Leaders Are Servants

A recent Google search counted over 12 billion internet pages on the general subjects of “leaders” and “leadership”. Yet, even a cursory reading of the four New Testament Gospels discloses that Christ talked a lot more about being a servant than He ever did about being a leader. I don’t think that means necessarily that we shouldn’t talk about leadership or that we shouldn’t strive to be leaders. What I’m saying here is that in God’s work, the greatest level of true influence may come from serving.

That seems to be what our Lord is saying in Matthew 20:20-28. In this passage, we learn that Christ has an entirely different concept of leadership than the world does. Please take a few moments to read through that story again. You will see there that people often have a skewed perspective and viewpoint about the idea of leadership and influence. My quick internet search revealed the same confusion about it today.

Leadership Is Not a “Position”

Here, the mother of James and John came to Christ with a unique, although quite a self-serving request. She wanted her sons to sit in positions of honor and respect in Christ’s kingdom. (See Matthew 20, verses 20 and 21.) His answer was honestly quite harsh. He confronted her by asking if they were willing to pay the price necessary for those positions.

The narrative tells us that when the other disciples heard this request they were “greatly displeased”. Their reaction was probably one of jealousy because they wanted those positions of honor too.

This text is clear. The world believes that having a “position” is the key to real influence. We must admit that it is easy to get caught in that trap, too. We want to be “captain” or “president”. We often see leadership as having a position of honor. But, that’s not what Christ taught!

Leadership Is Not “Authority”

Jesus continues his teaching on this subject in verse 25. He also told them that seeking a level of “authority” is not what He wanted for them. He plainly says that a desire for authority is a characteristic of the Gentiles or “heathen”. We often get hung up in that philosophy as well. We think leadership must be the ability to be in charge or to be able to tell others what to do.

Greatness Comes Through Serving

Matthew’s Gospel account of this event concludes in verses 26 through 28. His disciples got the message, I’m sure. “It shall not be so among you.” Having a position of influence or having authority was not His idea of leadership.

Here’s what He taught, “…whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man (the Lord Jesus Christ Himself) did not come to be served, but to serve…”

You may or may not look at yourself as a leader, and you may or may not want to have a certain “position” or level of “authority”. But, all of us can be servants, and we do that by our willingness to do whatever Christ asks us to do. That’s not the world view of leadership, but that is what Christ taught.

Let’s serve Him!


The blog post was written by Mel Walker, NYMC Workshop Speaker. To register for Teen Leadership Conference and National Youth Ministries Conference, visit the link.

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