Building a Solid Foundation for Servant Leadership

Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.[1]

Leadership can be a confusing concept within the church today. Often the secular worldview, backed by courses, studies, and years of application in business and government, impacts how believers view leadership. While some of that information is valid and there are many lessons to learn, we need to carefully examine the foundation of those principles and ensure they align with God’s plan and His perspective. Let’s look at God’s mission for us as leaders in the church to gain His perspective. We’ll define the Kingdom of God, discover the foundation of leadership, and see how this should influence the world around us.

God’s Kingdom

Let’s start with an understanding of the Kingdom of God and how humanity fits into that picture to learn how we should lead in the Kingdom. By starting at the beginning, we see that God’s purposes for humanity and the earth originate at the creation of all things. God has a purpose and plan for all of creation with humanity as His crowning achievement, and He reveals this purpose by commissioning humanity in Genesis 1:28. That commission is the basis for God’s revelation that He had a Kingdom plan and perspective from the start. This, along with other passages from Scripture, can help us define and flesh out the concept of this Kingdom so that we understand our role as citizens of heaven and leaders within His Kingdom.

And God blessed them [granting them certain authority] and said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subjugate it [putting it under your power]; and rule over (dominate) the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and every living thing that moves upon the earth.” Genesis 1:28, AMP

The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. Psalm 103:19, CEB

Your kingdom is a kingship that lasts forever; your rule endures for all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all that he says, faithful in all that he does. Psalm 145:13, CEB

And I confer royal power on you just as my Father granted royal power to me. Luke 22:29, CEB

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17, NKJV

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-19, NASB

From these verses we see an overarching theme running through Scripture and learn aspects that help us define the Kingdom of God.

First, the Kingdom is God’s sovereignty—his right to rule and exercise authority. The idea of God’s sovereignty, His authority and power, is a concept formed throughout the Old Testament. It provides a foundation in the early church for understanding God’s Kingdom. Psalm 103:19 and 145:13 provide insight into the centrality of God’s right to rule and exercise authority in all of creation and help us understand the breadth of God’s Kingdom.

Second, the Kingdom is the domain over which God rules. Those same verses in Psalms along with Genesis 1:28 reveal that God’s dominion (rule and authority) encompasses all of creation. His throne is found in the heavens and his authority extends “over all” things—the physical and spiritual realms of all creation and all living things (plants, animals, people, and spiritual beings).

Third, the Kingdom is God’s invitation to his followers to cooperate with him in extending the influence of the Kingdom. This includes empowerment, or transfer of “royal power” and authority (Matt 28:18-19) for the purpose of representing God to the world. Partnering with God through the filling, in-dwelling, and empowering of the Holy Spirit is fundamental to understand the fullness of the Kingdom of God. Pastor Bob once said, “God is here with us, and He expects us to cooperate with his rule.”[2]

Our Foundation

We must solidly build our life as a believer and as a leader in the Kingdom of God on the foundation of Jesus Christ as our chief cornerstone (Eph 2:19-20). Jesus taught on the importance of a solid foundation in the Gospel of Luke. He tells a parable about two builders; one laid a foundation and the other did not (Lk 6:46-49). Jesus follows three themes with these two builders: hearing and doing what God commands, building a house, and the storm and its results.[3]

According to Dr. Kenneth Bailey, building a house in the Middle East during the time of Christ was no simple matter.[4] Making best use of the weather, most houses were built in the summertime when the ground, with its clay-like soil, was hard and dry. They were built of stone block with walls no taller than seven feet and quickly roofed to complete the house before rainy season began. When the rainy season came, the dry soil soaked up the water, loosened the ground, and caused many landslides and collapsed homes.[5] Building a house without a solid foundation was a dangerous proposition that was filled with risk to life and property.

“It’s like a person building a house by digging deep and laying the foundation on bedrock. When the flood came, the rising water smashed against that house, but the water couldn’t shake the house because it was well built. But those who don’t put into practice what they hear are like a person who built a house without a foundation. The floodwater smashed against it and it collapsed instantly. It was completely destroyed.” Luke 6:48-49, CEB

One house in Jesus’ parable had a builder who dug deep and laid the foundation on bedrock, anchored deep and proof against the shifting soil. The other house was built without digging down to the rock and sat on top of the unstable clay soil. Both may have looked identical from the outside, complete and solid appearing. Then, the flood came and the house with no foundation was destroyed while the other house stood firm, built on the rock.

The key to understanding Jesus’ message in this parable are the two verses that come right before the story. Jesus highlights the two builders and what it takes to establish a firm foundation that withstands the trials and challenges of life. A solid foundation on Christ becomes the single important ingredient to growing and maturing successfully as servant leaders in the Kingdom. Let’s look at these two verses:

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do what I say? I’ll show what it’s like when someone comes to me, hears my words, and puts them into practice.” Luke 6:46-47, CEB

Verse forty-six highlights that there were already those following Jesus, calling Him “Lord,” who only paid lip service to Him. These “disciples” had a form and outward appearance of allegiance and obedience, but it lacked substance in their lives—there was no follow through![6] They had the appearance of the completed house but had no foundation build from hearing Jesus’ teaching and putting it into practice. When they faced trials or tribulation, like the house lacking a foundation, they crumbled under the weight of the flood and the instability of the shifting ground.

Jesus highlighted hearing and obeying as the key components for establishing a solid foundation. It is the one who puts what Jesus taught into practice, who comes away from the encounter changed, that has the solid structure established with Him as the foundation. Thus, Jesus is the cornerstone upon which we are to build (Eph 2:19-20), and His life and teaching are the blueprint for building.

Only as we begin to spend more time in relationship with Jesus will we hear and understand what He is asking of us, for our own lives and as leaders in the Kingdom of God. Spend time right now, sitting silently to hear what God wants to reveal to you. Invite Him to speak into your life for strategies to listen or hear His voice better.

The next step is to obey—practicing what God is revealing to you. Reflect on the verses and material and think of a concrete way you could practice the things you discovered. Be as specific as you can so that you have a firm idea of something you could try in cooperation with God.

For the World’s Benefit

As we take in these concepts, the questions we begin asking ourselves is  why we should build a foundation of leadership in this manner? Seeing the world around us with a Kingdom perspective reveals that, truly, He is the ultimate answer. Jesus made many references to operating from God’s plan, purposes, and perspective in many verses from John’s gospel. Often Jesus talks about doing God’s will instead of His own, doing what He sees His Father doing, or saying only what He hears from God (Jn 4:34, 5:19-20, 5:30, 8:28, 12:49-50). Modeling life from this perspective was a daily practice for Christ and one that He shared with His disciples. This overarching theme found weaving through all Scripture, of hearing and obeying has a purpose to impact the world.

And God blessed them [granting them certain authority] and said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subjugate it [putting it under your power]; and rule over (dominate) the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and every living thing that moves upon the earth.” Genesis 1:28, AMP

Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” Matthew 28:18-20, NASB

He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to every creature. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever doesn’t believe will be condemned. 17 These signs will be associated with those who believe: they will throw out demons in my name. They will speak in new languages. 18 They will pick up snakes with their hands. If they drink anything poisonous, it will not hurt them. They will place their hands on the sick, and they will get well.” 19 After the Lord Jesus spoke to them, he was lifted up into heaven and sat down on the right side of God. 20 But they went out and proclaimed the message everywhere. The Lord worked with them, confirming the word by the signs associated with them. Mark 16:15-20, CEB

These three passages show us God’s overarching vision for humanity and creation. At the end of His ministry in both Matthew’s and Mark’s gospel, Jesus charges His disciples with continuing God’s original intent for creation—to multiply and fill and bless the earth (Gen 1:28). Jesus blesses His disciples and empowers them with royal authority. He then charges them to multiply and fill the earth (make disciples of all nations) and bring it into God’s Kingdom. By continuing with the story in Acts, we see those disciples, filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit and living like Jesus, impacting the entire world! In Matthew 28:18-20, The disciples were commissioned to take God’s kingdom authority into the world, bring others into relationship with God, and then help them learn how to live from that place of relationship. “Jesus is passing the torch to his disciples, even as he promises to be with them forever—spiritually, not physically—to empower them for future mission.”[7]

“The main command of Christ’s commission is ‘make disciples’ (mathēteusate).”[8] His idea of disciple has a very particular connotation in the ancient world where a “person became a disciple as he sought out a teacher and followed him and his principles.”[9] This means that we make disciples as we teach what Jesus taught, demonstrate through our actions how Jesus lived, and then lead others in becoming like Jesus. This echoes the charge from God in Genesis 1:28 where God calls humanity (Adam and Eve) to multiply and fill the earth—this can be procreation but also speaks to creating others who walk in the same deep fellowship with God.

This future mission is still the believer’s commission today. We are called and empowered to reconcile the world to right and healthy relationship with God and others (2 Cor 5:18-20). As individuals are reconciled with God, they become His children (1 Jn 3:1), His heirs (Rom 8:17), and His righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). As they are transformed by the renewing of their minds (Rom 12:2), they begin to think, speak, and act like Jesus to those around them.

In the foreword to the book, Compelled by Love, Rolland Baker writes of his and Heidi’s experiences learning to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. “Truly He [God] demonstrates His grace most clearly by reaching down to the unlikely, forgotten, and noninfluential and creating in them the qualities of His own character to teach the rest of the world the riches of His kindness.”[10] The model of ministry that Heidi and Rolland Baker learned to live out is based on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, specifically the portion commonly called the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12. Heidi writes of how she learned, from the poor and the orphans among whom they ministered, what it looked like to live from a Kingdom perspective. “I finally am beginning to understand God’s kingdom from the children and the poor. They teach us about dependence, humility, and being emptied of all else so that God can fill us. They simply have nothing else.”[11]

Daily, as we learn to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, we have the opportunity to impact the world. And this is God’s plan. We are to be salt and light that carry God’s purposes forward (Matt 5:13-16). We are entrusted with this most awesome responsibility as we lead and minister to others (disciple others) for the world’s benefit. We are new creations and ambassadors for Christ. We have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation and helping to lead others into deeper relationships with the Father (2 Cor 5:17-21)!

As we reflect on this week’s article and continue to dive deeper, be open to what God is revealing in your own life. Allow Him to speak to areas where you can grow deeper in relationship with Him so that you can lead others further in their own journeys. Hearing and responding to God with a teachable heart brings us all into a deeper revelation of (1) how to be more like Jesus and (2) how to lead from God’s heart to impact the world around us.

Spend time reflecting on the Scriptures and concepts we covered. Consider what God might be revealing to you or about you. In what ways is your current leadership style reflecting Jesus as your foundation? What practical, measurable way can you shift to have more of a Kingdom leadership perspective? What way(s) do you dream of impacting the world? Spend time dialoguing with God and seek His heart.


[1] Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, special anniversary ed. (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2018), 1.
[2] Bob Sawvelle, “The Gospel of the Kingdom” (sermon, Passion Church, Tucson, AZ, November 14, 2017), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afDYw9fmeCs.
[3] Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), Kindle Edition, 322.
[4] Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, Kindle Edition, 323.
[5] Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, Kindle Edition, 323.
[6] Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 280.
[7] Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 431.
[8] Blomberg, Matthew, 431.
[9] Dan Nässelqvist, “Disciple,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), emphasis added.
[10] Heidi Baker, Compelled by Love (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2008), Kindle Location 116.
[11] Baker, Compelled by Love, 13.

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