Servant Leaders Equip Others

This week, we focus on a servant leader’s responsibility to those they lead. Ephesians 4:11-13 teaches us that God raises up leaders to prepare and equip the church for the work of ministry. Servant leaders are called to build up the whole body, to help them realize the unity of faith and knowledge of Jesus, and to bring others into maturity. Therefore, as servant leaders we must learn how and be focused upon equipping and raising others to walk beside us and to continue on after us.

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 4:11-13, CEB

Equipping Others

This task of equipping others must become a key part of a servant leader’s life. Just as leaders are trained, so too, we must train others who will repeat this process. This model can best be seen when Paul outlines this principle for Timothy.

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2, NASB

Paul charges Timothy to find others to whom he can entrust the task of teaching and training more believers. The Greek word for entrust is parathou and it means that which has been given into the care and protection of another. “In the [New Testament], it appears only in Paul’s letters to Timothy, where it refers to the Christian doctrine that has been entrusted to Paul (2 Tim 1:12) and to Timothy (1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:14).”[1] What is done with that which is entrusted to another is is of utmost importance in this instance. “The transmission of Christian truth must never be left to chance, and is clearly not committed fortuitously to every Christian, but only to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Two qualifications are demanded: a loyalty to the truth, i.e. a loyalty which has to be proved, and an aptitude to teach.”[2]

This trust placed on every generation of leader to reproduce others can be a daunting challenge. “According to one classical definition, theology is ‘faith seeking understanding’ (fides quarens intellectum).”[3] Thus, at its core this trust is a matter of bringing understanding first to ourselves and then to others. If we focus just on the facets of understanding, we can simply bring understanding to the truths of Scripture, the Christian life, and anything else life brings our way.

Several years ago, Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe collaborated to develop concepts of backward design for education. They discuss six facets of understanding defined by the expected outcome or behavior once understanding is reached. When we understand, we can explain, interpret, apply, have perspective, empathize, and have self-knowledge.[4]

However, we must not forget the model of Christ who called twelve others to walk with him, learn from him, practice what he taught with his support, and then were released to repeat what they had learned with others. This is also the model Paul used with Timothy as they traveled together. “When Paul felt Timothy was qualified to do ministry without him, he left Timothy in Ephesus to lead the church (1 Tim. 1:3).”[5] Then he wrote to Timothy and encouraged him to practice the same model he experienced with Paul and which Jesus used to raise up a company of world-changers. So, while Wiggins and McTighe captured and applied concepts to modern education, we can see that these form a basis for what Christ used and applied as he called, led, and prepared his disciples for future mission. Let us look at the six facets and at how Jesus applied them in his own ministry on earth.

Explanation is a restatement of the presented information with supported information “which prove knowledgeable and justified accounts of events, actions, and ideas.”[6] This implies more than just having the facts and figures. It is the ability to connect the information in a way that reveals the “why” and “how” behind the information. To bring others to this level, we must balance the raw data with application and experimentation to discover the deeper connections that leads to internalization and understanding.

In Matthew 13:36-43, we see one instance where Jesus privately explained the parable of the weeds in the field (Matt 13:24-30) to his disciples. He used this opportunity to build context with supporting information to bring meaning to the principles which he was teaching. This was to give his disciples a deeper knowledge of the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Interpretation takes the event or idea and places it in a new context p give it meaning. “The meanings we ascribe to all events, big and small, transform our understanding and perception of particular facts.”[7] The challenge is to recognize where our personal, social, cultural, and historical context shapes meaning so we can apply the Holy Spirit’s wisdom who leads us to truth (Jn 16:13).

Jesus takes the Kingdom of Heaven and frames it with a new context by using the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13:36-43. Following the parable, in Matthew 13:44-50, Jesus uses three additional parables (a treasure, the merchant, and the net) to give different perspectives, or interpretations, of the Kingdom of Heaven for his disciples.

Application takes the information or understanding and uses it “effectively in new situations and diverse contexts.”[8] What we have learned we begin to do. We take the truths entrusted to us and apply them in our lives. We practice them as we live and walk after Christ, demonstrating a deeper understanding of the truths we’ve learned.

In Matthew 14:51-52, Jesus checked to make sure the disciples were grasping the concepts he had been explaining and then encouraged them with a new way to apply the knowledge and understanding. He compared them (those who understand the new teachings) with the legal experts of Jewish religious law. He tells them that they would be like “the head of a household” (Matt 13:52) who is able to share and apply these new teachings. We see this application most clearly throughout the Book of Acts when the disciples begin to teach and demonstrate all they learned from Jesus as they were filled and led by the Holy Spirit.

Perspective is our ability to ask the “so what” question with the understanding we have gained. It allows us to have “critical and insightful points of view” that may be more or different than what we held before.[9] The challenge with perspective is to ensure that each conclusion or shift in thinking and viewing things is in alignment with Scripture.

In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus challenged commonly held perspectives in the culture of his day. In this parable, Dr. Kenneth Bailey contends that Jesus departs from a culturally expected narrative where a Jewish layman (serving at the temple alongside the priest and Levite) should become the hero and “good neighbor” the lawyer was seeking.[10] Instead, the hero of the story turns out to be a Samaritan who lavishes attentive care on the wounded man, a Jew and a mortal enemy in that culture! Thus, Jesus shifts perspective to highlight that anyone in need is our neighbor regardless of status or condition. He also demonstrates that loving our neighbor as ourselves requires us to step out of our prejudices and preconceived paradigms to view the world from God’s perspective so that we can meet the needs of any whom we encounter.

Empathy continues building on the facet of perspective. It allows us to begin to see things from another’s point of view by considering their feelings, thoughts, and experiences.[11] It gives us a broader understanding of information than we may have from our own limited point of view. This also brings us back to one of our core Scriptures, Philippians 2:3 (NASB), in which we “regard one another as more important” than ourselves. While the colloquialism to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” has value, we are challenged to never forget that Christ himself walked as a man and offers us the ultimate depth of understanding in this life and beyond.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus uses the elements of story to create an atmosphere that allowed the crowd to imaginatively enter the situation. He used familiar elements to create a connection to the expected hero, the rescuer of the wounded and broken. Would that hero be a faithful, ordinary Jew? No, rather Jesus switched the equation, made the hero a cultural enemy, and then portrayed him with the best aspects of a merciful and benevolent rescuer. This evoked a visceral response in which the “lawyer does not want to openly praise the Samaritan” but is unable to deny the role of the Samaritan as rescuer and hero.[12] Jesus placed the people within the story to draw them to the perspective of the wounded man whose rescuer was reviled and hated but who demonstrated the greatest love.

Self-knowledge is the final facet and brings us to the point where we see ourselves more fully and more truly. It is “the wisdom to know one’s ignorance and how one’s patterns of thought and action inform as well as prejudice understanding.”[13] This facet challenges us to close examination of our own speech, actions, and motives in light of God’s truth. It calls us deeper into His presence for the fullness of intimate relationship with Him. Matthew 6:33 encourages us to seek God first in and above all things. Knowing God is to more fully come to know ourselves in the light of His presence.

As with the previous two facets, one purpose of the parable of the Good Samaritan was to expose a heart issue—the prevalence of prejudice and judgement over mercy and compassion. “Compassion reaches beyond the requirements of any law” and demands action for the needs of those we encounter.[14] The parable requires that we examine our own attitudes and behaviors, whether we hear it for the first time in the crowd gathered around Jesus or in examination of Scripture today.


These six facets help us , and others, grow in understanding as we train and equip. They reveal principles that Jesus used in his own ministry as he prepared others for their calling and mission once He was gone. “Jesus constantly taught his disciples. He trained them about the nature of the kingdom of God (Matt. 13). He explained his mission (Mark 10:32-34). He performed miracles to teach lessons (Mark 4:35-41). Jesus even instructed his disciples on their attitude about being his followers (Luke 17:7-10).”[15] Just as he modeled this way of equipping with his disciples, so too we are called to bring others into deeper relationship with God by raising them up through the ministry of servant leadership. You are an equipper!

[1] Ron Clark and Dougald McLaurin III, “Stewardship,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).
[2] Donald Guthrie, Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 14, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 156.
[3] Daniel Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), 2.
[4] Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design (Upper Saddle River, N.J: Merrill/Prentice Hall, 2001), 44.
[5] Gene Wilkes, Jesus on Leadership: Timeless Wisdom on Servant Leadership (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1998), Location 2479, Kindle Edition.
[6] Wiggins and McTighe, Understanding by Design, 45.
[7] Wiggins and McTighe, Understanding by Design, 48.
[8] Wiggins and McTighe, Understanding by Design, 51.
[9] Wiggins and McTighe, Understanding by Design, 53.
[10] Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), Kindle Edition, 293.
[11] Wiggins and McTighe, Understanding by Design, 55.
[12]  Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, 296.
[13] Wiggins and McTighe, Understanding by Design, 57.
[14] Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, 297.
[15] Wilkes, Jesus on Leadership, Location 2524.


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