Not Like the Gentiles

When I first got out of college I read a lot of books on leadership. 7 different ways to influence your boss, The 23 questions Every Leader Asks,  How to Lead Like a Ninja.

You know, the usual.

And maybe it’s true that our American culture has over-emphasized leadership. While we didn’t invent the King we did have something to do with inventing a new style of leadership. We have studied, researched, parsed and promoted a thousand different ways to lead. Except one…

So a few months ago, I heard Andy Stanley give one of the best perspectives on leadership I’ve ever heard. He talked about the final night of Jesus’ ministry, the one where he has his last supper with his disciples. John tells us that Jesus realized that God had put all things under his feet. For John, this is Jesus moment of greatest self-realization. The moment where His identity and role in God’s mission has gotten some clarity. Jesus now knows who He is. And as soon as he does he starts washing feet.

Leslie and I used to do this. Back when I was a college minister, we would wash our leaders feet ever semester. A practice we discontinued when it dawned on us that college students could not afford Dr. Scholl’s. And while we were trying to give them some kind of profound experience, we could never tap into today what this meant back then. Because this was an act of extreme service, of debasement, but for Jesus it was leadership.

Look at what Jesus says after he does this:

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Jesus, when he realizes that his is the most important voice in the room, does the last thing anyone expects. He serves.

When George Washington was completing his second term as President, the United States were in a precarious spot in their development. We had a rough concept of what a democracy could be like, but we hadn’t really put skin on it yet. And Washington was wildly popular as a leader. He had accomplished a lot in his terms of office, and people were calling for a lot more. There was talk of George Washington becoming the Emperor of the U.S.A.

But that was not for George Washington.

He had enough sense of what leadership was (and wasn’t) that he did the one thing that does not come natural to most leaders. He laid down his power. When the rumor got back to King George III of England about what George Washington was going to do, The King of England said, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”

The greatest gift America’s first leader gave us, was laying down his power.

He didn’t have to, he could have held onto it and hoarded it, but he used what power he had, for the time that he had, for the sake of others. And every 4-8 years, when we have a transition of power in America, you are seeing his imprint.

Here’s the thing about leadership. It is inevitable. Andy Stanley points out that there comes a point in leader’s lives where they realize that they have the most important voice in the room. They have the opinion that unites, motivates, or redirects others. They have power, but everything hinges next on what they do with that influence.

There’s this one time in Jesus’ ministry where Jesus’ disciples James and John come to him asking for the V.P and CEO jobs in the upcoming Kingdom of God. Like you might expect, this goes over like a ton of bricks with the other disciples, and they start arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. Now this story might seem a bit strange, but it’s only because our conversations aren’t recorded and written down for future generations. Because if we are honest, we’ve all had this talk, we just do it more subtly.

But Jesus’ response cuts right to the chase, and it has everything to do with today. He doesn’t try and stop their pursuit to the top, he just redefines what the top is. Because everybody else thinks leadership is one thing, and it’s actually something else. Everyone else thinks that leadership has to do with power and glory, but it really has everything to do with service.

Jesus, in his final night, is showing exactly what his way of leadership looks like. When he realized who He was, and the level of influence he has his first act is to serve others. When the time comes that you realize that what you think matters to someone else. Or that you have influence on what direction something goes, what are you going to do with that power? Because you have a choice. You can leverage your influence for the sake of your temporary fame, or you can tap into the thing that Jesus was trying to do all along. Lead, but in a different direction.

Because Jesus was a leader, just not like the Gentiles.

About jonathanstorment

My family and I love reading, traveling, daddy/daughter dates, playing hide and seek, good music, and long meals with friends. We still miss LOST, and all four of us have Superman uniforms. We are passionate about bringing Heaven to Earth and want to follow Jesus while repainting discipleship for those around us. We are followers of Jesus and I preach at the Highland Church of Christ. We participate in something called A Restoration Movement, and we've come to realize that might be larger than we thought.

14 thoughts on “Not Like the Gentiles

  1. “A practice we discontinued when it dawned on us that college students could not afford Dr. Scholl’s.”

    I think the bigger issue is that college students don’t wash their socks often enough.

    Aside from that, there’s nothing to say about this post. You nailed it.

  2. Excellent! Excellent!! I will look forward to witnessing you living this out among us and calling us to live it out as well. Praise to the One before whom every knee shall bow!

  3. I like this. I like this a lot.

    It just shows how alien the “lord it over” structure so much of the world thinks is important is so far from the reality.

    I used to think that the guy at the head of the room had all the power in college. Then I started teaching — and I found out pretty quickly that I had to grade papers and come up with lesson plans and answer a zillion emails and make activities the students would like and show up extra hours if the students needed to and help students having a hard time because of family issues…and so on and so on and so on. My persona as a leader was even a servant one that was there to give the students stability and help them progress. The students weren’t really working for me — it was their own careers and their own choice as to how they wanted to pursue their education. I was virtually their slave, even though I came across as their leader — and the high-stakes student evaluation and the end of the semester was proof of this.

    It’s really interesting that the more someone becomes a leader, they more they become a servant. I also think it’s interesting in looking at history that when a leader stops being a servant, the kingdom he or she “leads” usually begins to diminish in value — or, eventually gets put right-side up so that the leader becomes a servant.

    You’re right. I really, really enjoyed reading this. Funny, isn’t it, how God created the world so that everything ultimately is all about love?

  4. Reading it again — I realize your main point here is that leaders should show the principle of servanthood to those they lead. This makes a lot of sense and I will carry it with me into the next semester. That said…building on what Dan said about college students and dirty socks…I do have some laundry piling up, leader … ; ) (jk)

    Thanks again for the post!

  5. While there is no better leadership example than Jesus, a book I recommend often for people I work with is The Servant by James Hunter. Another similar book is Leadership By The Book by Ken Blanchard, Bill Hybels and someone else that escapes my memory.

    I have been teaching a leadership class at work over the past 7 years and it is based on the concept of servant-leadership. You did a great job laying out thoughts on how we can and should all look for our opportunities to lead through serving others.

  6. I like your perspective on leadership. I think many in the church see it differently. I think we have a lot of folks asking and self-promoting themselves for the CEO positions. Like you said, we’ve probably all done this to some extent. The more I seek God and Truth, the more I have found that outside of many churches and tv/radio preacher types, there truly are those who are serving God, His way. It’s such an awesome encounter when you see true Christian servants working diligently by faith and not being in-your-face with it. Thanks for sharing, buddy.

  7. Why, oh why is August so far away??? I’m convinced your arrival will be the beginning of an exciting new era in Highland’s history. May our loving LORD pour out His mercies on you and Leslie, giving you an extra measure of strength, adding to your decision-making gifts ….. iow, all the necessary mercies needed to make this move, including sell house and buy house.

    In the short time we’ve known you, you have shared a strong servant-leader’s heart. Can’t wait for your beginning here in Abilene.

    LORD, please give us at Highland an extra measure of patience too as we await the Storment family’s arrival. Amen!

  8. I left out a whole intro to my previous comment – in a hurry to get out to an appointment.

    The previous comments came from the excellence of this blog entry. You have formulated your thoughts and passed them on to us in such a way, all I could think of in response to them was,”Why, oh why is August so far away???….”

    Bad habit of mine …. believing others can read my mind and the back story of what I’m saying or writing. Sorry. 😉

  9. Thanks Carla! I look forward to being with y’all as well!

    Peter, I’m glad that this helps. And thanks for interacting so well, and challenging us back. I really appreciate your feedback brother.

    Jeff, thanks for the suggestions, I’ll look at those.

    Thanks Kathy, Keep praying that prayer for us, it’s hectic around here. And don’t worry I make the same mistake often. Thanks for the encouragement.

    Thanks Paula!

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