will judge them for what they did. Every building, all the books, all the gold and banks, all the technology, all the universities with awards hanging on the walls, and everyone’s houses and retirement funds will disappear. And each person will have to give an account to Jesus Christ for their actions and words (Romans 14:10–12; 1 Corinthians 15:22-28; Hebrews 4:1; 1 John 2:15-17)

This acknowledgment of God’s supremacy should make all of us lay face down on the ground before him. It should make us think twice about considering ourselves, leaders. Who is the real leader here? If you are in submission to Christ and he sits on the throne of your heart, you will naturally point people to him.

You have found true spiritual leadership when you point people to Jesus Christ

Spiritual leadership is continually pointing people back to Christ. It is taking the responsibility off of myself and putting it into Christ’s hands. In the end, every individual will have to give a personal account to Christ, not to their worldly or Christian leaders. They won’t be able to say to Christ, “Well, my leader led me astray.” People will go astray and look to other sources for their guidance, this is just the way things are. But if a leader is to be in charge, what person is more capable to be in charge than Jesus himself. If Jesus is in charge of my life, what business do I have wanting to be in charge of other people’s lives? I understand who he is and that he is in control. Why would I not want to point them to Christ if I am a lowly servant reflecting all the glory to God? We can lead people to a beautiful place. We can lead people on a team to win a game. We can lead a group of scientists to find the cure for a fatal disease. Or we can lead people to the person of Jesus Christ so that he can take charge and do the leading from then on. The message we have to carry away is that Christ is the only leader in this world. Once I point you to him, he takes over if you let him. When I refer to one leading someone to Christ, I don’t refer to that person receiving salvation. I am referring to leading them to follow Christ as their Teacher and Lord in an ongoing process of discipleship (Luke 9:23).

We follow Christ so that he can save us and so that we can be discipled to lead others to him. If we follow Christ we become fishers of men, but we don’t consume the catch ourselves. We present the catch to the master fisherman. So if I am a leader, it means that I am leading others to follow the only real leader here, Jesus Christ. Not just in the act of confession and repentance of sin for salvation. But also in the act of becoming someone who leads others to follow him. I am not making other leaders in the world’s perspective of what a leader is. I am leading people to one who can make them servants that are sent away with a message and who will in turn point others to Jesus. And all of this does not come from me. Being a disciple is the act of learning how to fish for men, not lead men. If the disciples that I am persuading to follow Christ are also leading others to follow Christ then I have done a good job of fishing men. If I don’t lead others to follow Christ, then I don’t have fruit. Fruit is a requirement for being a follower of Christ (John chapters 14 and 15). Being a leader means following the right person for the right reasons. If I do not follow the right person, I will be guiding other people to the wrong person. If I follow the right person for the wrong reasons I will model this to those I am trying to lead to Christ. The point is that Jesus is the important one, we are not. He is the one to be followed, we are not. The minute that I gather people around me to follow me, I lead them away from Christ and I have strayed from the Gospel message. If you feel upset or stressed that your disciples move on to another leader, at some point they became YOUR disciples, not Christ’s. If they move away from you in your mind, you were leading them, not Christ. If you are going to do any leading, lead people to the source. Actually, this is not leading as much as it is pointing. You are not the important person here.

If you want to be great in the kingdom, become as a child. A child has no authority to lead. A child does not feel important in a room with an adult. A child knows that he is not the leader when in the room with an adult. He follows the instructions of the only adult in the room. He is disciplined when he does wrong and is trained to be useful. A child is humble and has respect and a healthy fear of the adult if disciplined. A child follows the adult into the fields to learn how to work. A child doesn’t question the adults’ judgment. This example is of an ideal child but is what Jesus refers to when saying that we must be like a child. He is the adult here, we are the children.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”.

(NIV, Matthew 18:1-4)

The source of leadership is found in Christ alone

Jesus interjects another concept here that merits examination. We must change our understanding of leadership and become someone different. We have to change our understanding of authority. The one who leads us has authority over us. If we do not know who the true source of leadership is if we do not submit to this lordship of the one true Lord, if we are not humbling ourselves like a child, we will not only not be part of his body, we will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. We will not become great in the kingdom’s estimation. He will not truly be our Lord. But those that humble themselves like the child not only get into the kingdom of heaven but become great in the true spiritual kingdom. They become ones who point others to the one true leader. If we have to use the terms “leader” or “leadership” in the context that most worldly people understand them, we must change our spiritual perception of what a leader is. A leader (someone who is great in the kingdom of God), is humble like a child and understands their place in a room with an adult (Jesus). The disciples were asking Jesus “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” This question didn’t just come out of thin air. They had a reason for asking it. They knew that they were expressly chosen by the Messiah and were wondering which one of them was the greatest. They wanted to know which one of them was going to have more authority. Once again, Jesus put them in their place.

“They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. 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.” He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “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” (NIV, Mark 9:33).

God’s main purpose in this world is to build his kingdom brick by brick, soul by soul, disciple by disciple. Extending his kingdom implies that we are adding disciples to the body of Christ. He will get glory from us doing that. You will give him glory if you shine Jesus to the lost and they come to him. The body is made up of God’s people who are all members having different gifting or roles. But all have the same ultimate purpose. The head of the body is Jesus Christ who is the Father’s number one leader in charge. We, his body, are those servants involved in carrying out what he wants to be accomplished. Once he is finished, he will bring an end to all sin, suffering, and the loss of souls of those who were not saved. Our souls are saved. Our sanctification is also taken care of through Christ’s death and resurrection.

Our names are now written in the Lamb’s book of life. Now, his plans to bring the last harvest and a final end to this material world are more important than our own physical lives. If we consider our physical lives more important than Jesus and the extension of his kingdom, we will lose them (Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33; John 12:25). All Christians must submit to his will and fulfill his purpose by serving as his body. Serving as his body is extending his kingdom. It is all about completing the great commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.