Want To Lead? Learn To Serve

Christian Leadership 101  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  31:50
0 ratings
The title of the sermon this morning is Want To Lead? Learn To Serve.
And I want to ask you to think a minute about your job — those of you who still work and aren’t retired. Think about your and specifically about your manager or supervisor or boss. Picture that person in your mind and ask yourself the question, What motivates my boss to come to work every day and lead?
Maybe you’re retired now and you don’t work in an office setting. So think about maybe a social organization you’re a part of or a hobby group you’re part of. Who’s the official or unofficial leader of that group? And what do you think motivates that person to lead your group?
Maybe you’re a leader yourself. Be honest with yourself — why do I lead?
Today’s takeaway:
Christian leadership follows the example of Christ and takes the form of costly service to those we lead.
That’s the key takeaway. That’s the sermon boiled down into one sentence that you can take home with you today and take to work with you tomorrow.
Christian leadership follows the example of Christ and takes the form of costly service to those we lead.
In so many things in life, motivation is everything — and leadership is the same way. Alot of people who lead do so because they want position or status; they want recognition or acknowledgment. They want to be seen as a great leader. You can get stuff done as a leader like this. And people will applaud you. But God sees the heart. Everyone else sees the what of your leadership. But only God sees the why of your leadership.
Today’s sermon is about the why of leadership. What should motivate Christian leaders to lead?
And one thing I want to say to you before we start is that there are more leaders in the room this morning than you think. You may not see yourself as a leader, but if you teach here at church, you’re a leader. If you’re a deacon, you’re a leader. If you are the head of a committee or ministry team, you are a leader. You are a leader, whether you think you are or not.
Today’s takeaway:
Christian leadership follows the example of Christ and takes the form of costly service to those we lead.
Notice with me, first, Jesus’ sobering warning.

Jesus’ sobering warning

This story about leadership has a backstory. Jesus has been going around Israel, teaching people and healing people and casting out demons. Massive crowds followed him at first. But as it became more costly to follow Jesus, the massive crowds dwindled. From an earthly perspective, the high point of Jesus’ ministry is over. Suffering is coming.
Mark paints a vivid picture for us. Some of you think the Bible is boring. You’re just not looking closely enough. Look at verse 32. “And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.”
In Jerusalem, suffering and death await Him. But Jesus is undeterred. Jesus is resolute. Mark tells us in verse 32 that Jesus is walking on ahead, alone. The 12 disciples are following some distance behind Him. Still further back is probably another crowd of followers. And Mark pulls back the curtain and we are able to see into the minds of Jesus’ disciples in that moment. How do they feel? Are they excited? Steadfast? Courageous? Ready to suffer and die with Jesus?
What do you think? Mark tells us they were none of those things. Mark tells us that they are amazed and fearful. Fearful, because none of them is ignorant as to what could happen to Him in Jerusalem. Amazed, because despite these dangers, Jesus still walks on ahead of them, determined to save us. He is unshakably committed to dying on the cross to pay for our sins.
And Jesus senses these emotions — this fear and amazement. So He turns around and waits for them to catch up. It’s time to warn them one more time. They need to know exactly what’s coming. Mark 10:32-34
Mark 10:32–34 ESV
And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
In this prediction of Jesus’ sufferings, there are two betrayals and four abuses. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and turned over to the Jewish authorities. Then Jesus is betrayed by the Jewish authorities — His own people! — and handed over to the Romans.
Jesus foretells the four abuses the Romans inflict on Jesus: they will make fun of Him, they will spit on His face, they will ship Him brutally, and then they will kill Him. All of these are fulfillments of specific OT prophecies. Two betrayals, four abuses, but one world-changing victory: “they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise” (Mark 10:34 ESV).
That is Jesus’ sobering warning.
Well, what effect has this request had on Jesus’ disciples? How will this impact their leadership?

James & John’s greedy request

James and John waste no time. All this talk of Jesus suffering and then rising again — it seems to have been lost on them.
This is like the wife who is telling her husband that she’s really struggling with her appearance or how she thinks she’s doing at work. And the husband listens to her, but he doesn’t hear her. And when she’s done, he maybe pauses for a few seconds and then blurts out, “What’s for supper?” That’s James and John.
Look with me at verse 35: “And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you’” (ESV). Have you ever had your kids or grandkids come up to you and make a similar request? “Mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, there’s something I want you to do for me and I need you to promise to say yes.” Well, Jesus is not going to be pulled into that. So He gently says, “What do you want me to do for you?” This is their request: “Grand that we may sit, one on Your right and one on your Left, in your glory” (Mark 10:36-37 ESV).
Jesus has just said, “We’re going to Jerusalem. I’m going to be betrayed twice, abused in four different ways, killed and then I’ll rise again.” James and John hear those words, and they see an opportunity. You see, if Jesus is about to die and then rise again, that means His kingdom is near. Soon, they think, Jesus will rise from the dead and destroy all their enemies and set up God’s kingdom from Jerusalem. And in this kingdom, Jesus is King. But someone has to occupy the positions of power just beneath Him. James and John think, “Why not us? It should be us.”
And here’s the leadership mistake they are making: they want to be leaders, which is good. There’s nothing wrong with that. God has created some of us to lead. It’s their motivations that are off. The why matters.
You say, “Pastor, I have a desire to lead in the church.” That’s good. “Pastor, I want to be a great leader.” That’s good too. The desire for leadership and greatness is good. If you have those things, God put them within you. That’s from God.
You want to know what’s not from God? Wanting to order people around, and thinking you’re entitled to that right because you lead.
Or walking around with a sense of self-satisfaction because you’re “in charge”, and justifying that mindset because you’re a leader.
Or chewing people out when they mess up, and thinking you have the right to do that because you lead.
Or nitpicking people to the point where it becomes discouraging and oppressive, and justifying it because you lead.
Friends, that’s not leadership. That is abusing your authority. God does not like it. He will hold you accountable for it.
That always comes back to bite us. When we want that kind of power and authority, if we take it, we will get more than we bargained for. Jesus loves James and John too much to let them do that. “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” (Mark 10:38 ESV).
In other words, Jesus is saying, “Do you not understand, guys? The only path to leadership in the Christian community is through suffering, through service, through sacrifice.
He uses two word pictures: cup and baptism. Both cup and baptism are words that in some places in the Bible refer to suffering. So Jesus is saying: you think you’re ready to lead alongside me? Are you prepared to suffer as I will suffer? Because sharing in my sufferings, Jesus is saying, is the only way to come to share in my glory and kingdom.
All the apostles were martyred — put to death for their faith in Christ. All the apostles except John. When it happened, they were ready. Jesus had prepared them. But that’s later, this is now.
I get the impression that James and John hear all of that yet they don’t miss a beat. Hardly a second passes before they both say, “Yep, we can.”
The test does come. Jesus promised it to them in that moment. “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptized with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared” (Mark 10:39-40 ESV). Jesus will be arrested. Only Peter verbally denies Jesus, but James and John and the others all desert Him when He is at His lowest moment.
Churches often make this mistake. When someone looks promising or gifted, we give them everything. We say, “Oh, they have a business background and they’ve done really well in this or that outside the church.” Can they handle the hard responsibilities of leadership, and not just enjoy the privileges of leadership.
May God spare us from being placed into leadership positions before we are ready.
Today’s takeaway:
Christian leadership follows the example of Christ and takes the form of costly service to those we lead.
Church, pray for your leaders. Pray for me. Pray for our pastoral staff. Pray for your deacons and your Sunday Morning Bible Study teachers. Leading in the church is rewarding, but also challenging and discouraging. Pray for us that we will embrace the hard responsibilities of leadership, and not just enjoy the privileges of leadership.

The disciples’ angry protest

Well, word gets back to the other ten disciples. They found out, of course, that James and John tried to make a power play. They discovered that James and John tried to shut Peter and everyone else out. They found out that these two guys apparently consider themselves superior, and everyone else inferior.
Our natural human fallen reaction is anger. And they were angry. The word used in verse 35 really suggests that they were infuriated. They tried to make an end-run around the others.
Has anybody ever done that to you? How did you react? Probably a mixture of hurt and anger. Hurt says this: “I thought we were in this together.” Hurt says, “Does Jesus have favorites?” Hurt is understandable.
But then hurt gives way to anger: “Do they really think they’re the only ones qualified to lead?” Anger gives way to suspicion: “They were always planning this. We never really knew who they were until now. All this time — we thought we were friends and brothers and colleagues — they were deceiving us. They were using us.”
And here’s what all this shows us: when we respond this way to someone who makes a power play over us, and we get angry and lash out, we think it’s righteous anger, but it’s not — we are angry because we believe that we should have first place, not Peter and John.
Men and women — teachers, deacons, committee and ministry leaders — I plead with you to do this today. Ask the Lord to search your heart and show you whether your leadership is tainted by this same selfish ambition. Because this poem I’m about to read you is true to some degree of every person.
“I am like James and John. Lord, I size up other people in terms of what they can do for me; how they can further my program, feed my ego, satisfy my needs, give me strategic advantage. I exploit people, ostensibly for your sake, but really for my own. Lord, I turn to you to get the inside track and obtain special favors, your direction for my schemes, your power for my projects, your sanction for my ambitions, your blank check for whatever I want. I am like James and John. [Robert Raines, quoted in Hughes, PTW, p17]

Jesus’ life-changing rebuke

Raise your hand this morning again if you have led people in the past or if you lead people now.
Of those of you who raised your hands, raise them again if you have ever, as a leader, treated someone poorly and, at the time, you justified it because you were in charge. I have too.
That’s why I am glad that Jesus shows us mercy. Jesus is for us, not against us. So He takes this opportunity to teach them. And us.
He calls them and they all come and gather around Him. And Jesus opens His mouth and begins to speak.
“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them. And their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you” (Mark 10:42-43a ESV).
In other words, “Guys, you’ve seen how worldly, pagan leaders lead. They throw their weight around. They oppress people. They do stuff just because they can. That is worldly leadership. That’s because the world is upside down. I have come to turn things rightside up again. You cannot and will not lead that way. You have to be different.”
What does different look like? First let’s revisit today’s takeaway:
Today’s takeaway:
Christian leadership follows the example of Christ and takes the form of costly service to those we lead.
It comes straight out of verses 43-45: “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43b-45 ESV).
Look again at verse 45. Why does Jesus say what He says about the last being first and the first being last, and why does He right after that say “even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many”? Why does He say that?
Here’s why. Jesus is the only person in the universe who has a right to claim power and authority and position. Yet when He came to us, He did not claim power and authority and position. Instead He left His throne and came to earth to serve us. He’s emphatic: I did not come to be served. I came to serve. And oh costly His service was: “Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”.

Call for response

The Christian leader Francis Schaeffer wrote a book called How Shall We Then Live? How Shall We Then Live. The idea of the book is that God has done so much for us in saving and sanctifying us. How shall we then live in response?
Well, in view of all Jesus has done for us, in view of how He leads us, how shall we then lead others?
How shall we then lead?
We lead with humility, not self-ambition
We lead for others, not for ourselves
We lead firmly but gently, without harshness
One thing that means for us who lead is that we lead with humility, not self-ambition.
Another thing that means for us who lead is that we lead for others, not for ourselves. We lead for others. God has not placed us in positions of leadership so that we can use that to make things the way we want them. We lead for the benefit of others. If you don’t, you are abusing your authority. Christian leaders are stewards. We don’t own our position.
Lastly, we lead firmly but gently, without harshness. Some of you lead others harshly. Some of you act like your position of authority entitles you to get what you want. That is un-Christian behavior and is unworthy of the high office you hold. You are not a king; you are servant. You are not a lord or a CEO; you are a slave. Do not pretend to be bigger or more powerful than your Savior.
Christian leadership follows the example of Christ and takes the form of costly service to those we lead.
Church members, Christian leaders: We are called to reflect God’s character in our lives. Well, leadership is part of that. We cannot claim to be Christian leaders if we refuse to lead like He did. But if we will commit today to lead others as He leads us, we will see His blessing on our leadership and in our church.
So let me close today with some questions.
Leaders, look at your leadership. Is it Christlike? Everyone who leads in this church — there are more of you than you think. How do you interact with those you lead? Do you serve the people you lead? Or do you trample the people you lead? Do you lead by example?
Older men and women — deacons, teachers, committee leaders — we’re always talking about how we need younger leaders. Are you willing to pass the mantle to them?
And if we are willing, what if they lead the exact same way that you lead? What would their leadership look like? Could you follow them if they led you the way they’ve seen you lead?
Do people grow spiritually under your leadership? Do you see them growing in godliness? If they’re growing, are they growing because of your leadership, or in spite of it?
Here’s where I’m really going with this. Does your leadership follow the example of Christ so that you serve those you lead, even when it’s costly?
I don’t know how you feel about your leadership today. Maybe you have regrets. Jesus forgives. What unhealthy habits and patterns permeate your leadership? Jesus forgives and heals. Jesus transforms.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more