Three Activities of a Servant Leader, Part 3

The last of the three activities we want to look at is the act of service. Service helps leaders develop a deeper heart of compassion for others. Jesus summed up the core of the Law with two commands; love God with everything you are and everything you have, and love others selflessly (Matt 22:36-40). These two commands strike at the core of our inner selves, highlighting that action must flow from a proper heart attitude or inner discipline (Lk 6:45). Once again, through service, we focus on the principle that our inner life, our heart, is the source of all we say and do (Prov 4:23, Matt 12:34-35) and is of utmost importance for our growth and development.

Service as a Lifestyle

After an intense time of successful and powerful ministry where the disciples were empowered to heal and cast out demons, food was multiplied, many were healed, and the disciples recognized Jesus as the awaited Messiah, the disciples were arguing over who would be the greatest among them, but when “there is trouble over who is the greatest, there is trouble over who is the least.”[1] And this is the crux of the issue; not all will be the greatest at anything, but nobody really wants to be the least. Unfortunately, in our society this is also the issue for many believers, especially those in leadership roles. “To live as a servant while fulfilling socially important roles is one of the greatest challenges any disciple ever faces.”[2] Service flows from a heart of humility as it calls us to become low to put others, and their needs, ahead of our own. “Nothing disciplines the inordinate desires of the flesh like service, and nothing transforms the desires of the flesh like serving in hiddenness.”[3]

Service is listening. This is a beginning point of service. As we quiet our thoughts and listen attentively, we are also opening ourselves to hear God’s heart for the person in need. “It creates an inward working upon the heart that transforms the affections, even the priorities, of life.”[4] This active listening, without the pressure to give an answer, schools us in patience and allows compassion for others to grow.

Service is loving. As we listen to the needs of others, God will often move our heart in compassion for the person or situation. In his book, Keeping the Fire, Rolland Baker writes that one of the core values of Iris Ministries is going to the least.[5] He points out that Jesus taught that we should stop and help anyone in need (Lk 10:25-37) and that they recognized it was a lived out lifestyle.[6] He then related a story of how his wife, Heidi, saw a girl lying by the side of the road very ill. She stopped to take the girl to the hospital and saw to her treatment. This simple act of love and compassion changed the course of the girl’s life.

First of all, Heidi did not preach to this girl. She gave a helping hand. Secondly, the climax to the story is not a healing miracle. It is that the girl got help and got better. Thirdly, the lesson is this: going to the least of these is sometimes just a matter of stopping and helping. This is enough to bring heaven to earth in a person’s life. It is enough to point a person to Jesus and to make them smile.[7]

– Roland Baker, Keeping the Fire

Serving is doing. Service is not a “to do” list, but it is doing. It is a physical action that achieves measured results. It begins with simple things that may seem insignificant to us but which meet a real and tangible need for another. That means that no service, no matter how small or simple is beneath any leader. Instead, it is often the small and hidden acts of service that have the most impact on attitudes and atmospheres in our areas of ministry. When we hear what the need is and respond in a practical manner, we are serving with God’s heart. It is often these simple acts that change or impact others the most.

Service is being. Service is also more than just action; it is a state of being.[8] It is not the practice of an action to garner recognition, rather selfless service is something done with no expectation of reward, response, or recognition. Service to others in the spirit of Jesus sees all actions undertaken as equally valuable. This selflessness in service “lets us be what we are—simply a particularly lively piece of clay who, as servant of God, happens to be here now with the ability to do this good and needful thing for that other bit of clay there.”[9] As we serve others, we truly come into a place of simply being who we were made to be—God’s own masterpiece fulfilling the purpose of doing good work in Christ (Eph 2:10).

Final Thoughts on Servant Leader Activities

The basic activities of study, prayer, and service are core activities for growth but only scratch the surface of developing a thriving inner life and deep relationship with God. If you want to grow deeper in spiritual disciplines, I recommend reading more of Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline. His book builds on the concepts we have touched on in this chapter and add others such as fasting, solitude, submission, confession, worship, celebration, and more. It is as we develop these new (or deeper) heart attitudes that we begin to grow as servant leaders.

These activities are steps on a journey deeper into the heart of God and growth as a servant leader. Study helps us learn who God is, what He does, and how He speaks to us today. Prayer keeps us connected to Him and develops a deeper dependence on Him every day—it helps us focus on Him and become more like Him. Acts of service allow us to express what we are learning about God and live a life reflective of Him to those around us. This upward and outward action reflects the two greatest commandments of loving God with your entire being and will and then loving others (Matt 24:34-40). Keep pressing in for more of God and a deep rich relationship with Him!

As a final encouragement, I urge you to set a goal for each activity (study, prayer, and service) to help you develop these activities into daily habits. Be blessed, and keep growing!


[1] Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, special anniversary ed. (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2018),126.
[2] Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (New York: HarperOne, 2009), 183.
[3] Foster, Celebration, 130.
[4] Foster, Celebration, 138.
[5] Rolland Baker, Keeping the Fire: Sustaining Revival through Love (Kent, U. K.: River Publishing and Media Ltd., 2015), 74, Kindle Edition.
[6] Baker, Keeping the Fire, 74.
[7] Baker, Keeping the Fire, 75-76.
[8] Foster, Celebration, 133.
[9] Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, 184.

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