You Are the Servant Leader

“You’re the pastor”

This is the gentle reminder many clergy receive: as if we’ve forgotten.

See how the collar goes all the way around the neck? Now that's a classy collar.
See how the collar goes all the way around the neck? Now that’s a classy collar.

It usually happens when we’ve invited our people into sharing leadership of a ministry. We say “you can do this” and they say “but you’re the pastor”. And for those of us that wear the dog collar, we get reminded that we’re the only ones who put that thing around our neck.

Each year on the Thursday in Holy Week, we read the foot washing passage in John. At the Last Supper, after talking about what it means to follow Him, what it means to do GOD’s work in the world, Jesus gets on the floor and washes His disciples’ feet. It is a pure moment of profound action and the very definition of servant leadership.

What seems to get mixed up in the hearing is that Jesus is setting in motion an act of relationship; of leader to follower. He does this knowing that His followers will be leaders of others. And that those others will be leaders of still more others. Leaders serve: and we’re all leaders.

He says:

“Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

We see Jesus’s act and we wrongly associate the act with Jesus! As if Jesus is acting for Himself in a way that is wholly Jesus. The act is also an example–more than an example, really–a teaching of how disciples are to lead. It is not an example of “Jesus Leadership” but the very act of every disciple.

The impulse many of us have to critique the leader, particularly around his/her willingness to serve is rarely done from one’s place on the floor, washing a follower’s feet, but from the chair. Like Peter telling Jesus He ought to wash his hair while He’s got the water ready.

Jesus isn’t giving us a means of measuring up our leaders, but perhaps instead what kind of followers we are being. As followers are we washing another’s feet? Are we serving? As followers do we even recognize that we are also to be leaders? That there is no following without also leading?

Yes, I’m the pastor. But so are you.

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