Recent political hijinks in the church and in the world lead us to think about the nature of leadership, and especially leadership in the church. We are reminded that, as followers of Jesus, “the greatest among you should be the servant of all”, which is a model of leadership more often preached than practised.
The exercise of power is itself neutral. Power is simply the ability to get what you want. Everyone needs enough personal power to manage their lives. If someone has been denied that ability they are said to be in need of empowerment.
When someone is given (or assumes) power over other people we call that leadership. Jesus noted that, among the Gentiles, their rulers exercised authority over them. “It shall not be so among you,” he told the disciples. “The greatest among you must be least of all”—a radical notion in our own time, as it was then.
Jesus taught and modeled “servant leadership”, where the strong give themselves for the sake of the weak, and the powerful serve the needs of the powerless. His ultimate lesson was on the cross, where he gave up his life for the sake of those he loved.
This is a model that calls us to deep bonds of self-giving love for one another. It is a form of service that does not come easily or naturally to many of us, which is why we look to church leaders to help show us the way—by word and example.