“You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers, to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labours at it. I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition.” 1 Corinthians 16:15-18
Note Stephanas and his household ‘devoted themselves’ (the word speaks of a dedicated and disciplined lifestyle) to serving others. As these folk began to meet the needs of their fellow-Christians, people began to recognise in them the marks of true Christian leadership. Paul felt able to urge the Corinthians to ‘be subject’ [‘submit’] to such people, ie to respect their leadership gifts. This insight challenges our notions, but particularly our practice, of leadership. We tend to give leadership to those who have received one particular kind of education, who have a measure of articulacy and general ability to think and speak on their feet, who measure up to worldly criteria of leadership. Do we ever take with proper seriousness the perspective Paul provides on leadership as SERVICE?
Jesus taught the same truth: ‘Whoever would be great among you must be your servant.’ (Matthew 20:26). This indicates that the authentic, solid leadership of a local church will come from people who give themselves to SERVING the saints. Such leadership does not depend on education, qualifications, degrees, or natural charisma. It comes from the grace of God equipping his people with gifts which enable them to be SERVANTS OF OTHERS in the fellowship of believers.
“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” Luke 17:10
The point of Jesus’ parable of the servant coming in from the field (Luke 17:7-10) is quite sobering. In it, the Lord of Creation, the Son of Man who will one day come in all his glory to reveal his Kingdom (Luke 17:20-37), is reminding us just who we are: Servants of God. This is not an easy truth for us to come to grips with. We were made in the image and likeness of God, but we are not God; and in the end we will all be accountable to the One who is God for the way we have served Him.
How many in His church today, truly see themselves as servants of God and worse lack gratitude for all that He does for them.