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3 Joys of Leading by Serving

Rico Tice | February 23rd 2021

“Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

Self-sacrifice… service… suffering. These are all part of Christian leadership, because this is Christ-like leadership. And in Mark 10:45 lies the power to live joyfully by a set of leadership values that are utterly incomprehensible to the world. Here are 3 examples. 

1. When you lead by serving, you get to be like Jesus

Ministry is a daily opportunity to be conformed into the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29). There is something deeply attractive about seeing someone who is genuinely, authentically putting others’ interests before their own. It’s one of the things that makes Jesus so beautiful, isn’t it? We follow the most powerful man in the universe, who used all that power to serve. On a microcosmic level the pastor has the opportunity to do likewise, every day, in many ways. So we do not live this way because we have to so much as because we get to—we get to be like Christ.

As the writer and elder Jonathan Leeman puts it in his article Fighting the Temptations of Successful Leadership, this means that the Christian in a place of authority or influence will… 

“Use your leadership position to do what Jesus said: don’t look to be served but to serve. This doesn’t mean you don’t lead. Jesus led. It means not clinching your leadership with a tight fist. Instead, you’re always preparing to give it away, to it let go, even to the point of your death. You know God will raise you up in due time, and so in the meantime you give yourself entirely to raising [those you are ministering to] up—to be your equal, or even your better.”

"Do things for the Jesus who never has and never will let you down and you will be ready to serve, in whatever way you’re called to."

2. When you lead by serving, you get to please Jesus

As we offer ourselves in his service, we please God (Romans 12:1). Of course, this is the case for every believer—but in one sense those in full-time ministry are in the wonderful position of having more opportunities to live it.

A wise older pastor said to me as I started out that I must make sure I always did things for the gospel. If you do things primarily for yourself, you’re twisting Christian ministry into self-serving self-promotion. If you do things primarily for your church, you’ll grow jaded, cynical or bitter because your church will let you down. But do things for the Jesus who never has and never will let you down and you will be ready to serve, in whatever way you’re called to. In this sense there’ll be no difference between bathing your child and giving a talk at a huge conference. Both will be about serving.

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Serving to please Jesus proves to be a far more satisfying way to live than spending our time labouring to build our own empires. As John Stott says in his commentary on 1&2 Thessalonians:

“It is a wonderfully liberating experience when the desire to please God overtakes the desire to please ourselves, and when love for others displaces love for self. True freedom is not freedom from responsibility to God and others in order to live for ourselves, but freedom from ourselves in order to live for God and others.”

3. When You Lead By Serving, You Get to Display Jesus

When I think of the men I have wanted to follow, and whom, as I look back, I am still glad that I followed, their supreme quality was not their charisma or their preaching or their vision or their humour; it was their servant-heartedness.

If you want people to follow you, to keep following you, and to be glad years later that they chose to follow you, then show them Christ in the way you lead them. Let them see you washing feet. Let them see you serving rather than being served. That is compelling. 

Sometimes when I speak of Jesus calling Christians to give up their lives and follow him, I say, “Of course, Jesus carried his own cross. He isn’t asking you to do anything he isn’t prepared to do himself.” That is the Lord’s point in verse 45 here: your greatness must be expressed in service, he tells the first pastors of the Christian church, because you follow a God who is greater than you can imagine, and who stooped lower to serve than you can grasp. 

This is an extract from Faithful Leaders and the Things That Matter Most, by Rico Tice. 

Rico Tice

Rico Tice is Senior Minister (Evangelism) at All Souls Church, Langham Place in London. Born in Chile before being educated in England, Rico spent a year working at a church in inner city Liverpool and then studied history at Bristol University (where he was captain of the rugby team). He went on to graduate from theological college at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Rico is a passionate evangelist, and the Founder of Christianity Explored Ministries. He is a regular speaker at missions and evangelistic events around the world, and is the author of Honest Evangelism and Capturing God.

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