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  • Writer's picturesonnyholmes

Slave, the spiritual leader's heart

Recently I had the opportunity to study several questionnaires pastor search committees distribute to candidates for spiritual leadership of a congregation. That committees still use such impersonal, often lengthy documents in the preliminaries of a search process was somewhat surprising. With Skype, FaceTime, podcasts, and live meeting venues on-line these days pages of questions seems arms-length in a process that should be more hands-on. One of the areas probed was leadership style. Most of them asked the candidate to describe their leadership style. It transported me right back to college forty-five years ago, Business Management 101: commanding, visionary, affiliative, democratic, pace-setting, coaching, authoritative, laissez-faire, participative, maximizer, and all the other varieties the leadership gurus have created since then. Made me wonder what they were expecting, these church people searching for a new spiritual leader. No wonder the CEO model is so prevalent.

Then there's the new Level 5 Leader of Jim Collin's Good to Great book (Harper Collins, 2001). These are the humble, people oriented, self-deprecating leaders of the new world, the leaders who love their people and pursue their mission without thought of personal gain. They are the rage today, even in church. They're a business leadership model that approximates a biblical model, though not exactly. But, it is a shift from the corporate exec whose ego drives the machinery around the corner office. It's the new buzz of church life, the Level 5 leader who projects an image closer to the biblical model most spiritual leaders would pursue. But, it's still not it.

Then, again, there's the servant model of Scripture. It was Jesus who said, "The greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 23:11, ESV). It was an amplification of his own personal mission statement---

It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be

your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as

the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a

ransom for many.

Matthew 20: 26-28, ESV

Sounds clear enough, right? The leadership model Jesus gave us was that of a servant. Servant leadership expresses the heart of an authentic spiritual leader.

Almost. There's a word thing here that cannot be avoided. Jesus used two words to describe the servant heart of a spiritual leader----diakonos and doulos. The term diakonos is commonly translated servant but also on occasion minister. The tern doulos is usually translated bond-slave. In the HCSB it is always rendered slave. A few Bible linguists treat the two terms as synonymous, both meaning a broad definition of servant. Many translators, however, depict a stark difference in the two: diakonos being a more general term for one in service, and doulos being a slave, someone without rights, no personal claims to life, totally subservient to the master who owns him or her through indenture or as a product of war.

Our aversion to anything smacking of slavery has conditioned us to prefer the diakonos leadership model, a softer version of more voluntary service. But, the more accurate ideal of servant leadership pictures these leaders as absolute slaves to Christ. This stronger interpretation is occasion by several biblical truths.

1. Believers are bought with a price. Paul wrote it clearly---

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings.

1 Corinthians 7:23, NIV

2. The great leaders of history were referred to a Christ's slaves.

Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God's

good news--

Romans 1:1, HCSB

Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus:

Philippians 1:1, HCSB

James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ:

James 1:1, HCSB

Simeon Peter, a slave and an apostle of Jesus Christ:

2 Peter 1:1, HCSB

Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James:

Jude 1:1, HCSB

The revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave Him to show His slaves what must

quickly take place. He sent it and signified it through His angel to His slave


Revelation 1:1, HCSB

And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant (doulos) of God

Revelation 15:3, NASB

It is a profound reduction of the spiritual leadership model Jesus gave us to when we defer to the cultural distinctions that identify diakonois as our leadership ideal and not doulos, the stronger and more limited term. There's a powerful dissertation about servant leadership according to the doulos model at the Grace to You site authored by John Piper. You can read it by clicking here. Study it carefully.

Jesus modeled spiritual leadership for his followers. His concept envisioned a richer, deeper, and more exclusive submission to Christ as our model for leading his church. If we are not his slaves, there is a flaw in the spiritual leadership model that guides us.

It's slavery to Christ that should define us, a basic of spiritual leadership.

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