National  Pastors'  Prayer  Network

E-zine ARTICLE #053

   "What Jesus Taught About Leadership"
     by by Rev. Jerry Bowers

   --->NPPNote: Our thanks to Lynn Heatley at the Prayer Commnann Post

In a world where modern business teaches that good leadership teaches self- advancement at all cost, the servant leadership model of Jesus stands in sharp contrast. Much of what is done in today's church is influenced by the business world. Goals and objectives are used to measure one’s effectiveness. Self-actualization is extolled as a virtue and success is measured by the size of a leaders' congregation. In contrast to the world's methods of advancement, there are the teachings of Christ that bid us to humble ourselves, take up a cross, and follow His example as a leader who sacrifices that others may be advanced. The following review of biblical leadership outlines 10 Hallmarks of a Servant Leader:


1. Servant leaders seek to affirm the worth of others.


It is not based on position or taking authority over others, but seeks to help others succeed. Jesus was about to enter the upper room for a last meal with the disciples. They had been arguing all afternoon about who would be the greatest in His kingdom. James and John wanted to sit next to Him on His throne and occupy the greatest place of authority. As they entered the upper room, there was a pitcher of water, a basin, and a towel waiting to wash their feet before sitting to eat, but no servant. Each avoided looking at the pitcher of water. They knew what this meant, "One of them must wash the feet of the others." Jesus walked over, took the towel and began to wash their feet and serve them. When he was finished, he said to them, "You call me Lord and master.. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example." John 13:14

When the argument first started among the disciples, Jesus had this to say about servant leadership: "You know that the ruler of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.. the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28). True servant leadership calls upon us to sacrifice ourselves that others might succeed. True biblical leadership measures a leader's usefulness on the basis of how many others they are serving rather than on how many people they control.


2. Servant Leaders encourage others to look beyond where they are and to believe in what they can be by grace.


In a world where only the strongest survive, Jesus leaves behind a model that challenges us to see the potential of others. In route to the cross, Jesus took three of His closest disciples into the garden to support Him in prayer. He was already feeling the weight of the world on His shoulders. He directed them to pray for Him and went about a stones throw away to agonize in prayer over what He was about to face at the cross. When he staggered back to where he had left the disciples for support, he found them asleep. He encouraged them to arise and pray. He needed their support. He went back again to agonize in prayer. Again he returned to find them asleep. After the third time he returned and he awakened them saying, "Arise and follow me." Three times the disciples as leaders had failed Jesus when He needed them most. The fate of all mankind hung in the balance, yet his most reliable leaders failed him. He didn't write them off or berate them, "He bid them to arise and follow." You see, Jesus, through the eyes of grace, could see what they would one day become. He could look at Peter and say, "Peter, I know one day you will become one of the worlds greatest preachers. I believe in you. Arise, and follow me." He could look at James and John who were called the sons of thunder by others because of their anger and quick tempers and see what they would become. He could look at John and say, "Some day you will be known as the disciple of love. I will entrust my own mother to you." He could look at James and say, "You will one day overcome your impatience with others and become one of the worlds greatest church administrators." Can you imagine how the disciples must have felt after failing Jesus three times. They felt like losers but Jesus saw them as winners. He simply said, "Arise, follow me. I know what you are going to become and I already see you as you will be." Matt. 26:36-46. Servant Leadership sees others not where they are but with the potential of what they one day will be. This is possible because, like Jesus, we see a person's calling and understand they are in process.


3. Servant Leaders learn to trust God for the results and give him the credit.


Much of what the world uses to inspire leadership is based on measuring the results. We use such words as measurable goals and objectives, but God's standard for leadership is much higher. The missionary who labors twenty years and sees only one person baptized into Christ is esteemed as great as if he were Billy Graham, not because of the results but because of the sacrifices made. God's is the one responsible for the results. Servant Leaders are inspired by obedience to God's will and direction and leave the results to Him. Jesus one day had gathered 5,000 people to hear His teachings about the Kingdom of God. At the end of the day they were hungry. Jesus turned to Philip and asked, "Where shall we buy bread to feed them?" Philip looked in the purse where they kept the money and said, "We don't have enough money to feed all these people." Somewhere out in the crowd Andrew had met a little boy who brought a lunch. It contained five loaves of bread and two fish. With the lads permission, the lunch was presented to Jesus. In one account, the disciples tell Jesus to send the people away into the nearby towns and let them find their own food. Andrew presents what looks like a ridiculous solution. One small lunch! Jesus blessed it and gave a portion of the lunch to each disciple and told them, "take what you have in hand and go feed the crowd." Can you imagine what happened. Each time they gave away what they had, what was left in their hands increased. When they were finished, all 5,000 people were filled and there was 12 baskets of food left over. (John 6:5-14). Servant leaders act by faith in obedience to what God is telling them to do knowing that God makes Himself responsible for the results. When those results come, they give credit to their master. In this kind of leadership, success is measured more by obedience than by tangible results. On some occasions there may be 12 baskets more than we asked for. On others there may be no measurable results by man's standards. Just the same we know that God is in charge of producing results in His own way and time.


4. Servant Leaders understand that accountability and discipleship are a part of good leadership.


When Jesus sent out the 70 he fully expected them to return and report back to him about their efforts and journey (Luke 10). Time was spent telling them about where their priorities should be in ministry on the trip and how to minister. They were to take no money. They were to bless each home they entered with peace. They were to heal the sick and announce the arrival of the kingdom of God. They were even told what to do if they were not received. When the disciples returned they reported back to Jesus the great things they had done, "Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.' Jesus said to them, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." Jesus took their experiences and expanded on what had happened and what it truly meant. He affirmed their joy of success and than pointed to a greater meaning. He was glad with them that hurting people had been set free and restored, than he pointed to a higher ideal and said, "The fact that all this is happening is proof that salvation has come to the earth. Your own names are written in the book of life in heaven, but so are those who believed because of you." (Luke 10:1-24).

Good leaders are those who are willing to be accountable to other leaders. They submit themselves to senior leadership in a city and are willing to be mentored and guided. They are open to receiving counsel and wisdom from others. Having a covering of a local pastor as a spiritual leader is often the key to maintaining a successful ministry. This kind of accountability keeps us in good order with the rest of what God may be doing in a city. Good leaders seek to be aligned with all of what God is doing in a city by submitting to one another and letting their vision be informed by senior leaders.


5. Servant Leaders are motivated by compassion and mercy more than the rewards of success.


In at least one case, after setting a man free, Jesus is rewarded by having the residents of the area inviting him to leave. (Luke 826-39). Jesus left simply telling the man to go tell what the Lord had done for him. The fact that he was personally rejected was not as important as the compassion and hope that was released on that day. Jesus knew that the message of hope that this man would share was more important then his popularity.

In Luke 4:18, Jesus give us a mission statement that should motivate those who would follow in his footsteps. The religious people of his day were not thrilled to hear this mission statement. In fact, they laid hold on him after he shared it and took him to a cliff on the edge of the city to throw him over it and kill him. Here is one of the clearest statements Jesus made concerning what motivated his ministry:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor (afflicted). He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted. To preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed. To preach the acceptable year of the Lord." (Luke 4:18,19).

This mission statement motivated Jesus to respond in compassion with all He did. Prayer Leaders are not just motivated by success for their ministry, but they are primarily motivated by the salvation of the lost, and the restoration of broken people. Prayer ministry must always move out of the closet at some point and find application in the streets of the city. Throughout His ministry, the writers of the gospels report that He was moved by compassion and acted: (Matt. 9:36; Matt. 18:33; Mark 8:2). Servant leaders today are praying that God will break their hearts with what breaks His heart. They are praying that what moves Him with compassion will move them with compassion.


6. Servant Leaders seek to honor other leaders and see them as more important then themselves.


Jesus recognized the importance of the diversity of spiritual gifts among His disciples. He wanted them to see that to succeed they needed each other. They needed to come to the point in ministry where they realized they needed each others diversity of gifts in order to succeed. He demonstrated to them through his own ministry that even those men who others might be tempted to see as insignificant are indeed, significant to the advancement of his kingdom. Sometimes those who seem least significant are the most important. Jesus was invited to a special dinner by a man named Simon. Jesus had healed the man. Apparently he was a man with influence in his city. He invited Jesus and His disciples to honor Jesus. A great banquet was prepared for the guest of honor. I can imagine that finest table settings were put out upon the blanket used as a table. Suddenly, a fragrant smell filled the air. No one had noticed the prostitute that had entered and seated herself at the feet of Jesus. Apparently she was well known around town as a great sinner. She thought about how Jesus had set her free and she began to weep. She hadn't meant to and before she realized what was happening her tears were dropping on the master's feet. She reached up and untied her hair so she could wipe the tears off of his feet. She then broke open the alabaster bottle of spikenard perfume and poured it on his feet. It was worth about 300 denarii or a years worth of wages. This angered the disciples and even Simon said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner." Jesus went on to rebuke his host by talking about how the one who is forgiven much loves much. Then he went on to say this about this seemingly insignificant women, "Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her." Matthew 26:6-13/ Luke 7:36-50.

A persons status in life is not what makes them useful in leadership, but the calling and gifting God places upon them and how they use it for the master. This truth causes us to realize that without the support of the gifts of others we can not succeed. The Lord has so designed the body of Christ that we need each other for the body to work properly. The ear can not say, "I do not need the eye." And the hand can not say, "I do not need the feet." (I Cor. 12:14-16). It is the proper operation of the gifts of the Spirit that brings about unity and stability in ministry. In Ephesians 4:11-13 Paul gives an overview of how the equipping gifts bring maturity to ministry. He names five gifts which are used to bring order, unity, and maturity to ministry. They are: apostle, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. He tells us they are "for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God.."

My own gifting must be seen in the context of working with others in the body of Christ. I am always concerned when I see the lone ranger who doesn't feel they need to work with other leaders or participate with what the Lord may already be doing in a city. They may be gifted but their gift is of the greatest value when it is used in the greater context of the gift mix already at work in the city. When we see our need to recognize what the Lord is already doing and then use our gift to participate with other leaders, we honor them and the Lord who is the gift giver.  Some of the most successful leaders I know regularly submit what they are doing to other leaders. Especially those who are of the five equipping gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. I have a friend who the Lord sends out all over the states to pray in key areas. He used to get beat up by the enemy and receive backlash for going on these assignments. He learned about the concept of submitting to spiritual authority in a region. He began to seek out someone in spiritual authority in the area and ask for prayer and spiritual covering. He noticed that the attacks and blacklash stopped and he had much more success. Success in biblical ministry follows the implementing of biblical principles that Jesus gave to govern ministry.

7. Servant Leaders practice humility by being teachable and willing to receive counsel from others.

Look at how Jesus selected his followers. He took what society today might call rejects. He enlisted the help of tax collectors, ignorant fisherman, prostitutes, and lepers. He did not select them because they were more qualified then others, but because they were teachable and would follow. His first words to the first disciples were, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." They believed Jesus could do what He promised. If they followed, Jesus would help them become what He promised. This would be the secret of their maturity and success. Their success would be to the degree they remained teachable. Once Jesus was gone this quality of leadership had to continue and be passed on. In the arena of prayer, this can be a challenge. Intercessors who hear from the Lord can sometimes have a hard time using the knowledge they have in a way that recognizes they may need the input of others. Scripture teaches us that even the "prophets are subject unto the prophets." (I Cor. 14:32). No matter what our gifting is, we need to be willing to check what we think God is telling us with others who have the same gifting. The most successful leaders I know regularly seek counsel from others in leadership. This is part of what Paul meant when he talks of using our gifts in a way that builds up the body, "Honor one another by giving preference to one another." Romans 12:10.


8. Servant Leaders practice a lifestyle of forgiveness and grace.


Jesus tells a story in Matthew 18 of a servant who owed a king a great deal of money who couldn't pay what he owed. The king called the servant before him and demanded payment. The penalty required by the law was harsh. He would be thrown into jail and his family sold. When the servant cried out and asked for time the king had compassion on him and forgave the debt in full. On the way home the servant ran into another servant who owed him a small amount of money. He demanded payment. When his fellow servant could not pay he had him arrested and put in prison. The king heard what the servant did whom he had just forgiven. He had the man brought before him and said to him, "You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you? The king had him delivered to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."

There are several important principles concerning biblical forgiveness taught in this story. First of all, biblical forgiveness is more than simply saying I'm sorry. Biblical forgiveness is "releasing others from the debt they owe!" This means we give up the right to demand that they make things right. We give up the right to stand in judgment of them. If we don't, the Lord will stand in judgment of us. It means we release them from all expectations and surrender them to the Lord. When we do this, the Lord can release us from our pain and hurt. Why should we release others and forgive them when they do not deserve it? God reminds us what it cost Him to be able to forgive us. He paid our debts through a terrible death on a cross. He bore my sins on that cross. It cost him everything to cancel my debts. He now asks me to have the same compassion upon others who need forgiveness. He asks me to release others from the debts they owe me, "even when they don't deserve it!" Please don't misunderstand. I am not saying that we say that what a person did to us was all right. What happens is that we recognize to some degree that we are all victims in this world of sin. People act out of their victimization. When we release someone to the Lord, we are trusting Him to deal with them. We are giving up the right to judge. We are choosing to extend grace.


9. Servant Leaders pursue intimacy with God and other Leaders.


There are some leaders who feel lonely at the top. They build a protective wall around themselves so others can not hurt them or hinder them and they become isolated. Jesus has a different kind of leadership in mind. One of His prayers just before going to the Garden of Gethsemane on His way to the cross was to pray for oneness between His leaders. He prayed:
"That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one.." (John 17:20-22)

There is a lot of talk today about revival and wanting to see the glory of the Lord. If we would seek after the glory we must also seek after having oneness with other leaders. In the book of Acts we are told that the disciples were gathered together in the upper room and were in "one accord." It was then that God poured out His Spirit upon them and share His glory. They could now be trusted not to use it selfishly for their own gain. The truth is that the gospel is meant to restore intimacy with God and each other. Jesus taught that we are to "Love God with all our hearts and our neighbor as ourselves." The enemy works to destroy our intimacy. He wants us to build walls and isolate ourselves from God and each other. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 talks about tearing down walls as a type of warfare:  "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down 'strongholds,' casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.." The word here for "strongholds" in the Greek means "Castle or Fortress." A castle normally has very high and thick walls and sometimes a mote. It is designed to keep people out. The enemy tries to get us to build walls to isolate ourselves. He wants to steal our intimacy. Jesus came to take these walls down and restore intimacy so that we can be one with Him and with each other and show us His glory! Some of the best leaders I know take time to fellowship with other leaders and get to know them. They also have regular time they spend getting to know the Lord.

10. Servant Leaders seek to walk in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, in the sphere of leadership God has called them to, as affirmed by the Lord and by other leaders.


Jesus told a parable to His disciples one day about a man who gave His servants a certain number of talents (coins). He gave 5 to one servant, 2 to another, and 1 to a third. The one servant who had 5 invested the talent and made five more. Like wise with the one who had 2 talents. But the one who had one talent felt resentful. He buried the coin had nothing to show for the master's investment when he returned. When the master returned he told those who had invested his talents, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord." (Matthew 25:14-30). The servant who had one talent said that the reason for not using  his talent was that he was afraid.

There are several important principles in this story that relate to serving the Lord with what He has given us. Sometimes we can spend too much time focusing on what we don't have and we fail to be faithful to use what we have been given. The Lord often tests us with being faithful in small things before advancing us and trusting us with larger responsibilities. Whatever place God has given us to serve Him, we need to be faithful in it. This doesn't mean we can't ask for greater gifts but we must not neglect the ones we have. This leads me to the next point. How do I know what sphere I am called to serve the Lord in? The Lord has designed His body in such a way that we need each other in order to function. He has given certain gifts that are to be used to recognize the giftings of others, mentor, and encourage their growth. In Ephesians 4 we again see the five- fold leadership gifts: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Their function is to equip the saints for works of ministry in order to build up the body of Christ. These leaders often recognize, validate, and release the giftings of others. In biblical times, giftings were often acknowledged and released by the laying on of hands. Here is why I believe this is important. I know the Lord may reveal to you what your calling is, but it must also be recognized by those you are called to serve with. In practice, I have found that usually others recognize a believer's calling before they do. This helps us to be interdependent. It is also important to recognize that each of us are called to a certain sphere in our gifting. Some of us are called to serve a local church body. Some of us are called to serve a city. Some of us are called to serve a region or a State. It is important we work within the sphere God has called us to. If we try to function outside of that sphere we find that our gift isn't recognized and we are not effective in that area. Here is what Paul said concerning his sphere:  "We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us--- a sphere which especially includes you. For we are not extending ourselves beyond our sphere, for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ; not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men's labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere, to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you.." (2 Cor 10:13-15).  Notice that the apostle is hoping that if he is faithful in the field assigned to him or his sphere that his sphere might some day be extended beyond to other areas. How do we know when this expansion of a sphere should take place. The Lord usually validates this through the body. Even the apostles relied upon this kind of validation and commissioning in the book of acts:  "Now at the church at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, .. and Paul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Now separate to Me Barnabas and Paul for the work to which I have called them.' Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away." (Acts 13:1-3).  A servant leader always works in the context of relationships with others in such a way that the good of the whole is benefited by the work that is done.

In summary, I have always believed that the Life of Jesus, as recorded in scripture, contains the solutions of all of life's problems and for successful ministry. In the school of Christ we can be prepared to face all of life's challenges. I hope this brief look into the topic of biblical leadership, as seen through the life and teachings of Jesus, challenges all who read this to follow the examples taught and lived by Jesus who is the greatest of all leaders. Let us seek to lead like Jesus and reflect his examples of working with others.


Rev Jerry Bowers

Serving Pray California (

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