Introducing Leadership from the Upside-down Kingdom Perspective

There are many books and resources we can access to help us become better leaders in many fields, and much of those resources are targeted specifically to particular fields. Unfortunately, that means there are fewer resources for believers in different types and levels of ministry who desire to grow in their ability to lead others. Of all the resources available, few provide leadership strategies and perspectives in line with Kingdom values, although those numbers are beginning to change.

“As we prepare to enter the 21st century, we are witnessing a shift in many businesses and nonprofit organizations—away from traditional autocratic and hierarchical modes of leadership and toward a model based on teamwork and community; one that seeks to involve others in decision making; one that is strongly based in ethical and caring behavior; and one that is attempting to enhance the personal growth of workers while at the same time improving the caring and quality of our many institutions.”[1]

This comment from the introduction of Robert Greenleaf’s book, The Power of Servant Leadership, echoes how Scripture reveals that we should shift our mindset away from the normal ways of “doing business” in this life. We must be focused instead on equipping each other to be leaders who operate from a biblical foundation of Kingdom leadership. No longer can we afford to see leadership the way the world has for too long in its history. Rather, our perspective should be that of God’s Kingdom model as shown in Scripture through the life of Jesus Christ, His disciples, and the early church.

In much of the world’s perspective, the terms servant and leader are antithetical—complete opposites completely opposed to each other. However, this is not true in a Kingdom model of leadership where the role of leader grows out of the character of the servant modeled by Christ. As we see in Philippians 2, Paul wrote how Christ modeled the very concept and character of sacrificial service for God’s glory.

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:3-7 (NASB1995)

This, and other writings that we will cover in subsequent articles, provide insight into Kingdom models for leadership in the Body of Christ as we live and serve throughout our lives. We are challenged not to approach leadership from a perspective or position of being in charge of others. Rather, we are challenged to practice humility and take the perspective and position of servants, or “taking the form of a bond-servant” (Phil. 2:7).

This servant perspective leads us to another facet of the unique concept of leadership in the Kingdom. “Leadership is a stewardship issue. Allowing the character Christ is building within us to find expression in our talents, gifts and passions is an act of stewarding the trust that God has placed in us.”[2] As we steward the responsibility and authority given to those in leadership in the Church (volunteer or otherwise), we also need to be aware of five-fold ministry and its purpose that we find in Ephesians 4.

7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.…. 11 He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. 12 His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ 13 until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:7, 11-13 (CEB)

Paul writes here in Ephesians that we are to take the “gift” God has given us as we serve and lead to “equip God’s people…building up the Body of Christ” until we reach the goal of “unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son” (Eph 4:7, 12-13). Our walk into deeper levels of relationship with God and higher levels of responsibility and authority is a journey. This progressive nature of using the “gift” entrusted to us speaks of nurturing and stewarding care as we go through life in whatever role we fill.

In his book, Keeping the Fire, Rolland Baker writes how they have been able to nurture, steward, and sustain revival in Mozambique for over thirty years of ministry. “We stay on track through all the differing ideas and streams in the Church by maintaining our simplicity and purity. We fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. When pressed to the absolute limit, as was Paul, we determine to know nothing but Jesus and Him crucified.”[3] Their journey has been one fixed on Christ, or on the full measure of the standard He set for us. They have taken what was entrusted to them and used it to love, serve, and equip others as they multiply, plant churches, and continually reach the people of Mozambique with the gospel.

On this journey we face many obstacles and challenges but are urged ever onward to our goal which is Christ Jesus. He has entrusted us with gifts to be used on behalf of others and the church. Let us then be good stewards of the “gift” and good servants as we learn to lead others to bring them to maturity. As we work through this series on servant leadership, we can learn these things as we endeavor always to set Christ as our example.

Reflecting Before We Begin the Journey

Servant leadership is the type of leadership that Jesus modeled, however, there are many different perspectives of what that looked like and how we should practice it today. Many books have been written to explore the concept of leadership and of servant leadership in recent years. Before beginning this series, pause and reflect on the concept of servant leadership. Using the prompts below, define of what you think servant leadership is or looks like.

A servant leader is…

A servant leader does/does not…

As we continue through this series, we’ll be looking at many aspects of servant leadership to explore who a servant leaders is and what they do. Hopefully, these observations and perspectives will help us all grow as we continue to journey together and learn to walk in maturity with Christ.

[1] Greenleaf, Robert and Larry Spears. The Power of Servant Leadership: Essays (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1998), 2, Kindle Edition.

[2] Kevin Mannoia and Larry Walkemeyer. 15 Characteristics of Effective Pastors: How to Strengthen Your Inner Core and Ministry Impact (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 19, Kindle Edition.

[3] Rolland Baker, Keeping the Fire: Sustaining Revival through Love (Kent, U. K.: River Publishing and Media Ltd., 2015), 2, Kindle Edition.

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