FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
A SERVANT LEADER LIKE PAUL
May 10, 2016
Today’s reading: Acts 20:17-27
The call to the New Evangelization cannot be lived out without authentic servant leaders, who understand what the call to servant leadership is, for the service of the gospel and the Kingdom, according to the New Evangelization. Servant leaders serve in order to proclaim Christ, to be his witnesses, and to bring people to repentance and faith in Jesus. “I earnestly bore witness for both Jews and Greeks to repentance before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus.” (v.21).
Paul was such a servant leader. Today we see various characteristics that make an authentic servant leader. Paul is addressing “the presbyters of the church” (v.17), that is, the elders.
First, he is humble. “I served the Lord with all humility” (v.19a). To be a leader is to be up there, to have power and authority, to be acclaimed. On the other hand, to be a servant is to be down there, to be powerless, to have no stature. Humility is the key to being both servant and leader.
Second, he accepts suffering and pain as part of the call. He served “with the tears and trials that came to me” (v.19b). He was only human, suffering disappointment, oppression, betrayal and persecution, but he endured and persevered. He pressed on with his mission even as “in one city after another the holy Spirit has been warning me that imprisonment and hardships await me.” (v.23). The servant leader actually looks to the cross and embraces it, seeing it as a great privilege in serving Christ.
Third, he is bold in proclaiming the gospel, for the good of his hearers. “I did not at all shrink from telling you what was for your benefit” (v.20a). The gospel is the incredible good news of salvation in Jesus. It is the best thing that can be brought into the lives of people. In the face of opposition, the servant leader must go forth with all boldness, with much conviction about his call and his work.
Fourth, he takes every opportunity to do the work. Paul did not shrink “from teaching you in public or in your homes.” (v.20b). Being the treasure that the gospel is, the servant leader must be consumed with proclaiming it, in or out of season, in fertile or hard soil, to large or small groups, in public or in private.
Fifth, he is docile to the Spirit, being obedient to God even in the face of uncertainly about outcomes of mission. “But now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem. What will happen to me there I do not know” (v.22). The servant leader simply trusts in God. He knows that what is best for him and for his work is what God intends. So he allows himself to be led by the Spirit. He is not deterred by questioning, doubting or second-guessing the Holy Spirit. He leaves the fruit up to God.
Sixth, he knows that his task is a matter of life and death for those he encounters. “And so I solemnly declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you” (v.26). Belief in the gospel leads to calling on the name of the Lord, which leads to being saved. The crucial importance of the gospel is that our response determines life or death, heaven or hell through all eternity, for others. If we do not do our task given the opportunity, then we can be held accountable for a soul that might be lost.
Seventh, he proclaims the full gospel, the fullness of life in Christ. “I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God.” (v.27). The servant leader helps bring people to Christ, and enables them to live the life of Christ, which is a life of holiness and discipleship. He also teaches them about serving Christ, especially in sharing Christ to others. The plan of God in its entirely is about Christian witness and perfection.
Eighth, he is totally committed to the cause, even unto death. “Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace.” (v.24). The servant leader knows that this is the most important work he is called and privileged to do. It is divine work. It is being an instrument of God’s salvation and care. It is totally worth dedicating one’s whole life to.
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