FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
A MULTI-FACETED ROLE
November 7, 2016
Today’s readings contain many different realities about a servant leader who is called to be an elder. He is a man of many roles. No, not a Jack of all trades but master of none. Rather, he has multi-faceted roles all compatibly rolled into one.
First, like Paul, he is “a slave of God” (Ti 1:1a). He belongs to God. His life in no longer his own. He has been purchased by the blood of Jesus. He lives to serve Christ and his Church.
Second, he is an “apostle of Jesus Christ” (Ti 1:1b). He is one who is sent. He stands in God’s place, to accomplish divine work. He attends to prayer and the ministry of the word.
Third, he is an evangelizer, who, like Paul, was an instrument “who indeed at the proper time revealed his word in the proclamation with which I was entrusted by the command of God our savior” (Ti 1:3). Jesus commands his disciples to proclaim the gospel of salvation. He looks to rapid and massive evangelization.
Fourth, he is “God’s steward” (Ti 1:7a). God has entrusted to him His divine work. He makes use of what God provides–his time, talent and treasure–for the good of the Kingdom.
Fifth, he is a shepherd. He serves “for the sake of the faith of God’s chosen ones and the recognition of religious truth” (Ti 1:1c). He takes care of God’s flock, looking to preserving and strengthening their faith, by teaching and formation in religious truth.
Sixth, he is a presbyter, an elder in the community, participating in governance. Paul directed Titus to “appoint presbyters in every town” (Ti 1:5). They took care of the communities that had been formed.
That is quite a role and responsibility. It requires a high degree of moral uprightness, needed to do divine work. His morality is in relation to God, to his family, to brethren in the community. He must be without blame.
First, his relationship with God is in place. He is “a lover of goodness, temperate, just, holy, and self-controlled” (Ti 1:8b).
Second, his family life is in good order. He should “be blameless, married only once, with believing children who are not accused of licentiousness or rebellious.” (Ti 1:6).
Third, his relationships with others are above reproach. He is “blameless, not arrogant, not irritable, not a drunkard, not aggressive, not greedy for sordid gain, but hospitable” (Ti 1:7-8a).
Further, the servant leader who is an elder must possess certain necessary virtues, especially in relation to his task of caring for the body.
First, he must be orthodox in his teaching, “holding fast to the true message as taught so that he will be able both to exhort with sound doctrine and to refute opponents.” (Ti 1:9). He knows what is right and just and true.
Second, he must cause no scandal among his members, or “cause one of these little ones to sin.” (Lk 17:2b). Scandalous behavior by leaders can lead members to a weakening or loss of faith, causing them to stumble and even fall away. Jesus issues a stern warning: “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur.” (Lk 17:1).
Third, he must call out his members if they sin. “If your brother sins, rebuke him” (Lk 17:3b). He is not to be politically correct, just accepting the sinner without talking of his sin.
Fourth, he must be merciful. He forgives, even “seven times in one day” (Lk 17:4a). He is not judgmental or condemning. It is simply that “if he repents, forgive him.” (Lk 17:3c).
Fifth, he is continually growing in faith. He asks the Lord, for himself and for his peers, “Increase our faith.” (Lk 17:5). He confidently looks to the power of such faith. “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you.’” (Lk 17:6). Impossible? Moses parted the Red Sea. Joshua stopped the movement of the sun across the heavens for a whole day. Nothing is impossible with God, if you have faith.
You can see how important is the task of a servant leader who is an elder. His ultimate aim is to help bring everyone in his care to heaven, leaving no one behind. He clings to “the hope of eternal life that God, who does not lie, promised before time began” (Ti 1:2).
In this regard, he helps form and bring his members to holiness, to prepare them for entering into the holy city, the New Jerusalem. “Who may go up the mountain of the Lord? Who can stand in his holy place? The clean of hand and pure of heart” (Ps 24:3-4a).
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