Be a Leader-Servant in Ministry

By Dwayne Moore

There’s something very powerful about serving others in Jesus’ name. That’s because, when we reach out to help someone in need, we’re literally serving Jesus. As we take food to a shut-in, we’re taking food to Jesus. When we help build a home for a low-income family, we’re building a home for Jesus. When we take time to encourage someone who’s just lost his or her job, we’re also encouraging our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Just as Jesus certainly wasn’t enslaved to other people, neither are we. We have one Master and Lord. Jesus wasn’t obligated or owned by anyone; he answered only to his Father in heaven. However, he chose to serve us—to minister to our greatest need—to be the Savior who would take away our sins. Jesus also set the standard for how to serve others—he willingly “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8).

A Servant at Heart

The term servant-leader has become rather popular. And much of what is writ- ten is good and needed. Nonetheless, I’m concerned that some may misunderstand the intent of that phrase. We’re not to be servants just so we can lead. That wasn’t Jesus’ approach at all. It was just the opposite: Jesus was a leader so he could serve. Perhaps a better term would be leader-servant, so the emphasis is on servant. Or maybe even servant-servant—one who’s just as content in the background as he or she is up front leading, one whose goal is not to be recognized, noticed, or in charge. If that person needs to step up and lead, he or she is ready and willing to do it. However, if someone else is better suited to lead, that’s fine, too. A true servant simply wants the mission to be accomplished and his master to get all the glory.

A great example of a true servant was David Livingstone. Dr. Livingstone was a pioneer medical missionary to Africa in the mid-1800s. One of the most popular national heroes of late nineteenth-century Britain, Dr. Livingstone was widely known for his daring exploits across large portions of southern and central Africa. But it was his passion for lost souls that drove him on. He once said, “I evangelize while I explore. I would give up exploring before I would give up evangelizing.” The first printing of the book Livingstone wrote about his adventures was twelve thousand copies. All were purchased within a few hours. But true to form, he used part of his earnings to return to Africa.

Although Dr. Livingstone was famous and somewhat prosperous in his later years, his success came at a great personal cost. He suffered from almost constant fever for ten years, continuing his missionary journeys despite his sickness. He was often separated from his family for months and years at a time. He even endured the death of his wife and a young child while they were with him in the missionary field.

Whenever I hear about someone like David Livingstone, I catch myself asking, “Why would he endure so much and be so determined to serve others, while willingly giving up his own comforts and safety?” I think Dr. Livingstone himself summed it up: “Nowhere have I appeared as anything else but a servant of God, who has simply followed the leading of His hand.”
It’s one thing to willingly volunteer to be a servant when it’s convenient, but what about when God calls us to minister to people we don’t know or care for and in places where we’re not comfortable, where we don’t feel appreciated and welcome? Someone wisely said, “You can never truly know if you have the heart of a servant until somebody treats you like one.” Where, how, and to whom we minister is not something we can pick and choose. Serving as Jesus did is not an “option.”

Just as our physical hearts beat twenty-four hours a day, so should our spiritual hearts always be ready to serve—anywhere, anytime, in any way.

When we’re ministering to others, and in every aspect of our lives, God is most concerned with our motives. No matter how much we help others and no matter how many cups of cold water we hand out to those in need, if our hearts aren’t given to God, and if he is not our Master for whom we ultimately labor, then in his eyes our work amounts to nothing. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ” (Matthew 7:21-23).

Once again, we are reminded that doing can never make up for being. Jesus must first be our Savior and Lord. And our serving must flow out of our relation- ship with him.

Excepted from Heaven’s Praise: Hearing God Say Well Done by Dwayne Moore, pp. 64-66. Used by permission

Heaven’s Praise: Hearing God Say “Well Done,”Dwayne Moore’s second Bible study, is a 6-week small group study on how to live life of worship that brings pleasure to the King.

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