Leader lead by respect – servant leadership
Few days back, me and one of my friends, Narendra bhai were discussing about Tata. We were curious of his legacy and contribution to the Indian society. For us, he is a businessman like many other business man; however, his contribution to our beloved country is much larger than any other businessman.
We know that he established a complete town called Jamshedpur. Most of the trucks and buses that we saw from childhood were either from Ashok Leyland or Tata. There are so many types of cars, daily life articles such as Tata Salt, Tata tea and so much more.
Led by our inquisitiveness, we searched for JRD Tata on the youtube and watched an interview of Tata himself with a journalist. He answered many questions but one thing on which I got struck was this:
No leader cannot lead unless the people who are being led, respect him.
I started thinking and meditating about ‘leadership’ and different aspects of leadership, especially in context to the Bible – the spiritual leadership. We realize and believe that Jesus is a perfect example of a leader. But what kind of leader was he – Jesus was a servant leader. His leadership style was quite different from the today’s image of a secular leader. Same image is carried by many of the Christians leader too and church is infected by the worldliness of the leadership concept of today.
Even in churches today, the leader expects a higher position, central chair and honour. I remember of a church I visited in Allahabad where most of the pastors had chairs on the stage. In addition, what I noticed was that the Bishop’s chair was different, more adorned in red color and with a higher back to express his superiority over others – almost like a king who leads by authority. Here the senior pastor or the main leader wanted to be recognised separately. This is not the example of Jesus of the Bible. Yet other church I remember in Sharjah, where the total congregation might be of 35 Urdu and English speaking people, out of which, half of them held different titles as Director of Worship, Director of Evangelism etc. I was surprised to see the hunger for names, titles, recognition, position in the church whereas Jesus held none of those.
I visit few churches where I see that pastors are greeted with great titles and adorned with garland etc. Even I have had to bear such adornment myself with humility to not offend the organisers of the event. However, I am amazed at the fact that how does one servant garlands other servant and glories in it. I have never seen even one incident where Jesus was garlanded. The only incident where people offered flowers, palm-leaves and laid clothes upon Jesus arrival – here people mistook him as a political king and not a spiritual leader. In the capacity of a spiritual leader, Jesus was neither offered such things nor in my opinion he would have accepted even if offered.
I am surprised to see from where our example of leadership is coming. Isn’t it in the world that people actually welcome and garland the political leaders? Is it not in the mainstream media and film industry that names are announced in dramatic ways? Isn’t it in the world that leaders are given great titles? Instead, my Jesus was never given a title of great position; rather, he despite being the Son of God was called ‘son of man’, Jesus of Nazareth (from where no great outcome was expected) etc. He in fact by himself said in John 15:15 that he would prefer to call his disciples as friends. Jesus wanted to mix, lower himself and become equal to others.
The true example of Jesus’ leadership was of one who weeped for lost people, who lowered himself, who loved sinners and one who showed compassion and kindness. Why is our ways different today? I am sure if 4 people are invited at the same level as speakers and if only 3 are garlanded as well as welcomed from the pulpit, the fourth one will certainly be offended and might even leave the conference and go. This is what is today’s leadership.
I even do not see Paul being garlanded or given great titles. I did not read even at one place ‘Bishop Paul’ whereas I am fully convinced that he had all the qualifications of being called a bishop. He gave maximum principles of Christian living in the letters he wrote to the churches he established. He even had passion and hunger to meet a church in Rome which he did not even establish. This is the right example of leadership where we are not bothered only for the church fellowship we established. Sheep stealing and many such words are only found in Church vocabulary and no where else. Paul was the only person who had such an in-depth knowledge of godly Christian living that he became the author of maximum number of books in the Bible. Paul, while having all the qualification to be counted as greatest among the evangelists due to his contribution in establishing churches in complete Asia Minor as well as boldly professing his faith in front of authorities and kings and even being persecuted, punished and ill-treated for the sake of Christ, he never was given any great title.
I meet many pastors who introduce themselves along with the title ‘pastor’ as if their parents kept their name along with the title. This indicates either pride or at least the desire of showing spiritual superiority over others. I have not met one doctor who introduces himself as for example, “Hi, I am Dr Tripathy”. Yes, others may talk about him in second and third person with the title Dr. Similary, I have not met one engineer or blacksmith or painter or an administrative office (Collector or IAS) or a clerk who introduces him or herself with her title but I have met many pastors who does so – “I am Pastor xyz”. This is a very strange thing I have found.
I understand that Bible is enough for our full spiritual training as a disciple as well as a leader (2 Timothy 3:16). Bible does not teach us all what we have seen above. Our example of leadership has to come out of the Bible. If we as Christian leaders, wish to commend respect of the congregation, we must follow the teachings of the Bible and live by the example. As mentioned by JRD Tata, without respect no leader can lead, our motive should be to build a reputation and earn respect by our life and not demand honour and titles to dictate or control the lives of people.
Likewise, it is imperative for us as congregation to respect our pastor and church leaders to be able to learn and be led in spiritual ways. We cannot learn great things unless we respect, hear and obey the word of God and follow the example of the true leaders of the Bible. Lets follow the example of Jesus as well as Paul if we are leaders and lets be like the people who so intently followed Jesus and Paul in their times, if we are part of a congregation.
While leaders are required to follow the examples of Jesus and Paul, we are required to look at our leaders as God’s appointed leaders, we need to respect their words as if God speaks through them and obey the teachings given as if we would obey Christ. By saying this, I am not glorifying the church leaders and pastors, instead I wish to maintain that church leaders are yet humans who commit mistakes and therefore we MUST go back home after hearing from the church and search the scriptures (John 5:39 – seek diligently and obey too; Acts 17:11) and then obey it as the word of God. We must NOT do the mistake as many do of idolizing their pastors and church leaders. If you find the teachings and demands of a pastor or church leader contrary to the Word of God, the Bible, you must bring it to his notice and expect him to explain or rectify also.
I must say that we should all have liberty and as per the Bible we do, that if a pastor or Church leader gets corrupted or walks a contradictory life to what he preaches, we must bring it to his attention, if not corrected take a group of God-fearing believers and talk and yet if he does not correct, we have the right to either denounce him as pastor or leave that church. No pastor or church leader can practise evil and lead the congregation. No pastor can demand demeaning activities or articles of needs. Humility and holiness are two very important components of a christian leader’s life. One who leads must have these qualities among many others as mentioned above and even others such as regular Bible reading, praying, personal obedience, kindness and help whatever capacity possible, etc. Such a leader is worthy of respect.
It is hardly possible to grow in a church where (a) the leader is not living a life worthy of respect or (b) the congregation does not respect a God-fearing, loving, caring, holy and humble leader.
Church leaders are yet human and may succumb to tests and temptations. A leader is not immune to sins – he is not sinproof. There is a human side of a leader too which needs a compassionate and loving attitude towards it. Lets see an example of Moses.
Exodus 17:4 – Moses cried to the Lord, an painful cry to the Lord.
In his agony when Israelites murmured against him and his leadership, they wanted to stone him, he simply became weak, afraid and cried before God. He was the one who could hear the voice of God and was a friend of God with whom God consulted. How much we would love to follow such a pastor or leader – who has seen the physical glory of God and hears the voice of God. However, every leader has a human side which must be counted for.
Many a times, we put spiritual leaders on a higher ground and do not allow them to be frustrated, get angry, express irritation, needy, emotionally drained, scared etc. We feel that we as congregant can be angry, we can be late in church, we can be emotionally weak, we can be afraid, we can be frustrated but how can a pastor do this.I have even seen that people do not accept their pastor doing the same things what a normal person would do – such as jogging in shorts. I know of few people who left the church in India just because they saw the pastor jogging in shorts. This is wrong.
Christian leaders and pastors humans too. As much as a spiritual leader needs respect, he needs love and prayers too.
Exodus 17:8 onwards we read about a fight with amalekites. We see that Israelites would overcome if Moses kept his hands up in the air holding the staff of God but they would loose if his hand came down. However, at one point, he became tired and eventually Aron and Hur came and held his hands up so that Joshua may lead and eventually win.
This should show us our responsibility as disciples of Christ towards our leaders. We must respect as well as hold them high in our prayers so that they may lead us continually. Without respecting, loving and accepting things from leaders as the instructions of God, we would not learn. We must expect the human side of our leaders.
At the same time, as leaders we are required to lead by example. We need not demand respect but earn it in the same way how Jesus and Paul earned the respect of all those who learnt from them. They lived an exemplary life which gave confidence to the disciples to follow them as the ambassadors of God.
God bless you