Dear Peddie Church Family,
In the next several columns, I would like to share reflections on leadership from the Bible.
We live in a time when promoting oneself is an accepted norm and asserting one’s right is encouraged even from a young age. In such a time, it’s strange to hear that in the Bible the most frequent term for leaders is “servant.” Moses is known primarily as “a servant of the Lord.” The apostles usually introduce themselves in their epistles as “a servant of Christ.”
It’s even stranger to realize that the word “servant” primarily means “slave,” and more often than not, it should be translated “slave.” When the Apostle Paul introduces himself as “a servant of Christ Jesus” (Rom. 1:1), he means, “a slave of Christ Jesus.” The word “slave,” however, conjures up detestable feelings and carries negative historical connotations, and translators understandably are reluctant to use the term.
But there is still an important distinction between servant and slave, and we need to recover this distinction for our time.*
Servants provide service to someone, and after their job is done, they can go home. But slaves belong to their master, and even after providing the service, they still belong to their master. They are not their own, but their master’s.
Being a slave of Christ means absolute, total devotion to our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. We serve no other master. We fear no other ruler. Our ultimate allegiance is to Christ and Him alone.
Of course, being a slave of Christ is not the totality of our identity. As to our relationship with God, we are His children, and we are given the amazing privilege of calling Him “Abba, Father!” But as to our vocation as leaders, we are slaves of Christ.
What then is its significance for leadership?
Paradoxically, being a slave of Christ frees us from all forms of enslavement that derail leaders, such as the fear of people, the fear of being out of control, the delusion of being the center of our office, and preoccupation with our reputation.
When we consider ourselves a slave of Christ, our focus is transformed. Instead of being preoccupied with our needs and reputation, we ask, “How do I speak in ways that honor my Master? How do I carry out ministry in ways that honor His will? How can I represent Christ in the way I treat my coworkers?”
For all those called by Christ, may our confession from the heart be, “I am not my own. I belong wholly to Christ alone.”
In the service of Christ,
– Pastor James
* For a more in-depth discussion on this, I recommend Slave of Christ: A New Testament metaphor for total devotion to Christ by Murray J. Harris.