3 : 11 November 2004

Alec Brooks

"I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."


GRAHAM KENDRICK has written a wonderful hymn, the chorus of which says:

This is our God,
The servant King,
He calls us now
To follow him
To bring our lives
As a daily offering
Of worship to
The Servant King.


In his book, The Making of a Leader, Chua Wee Hian tells an experience:

In 1981 I was in Brazil conducting a series of workshops on spiritual leadership. The participants were mainly Brazilian students who were leaders in their Christian fellowships. At our first meeting I asked them to design a crest or logo on leadership. They came back with various emblems illustrating crowns, scepters, shields, swords, lion heads, and scrolls. There was a regal quality in all the motifs. I was impressed by the stamp of authority that was so evident in their handiwork. The winning design would proudly grace a T-shirt. There would be no shortage of buyers.


Chua Wee Hian writes further,

These students did not consult a thesaurus, as I did. Under 'leadership' the synonyms included: authority, control, administration, effectiveness, superiority, supremacy, skill, capacity and power. I cast my eye at the word 'leader.' The list was most impressive: general, commander, director, manager, head, officer, captain, master, chieftain, governor, ruler, executive, boss, and brains. Both lists dovetailed with the crests produced by the students.
We then studied Luke 22:24-27 and John 13:3-5, 12-17. After studying these passages, the Brazilian students had to redesign the crests and logos. The revised versions incorporated the ordinary symbols of a towel and a basin of water, or figures kneeling in service. But we faced a problem. Suppose these emblems of service and humility were transferred to T-shirts. How many people would have purchased and worn one? Would you?


In their original designs those Brazilian students were reflecting the commonly held views of leadership in many of our societies, which are that leaders are special people, who occupy positions of power and are given special privileges to go with them. They're paid the highest salaries, given the best and usually the biggest offices along with whatever other symbols of power and prestige are prevalent in their culture.

How different this view of leadership is from the one that Jesus taught by what He said and did. He said, "The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, but it shall not be so among you." It may be no exaggeration to say that no words of Jesus have been more often ignored than these.


George MacDonald wrote:

How little this scripture is believed! People think, (if they think about it at all) that this is very well in the church, but, as things go in the world, it won't do. At least their actions imply this, for every man is struggling to get above the other. There is a continual jostling, and crowding, and buzzing, and striving to get what we wrongly call 'ahead.'
But it is not to be so if we would enter the kingdom of heaven. The Lord said, 'It shall not be so among you.'
The notion of rank in the world is like a pyramid: the higher you go up, the fewer there are above you whom you must serve and the more you are served by those beneath you. All who are under serve those who are above, until you come to the apex, and there stands someone who has to do no service, but whom all the others have to serve.
In the kingdom of heaven, however, the figure is exactly reversed. The pyramid is upside-down. The Son of Man lies at the inverted apex of the pyramid. He upholds, and serves, and ministers unto all, and they who would be high in His kingdom must go near Him, at the bottom, to uphold and minister to all they can uphold and minister unto.


There is no other law of precedence, no other law of rank and position in God's kingdom. And that is the only kingdom. The other kingdom, that of this world, passes away.


Leadership is not something that a person takes to himself, it is a responsibility Jesus gives him, and his leadership is Jesus' gift to His people. A leader's responsibility is to serve Jesus' people on His behalf so that they can grow to become like Him and learn how to give themselves in service to others. This is what Paul tells us in Eph. 4:7-16.

This means that leaders must be like Jesus: committed to serving His people with self-giving and self-sacrificing love, and with no thought of return, as Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 5:2.

Leaders must see themselves as serving the people, not from a position above them, but from their place among them, not for what they can gain from them, but for what they can give to them.


Leaders who are true to Jesus will eschew the world's symbols of power and prestige because they refuse to see themselves as elevated above or separated from the people they are called to serve. Commenting on Matthew 20:20-28, William Barclay writes, "The world may assess a man's greatness by the number of people whom he controls and who are at his beck and call; or by his intellectual standing and his academic eminence; or by the size of his bank balance and the material possessions which he has amassed; but in the assessment of Jesus Christ these things are irrelevant. His assessment is quite simply - how many people have you helped?"

Jesus began his ministry, according to Mark, with these words, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand." Jesus was announcing to the Jewish people that what they had looked and longed for had finally come. God had acted and the new age of his reign had begun, but not as they had expected. It had not come with pomp and circumstance but in humility, and it would be established not in great acts of power as the world understood power, but in suffering and sacrifice.


The kingdom that Jesus summoned people to was the kingdom of the servant. It is a kingdom, not of the high and mighty, but of the meek and lowly in which the leaders are willing to be "last of all and servants of all." Mark 9:35. It is the "upside-down kingdom," as Donald Kraybill so aptly calls it. It is a kingdom made up of those who have heard and heeded the call to have no destiny but to take up the cross and follow the Servant King, and they are not ashamed to be known as "these people who have been turning the world upside down…They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king, named Jesus." Acts 17:6,7.

This is the king who never stopped thinking about the needs of others and how He could serve them. Before He died He washed the disciples feet. Why? Because they were dirty. After He was raised from the dead He gathered some charcoal, lit a fire and made them breakfast - because they were hungry.

Meekness and majesty,
Manhood and Deity,
In perfect harmony,
The Man who is God.
Lord of eternity
Dwells in humanity,
Kneels in humility
And washes our feet.
O what a mystery,
Meekness and majesty.
Bow down and worship
for this is your God
For this is your God!
- Graham Kendrick


Alec Brooks