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Theology is Practical

Everything we do has a reason behind it. What we do comes from what we believe is true. The motives for our actions come from our worldview- what we believe about life, God, humanity, etc. If your convictions align with God’s truth, you will be conformed to do God’s will.

That is why theological education is important. It is the foundation for proper praxis, missional living. Theological education seems to be less important to Americans, who want more “practical” teaching instead. The assumption is that theology isn’t practical. Let’s look at why theology isn’t just practical; it’s essential.

When people say they want practical, what they often want is to know what to do. Who should I marry? What job should I take? Should I take out another loan? There is a subtle danger in seeking the “practical” if we are actually asking for more religion. Sometimes people seek regulations to make life more simple, manageable and understandable, because it gives us our own clarity and justification. But that puts us in the driver seat, taking comfort in our control, instead of trusting God to work despite our limitations in decision-making. We need to make wise decisions, of course, but the Bible says we are set free from human regulations. Understanding this freedom in Christ, as opposed to self-imposed guidelines, is essential for growth.

That said, theology does help us make decisions, though it’s not a “how to” manual for life. The Word of God has a beautiful way of leading without taking away essential freedom. If we understand theology properly, we see the Bible gives us filters for decision-making. It gives us spiritual lenses to see God, life, the world and us. When we understand those filters properly (and use all of them), it properly guides our every day life.

Theology, at it’s core, answers the question, “Who is God?” This may seem abstract and unpractical, but that’s far from the truth. Since God is the creator and sustainer of all things, knowing who He is illuminates everything- the universe, history, and the story God is telling. In this we find our place, where we fit, our gifts, identity and role in light of who God is. This alone will answer many of our questions. For example, knowing that we are in God’s image gives us inherent worth and dignity. This guides Christians on decisions about equality and rights for the oppressed. Our understanding of God’s love provides a framework for how we should love our neighbor and who our neighbor is. The more theological filters we glean from the Bible, the more we understand who we are to be (if our goal is to be like Him).

Bible-centered theology also answers the question, “What has God said and done?” The Ten Commandments and Jesus’ teaching are obvious examples of this, but they are not the only ones. God speaks to give life; His words are life. God values people so He commands us not to murder and on the other end He commands us to care for the sick, take in the needy and look for the lost. If we want practical beyond this, we first need to stop and obey the obvious.

We can never dive too deep into theology. The more we learn about God, His words and actions, the more we can live His way. Knowing and understanding this is especially important for those in leadership. That is why Paul says church leaders are, “to equip God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-13 NIV). Works of service are linked to growth in faith and knowledge. Right theology leads people not just to works, but the right works, to build up and unify the Church. This unity happens when we gain God’s knowledge (understanding) and faith (beliefs and conviction) through theology based in His Word. Sounds pretty practical, right?

 

Missional Friendships: a simple strategy for being more engaged in missions

Our work is to equip Christ-like leaders. While there are many ways to do this, our foundational strategy has always been working through trusted relationships towards a common missional goal. We choose to co-labor with friends who share the same heart, passion, and calling as us. We do what any good friend would do- encourage, equip and empower.

I was reminded about the power of this concept by a friend, Nana Yaw, who leads Lausanne Movement’s Younger Leaders Generation as he discussed the concept of “missional friendships” in the intimate words of Christ to his disciples in John 15. Missional friendships may not be a new concept, but it has been forgotten. It is a Biblical model for ministry demonstrated by Jesus with his disciples and Paul with his colleagues. So, while the world may be more complicated and confusing, especially in ministry, Jesus’ strategy for reconciling the world is not. Here are two simple ways for you to participate more in God’s work (and you don’t have to be in fulltime ministry to do them)! 

  1. Make your relationships missional

Give purpose to the relationships God has given you. Find brothers and sisters who you want to run with in ministry. Talk about how you can serve each other and God together. Don’t give up on international involvement (you can do this in your own city). Jesus’ mission requires reaching every ethnic group on earth, so develop relationships outside your culture. This will help you discover God’s heart for all people. It helps us find our place in the global church, serve our diverse brothers and sisters, and refine our gospel, which may be tainted by culture.

  1. Make your missions relational

Ministry gets complicated when we stray from Jesus’ model. Make every expression of ministry relationally driven and every relationship ministry focused. This is how we bear fruit that lasts (John 15-16). The fruit of the Spirit is born out of our relationship with God and expressed in relationships with others. Deep, meaningful and intentional relationships are hard to find. In a distracted and over-stimulated society, I hope the church will lead the way in love, which requires intimate, sacrificial and purposeful relationships.

 

5 Ways We Enter The Kingdom Like A Child

In Luke 18, we read the story of little children coming to Jesus to be blessed. The disciples, who thought the children had little social significance, felt they weren’t important enough for Jesus and tried to push them away. But Jesus said they were worthy of his time. In fact, Jesus said that he desires everyone to come into his kingdom like children.

Many people pass over this story without diving into the implications, yet this is an incredibly important statement by Jesus to help us understand the kingdom and our response to it. I have heard some teachers conclude that we need child-like faith, but the text never says, “child-like faith.” There are two other problems with that conclusion. First, it is incomplete. Faith may be a notable attribute of children, but I think the analogy of becoming like children is more robust. Second, the idea of child-like faith often leads to inaccurate conclusions that we are to be immature and uneducated about our faith.

So what does it mean to enter the kingdom like a child? While the immediate story doesn’t elaborate, there are plenty of other texts, including those surrounding the story, which can help us understand this deeper. Based on these, I believe that God wants us to come into his kingdom:

  1. Joyfully. Children have a uniquely joyful spirit. You may argue that it’s based on their ignorance. But it’s not their ignorance that makes them joyful. They are joyful because of what they focus on; they are not yet distracted by the cares of the world. We may be less ignorant than children, but we too can have the same joy if our faith is unhindered by fearful distraction. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is being produced in us and will manifest if we don’t quench the Spirit’s work. In Matthew 13:44, Jesus tells the story of a man who joyfully sells everything to buy land that has hidden treasure. There was risk involved and the man could have been fearful, but his focus was on the reward. The kingdom is of priceless value, so our inheritance (namely Christ) should bring us great joy. When I come home, my son is (usually) overjoyed with my presence. In our lives, the level of our joy indicates the level of value that we put on God’s presence. Those who joyfully enter the kingdom know that Jesus is the main attraction. Do you find Him more valuable than everything else?
  2. Expectantly. The children came boldly to Jesus because they knew his heart. The obvious analogy is that God is our Father. We, as His children, should know He rewards. Hebrews 11:6 says that faith requires knowing that God rewards those who seek him. Luke 11:10-12 says that those who ask will receive and those who seek will find, so God gives us the Holy Spirit when we ask. The presence of God is the reward of those who seek him (Matthew 5:6). Before the story of the children is the parable of the persistent widow who expected results. I believe that expectancy manifests itself in the form of persistence. Do you expect to receive more of God?
  3. Trustingly. It’s amazing how much my son trusts me to catch him when he jumps off the couch (or stairs, bed, or whatever he can climb). Let me first clarify that there is big difference between testing and trusting (every parent knows this well). Testing has a heart of disobedience and defiance. Trust in God assumes his character is good and depends on him for our needs. While we may see ourselves as independent people, we must recognize we can do nothing a part from Christ. This is exemplified in Jesus’ parable, told immediately before the children coming, about the two men praying. It says, “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous…” (Luke 18:9). The first and foremost matter of trust is that we cannot enter the kingdom without him. Trust leads to boldness, like the blind beggar who cries out to Jesus for healing as he passed by (Luke 18:38). Trust is much more than just intellectual knowledge; it is functional. As our knowledge grows, so can our trust. Like the blind man, even limited knowledge can create solid trust if our (spiritual) eyes are firmly fixed on the correct object of our trust.
  4. Innocently. Children are not perfect, but they have a level of innocence. They are not tainted by the ways of the world. I believe the children came to Jesus with pure intentions. This is related to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:6-8 that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled and the pure in heart will see God. Purity is the image of a glass of water not mixed with anything else. Those who seek the pure living water of God will be rewarded. We will never be perfect on earth, but we can solely desire God above anything else in the world.
  5. Humbly. Children are instinctually humble because of their awareness of their limitations. Right before the children come to Jesus, Luke records Jesus saying, “the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14). During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says it is the meek who will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5) and the poor in spirit will receive the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). Then, right after the story of the children (in both Luke’s account and Mark’s) is the story of a man with great wealth and power who missed the way of the kingdom. God’s kingdom is not like the world’s. Entering is not about power, money or influence. The prideful rich young ruler wanted to follow his way rather than Christ’s. A humble person, meek and poor in spirit, see’s the power of their affection, not their own worth and merit. We become like children when we submit to the authority of Christ’s work for us.

History is headed towards Jesus’ return when He will fully established His kingdom. Therefore, as leaders in the church now, we would be wise to become like children as we enter and help others to do the same.

5 Simple Ways To Lead More Like Jesus

We will never lead perfectly like Christ, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to imitate him. Every day we make decisions where we choose to lead like Christ or lead like the world. That said, here are five simple leadership practices we can all implement in our daily lives that will help us be more like Jesus.

Patient to begin

The longer I am in ministry, the more I realize how important timing is. God waited to send Jesus at the right time and Jesus waited on the Father to begin his formal ministry. We know that as a boy he was gifted to teach, yet he waited until he was 30 (Luke 3:23)! Our culture tells us to push for goals and strive for dreams as soon as possible, but this puts our efforts at the forefront, not God’s calling. When we wait on God to open the door in his timing (instead of barging through), it demonstrates that God is the leader, not us.

Pursued faithfulness

This sounds obvious, but even our church culture can become consumed with pursuing numbers, growth and creativity more than faithfulness. These are good things, but not if they are the end goal. They are secondary to faithfulness to God’s leading. The gospel, ministry, and missions are all God’s initiatives. He will see them through; we are called to follow. We can do nothing a part from him (John 15:5). Jesus was dependent on the Father and did only what He instructed. Let’s not confuse outward results with eternal impact. If we don’t follow the Lord, our initiatives may be grandiose, but they may not bear the eternal impact God wants.

Prayed through decisions

We make hundreds of decisions every day. In an era of spreadsheets, consultants and analytics, we have many decision-making tools. However, information is not the problem. We lack divine guidance in our decision-making. Are we spending time in prayer for big and small everyday decisions? Jesus fasted and prayed before choosing his disciples (Luke 6:12-13). Today, when hiring new staff, it seems we rely more on resume’s than on prayer. Praying through a decision makes the simple statement to the world that we are not the final decision makers.

Practiced humility 

We often think humility is just how we think, but it is actually something we do. We have to make an effort to be humble. Jesus did not seek attention and he could have had much more if he wanted to flaunt his divinity. Yet he resisted earthly exaltation. Philippians 2:6-8 says that Jesus made himself low like a servant. He radically eliminated barriers between himself and those following him. He ate, slept, and lived with his disciples. There was no pay scale or moving up the power ranks with him and there shouldn’t be today either. The world knows Christ was humble. So when we fail to portray this in our leadership, our hypocrisy is obvious.

Populated disciples (not programs)

Jesus loved people. He invested in them and loved them like no one else. He elevated the worth of humanity to a new level. We know this, yet somehow the focus slowly turns to systems and programs instead of people, and the work supersedes the relationships that make it happen. Partnerships are not just a tool; they are the point! Programs may be used to facilitate relationship, but never the other way around. Our greatest witness to the world is our unity (John 17:21-23), not our creative solutions. Only people will live in eternity, so if we are going to make an eternal impact it must begin and end with people. Yes, this makes our efforts harder to quantify and measure, but it is far more Christ-like and eternal. For those who are more left-brained, investing in people is more strategic too. Programs work for a while and end. Only people can replicate.

Leading in Suffering

Last month in Nepal, I had dinner with a pastor who spent time in jail for evangelizing. His case is still ongoing and he potentially faces several years in prison. I asked him whether he was nervous about going back to jail. Without hesitating, he simply replied, “No brother, we have already won!” His statement took me by surprise. How can someone view this as a victory? He explained how in jail he was able to share Christ with all the inmates and guards, and I realized that his comment about winning wasn’t ignorant; it was a wider perspective on what it means to succeed spiritually. He knew that whether he went to jail or not, God would use it for His greater purposes.

This embrace of suffering goes against our typical paradigm of leadership, which motivates us to win and lead people to physical wellbeing. But a worldly leadership paradigm fails to consider that God’s view of success is far different from ours. In fact, the Bible says that suffering is a part of God’s plan for believers.

After Saul encounters Jesus on the road to Damascus, God tells Ananias, “I will show him (Saul) how much he must suffer for My name” (Acts 9:16). Some may think this is punishment for Saul, but I don’t think so. It seems to be a prophecy of how God will use Saul to spread the gospel. Jesus says a similar thing when talking about the end times. He says, “you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me…and this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:9,14). This appears to be more than just a prediction of Christian suffering; Jesus says there is a specific purpose for suffering in fulfilling God’s final purposes on earth.

If God uses suffering to spread the gospel, then we cannot fully lead God’s purposes on earth without understanding the role of struggles, hardship, and persecution.

Suffering is not the failure of God to intervene. God himself suffered. He became a man and died for us, on purpose. Because God suffered, suffering has the ability to sanctify us and make us more like Him. This is why following Christ to the cross is not morbid but a joyful pursuit of God’s greater work in us and in the world. If we examine the Bible, we can find many purposes for suffering. Here are just 20 I’ve found:

  1. Persecution leads to boldness (Acts 4:13,29)
  2. Struggles lead to selflessness and sharing (Acts 4:32)
  3. Suffering bears the fruit of joy (Acts 5:41)
  4. Persecution leads to outward movement and mission (Acts 8:1,4, Matthew 10:23)
  5. Those who are persecuted receive blessing from God (Matthew 5:10)
  6. Suffering points to a reward in heaven (Matthew 5:12)
  7. Death of ourselves can lead to spiritual multiplication (John 12:24-25)
  8. Suffering confirms we are co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17)
  9. Suffering confirms our hope (and the best) is yet to come (Romans 8:24-25)
  10. Suffering shows God’s working purpose in all things (Romans 8:28)
  11. Suffering reveals Jesus’ life in us (2 Corinthians 4:7-11)
  12. Suffering allows Christ strength/power to show in us (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
  13. Suffering helps us grow in holiness like Christ (Hebrews 2:10-11, 12:10)
  14. Suffering creates empathy (Hebrews 2:18)
  15. God’s discipline creates righteousness and peace (Hebrews 12:10-11)
  16. Suffering shows that we are content in Christ alone (Philippians 4:11-13)
  17. Suffering refines our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7)
  18. Suffering results in God’s praise and honor (1 Peter 1:7)
  19. Suffering brings intimacy with God’s Spirit (1 Peter 4:14)
  20. Suffering confirms our commitment to God (1 Peter 4:19, Matthew 24:13)

With this in mind, I pray that we will gain a godly perspective on our lives amidst suffering, so that like my friend facing trial we (and those we lead) can joyfully say, “Thank you God, for we have already won!”

Five ways society is (unfortunately) leading the Church

The Church has everything it needs to impact the world. Unfortunately, if we compare it with secular society, there are several areas where society is leading the Church- ways in which the Church was meant to excel! Part of the problem is our bad theology, or lack of theology, which holds us back from the full potential of Christ’s body. Here are five areas where the Church needs to reclaim its leadership.

  1. Encouraging Individuality

Freedom (within God’s will) is supposed to be a hallmark of the Church. Instead, the Church is more known for uniformity. In fact, many people leave the church because they are bored or don’t feel they fit in. The goal is to follow Jesus, but we don’t have to look the same. Popular culture is desperately telling people to be unique. God’s message thousands of years ago was that He made us each uniquely in His image (Psalm 139:13).

  1. Influencing Culture

This is foundational to the mission of the Church. We are to impact the world for Christ by making disciples, being salt and light (Matthew 5:13). However, we see far more disciples of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, TED Talks and Harvard Business School. Leading cultural change for the better should be a core component of the church, but it’s often outsourced to secular society.

  1. Inspiring Drive and Passion

Being driven for selfish motives is wrong, but being driven is not. Society encourages personal drive for money, power and success. In the Church, are we as driven to make Christ known? The Apostle Paul was relentlessly driven by the glory of Christ in every sphere of his life (Phil 3:7-9). Are we more passionate about the mission of the Church than businesses are about making profit?

  1. Pursuing Quality

In the business sector, if you don’t perform then you are out of a job. In the church we can’t just drop people, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hold people to a higher standard of quality. We know that ministry is not about production, but our efforts should be to the best of our ability (Col 3:23). It was the Jesuits and Presbyterians who founded some of the best educational institutions. Shouldn’t Christians today create movies, books, music, apps, and websites that compete with the best of society? After all, what we do tells the world how committed we are to the One we serve.

  1. Adapting Creatively and Contextually

We know that there are moral boundaries for how the church operates, but the church is meant to be extremely adaptable- able to thrive in any culture at any time. The Great Commission makes it clear we are to teach and baptize to make disciples (Matt 28:18-20), but there are many possibilities for how we can reach, teach, and equip the saints. Yet with all of our resources (including the Holy Spirit in us!), we still get spiritual myopia. It is often our tradition that blinds us to new possibilities. Society contextualizes movies, business plans, and technology to reach the masses. How creatively is the Church doing the same?

Leading to the Front

Earlier this month, I joined a group that was biking across South Africa. Not only was I able to make new friends, I also got to introduce the group to our work training leaders and caring for vulnerable children. Over the seven days that I was with the team, I rode over 350 miles. You should know that I am not a biker so that probably doubled the amount of miles I have ever ridden! Needless to say, I had a lot to learn.

One event sticks out in my mind as particularly formative. It was early in the trip about midway through the ride. I had stuck with the lead group for a while in the morning, but was growing tired and slowly fell behind. At one point I was about a 100 yards behind the group, which felt like an insurmountable distance to catch up. At that time, our South African group leader Mark came up from behind me. Apparently he had been watching me and knew I was falling further and further behind. With two simple phrases, he changed everything for me on that ride. He rode up next to me and said, “Follow me, Ill take you there.”

Instantly, I gained new confidence. Mark got in front of me and I fell in line behind him as he shielded me from the oncoming wind. With that, my pedaling grew easier and my hope was restored. I kept my head down and carefully followed the cadence of his pedals, matching his rhythm and speed. Slowly, I noticed that we began to gain ground. And after a while, to my astonishment, we caught up to the group.

You may be able to guess why this memory is lodged in my mind- it characterizes so much about the struggle of leadership when people fall behind, teams fall apart, and you must lead people back to success. So what happened in those few minutes with Mark and how can we do the same for others? I believe there are three very simple things, which I learned on that ride: target, tactics and teamwork.

Target: The first problem was that I had lost my target while trailing the group. More specifically, I had lost hope of getting to the target. I no longer even wanted to catch up. My target had become status quo and staying behind. Without Mark calling me back to the main objective of reaching the group, I would not have had the motivation to do so. His simple vision of “getting there” was enough to renew my goals.

Tactics: I am not a cyclist, as I mentioned, so I didn’t have the knowhow to catch up to a more experienced group ahead of me. But Mark did. All I had to do was follow his lead, match his steps and tactics. He took a slow and steady approach to catching up. It was so steady that I hardly noticed I was going faster. This kind of strategy and pace are necessary to move people to a better place. People need more than just a target, they need a strategy to get there.

Teamwork: The final piece of the puzzle was teamwork. I was unable to reach the lead group by myself. I had tried to keep up, but was unable to because I had not yet learned how to ride in a pack. In this case, I needed Mark to draft the wind for me and show me how to cycle more efficiently. When he shielded me from the oncoming wind, my pedaling became 20% easier and I was able to keep up. Moving ahead requires other people, not just for motivation but for longevity. Every good biking team knows that teamwork is imperative to keeping pace, conserving energy and going further.

This event also provides a great image of Biblical leadership, specifically of Christ who said the same words to his followers two thousand years ago, “Follow me”. The difference is that His goal is to take us to God and godliness. We are all subpar with God and falling further behind. Perfection is the goal, but our efforts to get there alone always fail. We need a Guide who can take us there. That person is Jesus, but we must learn to follow Him. We need to learn to walk like him, live like him, and love like him. We need Him to bear the wind for us and we need His Spirit to inspire us with hope. If this is how our wonderful Savior leads us, then we must learn to do the same with others.

Lessons from a Global Gathering

This month I (Caleb) was able to attend Lausanne Movement’s Younger Leaders Gathering (YLG) in Jakarta. It was a privilege to gather with about 1000 leaders and mentors from over 140 countries around the world, and an honor to help facilitate the prayer room and evening of prayer during the event. The purpose of the gathering was to teach, pray, connect and collaborate with ministries around the world to propel global mission. After some reflection, here are a few key takeaways from the week:

  • Understanding God’s Story is a great cure for our idleness, idolatry, and infectiveness. During the gathering, we discussed the grand narrative of the Bible. It was powerful to see that the more we understand what God is doing, the more we are forced to step outside of ourselves and engage in missions.
  • All Mission is God’s. The Great Commission is impossible without the Holy Spirit! We (especially in the West) need to realize that God is the initiator and leader of all successful mission work. Therefore, we all need to wait, listen, and respond more. That is why prayer took such a central role during the gathering.
  • Globally, the church is succeeding despite challenges. Where we see the biggest opportunities in missions, there are also some of the biggest obstacles like persecution. But God is raising up incredible leaders who are making huge strides with the gospel and reaching the unreached.
  • Unity is not just a strategy, it is a part of God’s goal! This is a unique time in history when the church needs to be more unified than ever. We have to realize that we will not succeed alone because our unity affects both our progress and our testimony.
  • Our brothers and sisters need our involvement. We need to support our brothers and sisters around the world. Technology, communication, and transportation are making this possible, but we must engage with wisdom. It’s complex, so let’s enter every situation with humility, discovering how we can best serve the body of Christ.

Halfway through the gathering, during the evening of prayer, we all took a white stone and wrote what God is speaking to us. Then, at the end of the week, we took someone else’s stone to commit to prayer. To me, this is a beautiful picture of how God is fulfilling his mission through our diversity and unity. It is humbling to know that God is using people like you and me to reconcile the world to himself, but our confidence is in the Cornerstone who brings us all together. So, while our generation may have a huge task ahead of us, I am excited to see what the Lord will do!

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Live Free, Lead Free

        We believe the gospel is essential to leadership development. You see, Jesus was the freest person to walk the earth and it is no coincidence that he was also the best leader. Free from sin and selfishness, Jesus was able to put others first and lead people into greater freedom. So today, leaders must also live in this freedom to be truly effective.
        Unfortunately, freedom is often misunderstood. Spiritual freedom in Christ is not about personal rights, government regulations, or social status. Jesus showed this through his submission to the Father, taking the role of a servant, and not seeking any advancement of his own- yet he was fully free. The freedom that Jesus offers is freedom from sin, the law, and selfish desires.
        Paul wrote about this freedom in the book of Galatians. Some Galatians were tempted to trust in the law and some thought, like us today, that freedom meant they could do whatever they want. But that isn’t Biblical freedom. Though the gospel frees us from sin, we must daily choose to walk in that freedom by denying ourselves.
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        The chart above shows that true freedom requires faith in Christ and denial of our old nature. Without both, we will continue in a form of slavery. This is why Jesus calls his followers to pick up their cross, deny themselves and follow him. As Paul reminds Jesus’ followers, this is only possible by walking in the Spirit.
        This kind of spiritual freedom is especially important for leaders today, who must pave the way through discipline and self-control. Without living in this freedom, leaders cannot bring the church into the abounding freedom that Christ provided through his life, death and resurrection!

The Problem with Servant Leadership in Church

Our paradigm for servant leadership is wrong.

When servant leadership became popular, it was a positive alternative to the domineering and power-driven leadership we often see in the world, which wasn’t just a problem in the secular workplace. The church also had leaders who’d become overly dignified. Like anything else, the excitement of power and spotlight had drawn many people into ministry leadership. So servant leadership found its place among emerging leadership theories by promoting a more humble view of leadership that flipped the “leader on top” mentality upside down.

Though well-intended, the servant leadership theory extended an incorrect paradigm. This “leader on the bottom” view simply took a secular view of leadership and tried to fix it, instead of redefining leadership biblically.UntitledThe first problem with this paradigm is that it keeps an artificial division between leaders and followers (everyone else). Whenever there is a division like this, there becomes an “in” crowd and an “out” crowd. Though it may seem prestigious to be in the leader’s circle, it’s no surprise that ministry leaders today are more isolated and lonely than ever.

Because of the division between leaders and followers, it perpetuates the idea that leadership is a special blessing or final stage for elite Christians. Yes, there are qualifications for leadership (1 Timothy 3), but checking off boxes doesn’t automatically make one a leader. Leadership is given by God (Ephesians 4:11). The truth is that not all are called into formal church leadership, but we’ve made leadership the pinnacle of Christian success for everyone in the church. When a spiritual gift like leadership (Rom 12:8) is exalted, it only leads to favoritism and belittles other spiritual gifts, making them appear less valuable. Leadership is just one of many gifts. In fact, the Bible says we should give special honor to parts of the body that receive less recognition (1 Corinthians 12:23).

Even our terminology “servant leader” unduly puts the emphasis on the noun “leader”. The “servant” part becomes the adjective, making it seem that some leaders serve and some don’t. If a leader has to be told they are supposed to serve, they may not be the right person to lead. The emphasis should be on servanthood- some lead and some don’t. When we tell leaders they should serve (instead of discovering servants who are called to lead), people may get the impression that leaders are the only ones who serve. In reality, every person in the church is called to serve (1 Peter 4:10). By narrowing service to leaders (and praising them for it), we are bound to see less engagement in the rest of the congregation.

2Servant leadership is not a form a leadership. Leadership is a form of service.

Everyone in the church is a servant in the kingdom. So actually there is only one kind of leader- a servant. The Apostle Paul said, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord… Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:4,5,7). Some are called to teach, some to encourage, and some to give generously, etc. The point is that each person has a spiritual tool that makes them uniquely able to bless others.

UntitledIn the church, we need to think more biblically about leadership and then live it out. This means creating a culture where all saints serve and promoting equal value and interdependence between unique kingdom-building gifts. Then the church will radically demonstrate a kingdom culture that is less about us and more about the King.