Ministry can be messy, but for those in ministry, we have been called to serve, no matter the muck and mire.
The Blessed Challenge of Embracing Servant Leadership
In trying to explain the unique task of leadership, a well-known academic leader at Georgia Southern University once referred to a large billboard gracing the side of a major highway near Augusta. It is an advertisement for a local septic tank company that reads like this: “We’re #1 in the #2 business.”
If you have been in ministry any length of time, you know that it sometimes feels like you are in the #2 business. While ministry is an uniquely gratifying engagement, let’s face it; serving people in the local church can also be a little smelly. Since we lead by serving people – not by being served – we are certain to encounter a ministry mess now and then. It can be yucky, unpleasant, and downright foul.
This is when it is helpful to recall the model of leadership that our Savior both preached and practiced. After washing his disciples’ crusty feet, He said:
“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you,” (John 13:14,15).
Washing the disciples’ feet was a truly an act of humility, but Jesus would take it further. He would go as far down the path of servant leadership as one can possibly go. He would take it all the way to the point of substitutionary death, “even the death of the cross,” (Philippians 2:8).
I don’t know about you, but I need to be reminded frequently that, by His grace, God has placed me in ministry to serve people. When I am reminded of this, it changes my approach. It positively affects the way I relate to the people I am serving and how I steward the platform I’ve been given.
Our church recently had the privilege of ordaining three men to the gospel ministry. In my charge to them, I told them I was gifting each of them with a new designated staff parking place. I told them they could take their pick of the parking spots furthest away from the church doors, so every time they arrive at church they have some extra time – between their vehicle and the door – to be reminded that they are but servants.
Blessings on you and your ministry,
About the Author
J. Dave Adams
J. Dave Adams has served the local church for over twenty years. After practicing law for a brief time, Dave followed a God-given desire to help people in their relationship with God by becoming a full-time pastor. He has joyfully served churches in Indiana and California. He is married to Tawnia and has five children. He is a graduate of Dallas Seminary and is currently pursuing his PhD at Talbot School of Theology at Biola.