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Serve Or Be Served


In the 1970’s I was part of what was known as the Discipleship Shepherding Movement.  I certainly enjoyed and benefited from the relationships I had with my friends in the movement even though I didn’t embrace all that was taught.  For example, our leaders  taught us how we should serve them, which seemed to me a little “self serving” on their part.  I didn’t feel comfortable with this so I never asked such service from those I cared for. 


One possible problem with any ecclesiastical system is the tendency towards authoritarian rule of leadership.  Abuse of ecclesiastical authority began to take place as early as the second generation of Christians around 100 AD when submission to one leader became popular as a way to bring needed unity in the church.  Another way abuse  shows up is when leadership demands service from those they are supposed to be serving. 


In Mark 10:32 and following Jesus pours out His heart and soul to the Twelve by telling them that He’d be killed in just a few days.  Have you ever noticed how the Twelve responded to Jesus?  I’m guessing Jesus wasn’t at all impressed with James and John “telling” Him  that they wanted  Him  “to do for them whatever they asked”. (Mark 10:35) When the others heard of James and John requesting to sit with Jesus in a place of authority in His Kingdom, an argument broke out.  The rest of the Twelve felt entitled to a place of prominence as well.        


We can’t blame James and John too much here.  They haven’t been the only ones wanting a visible place of prominence in the Kingdom of God .  All through church history we’ve seen this tendency.  Even today some church leaders view themselves as being the CEO of their church as if the church was a Fortune 500 Company trading on the New York stock exchange.  Sad to say, in many cases the church looks more like a Dow Jones corporation than the community of redeemed servants of Jesus it should be.   


After telling James and John that they didn’t know what they were asking for, Jesus explains that the Gentile rulers “lord it over  and exercise authority” over their subjects.  In short the Roman leaders were dictators who ruled with abusive tyranny.    


What Jesus says next is vital to this discussion. He says, “not so with you”. (Mark 10:43) These four words should set the tone for all our relationships in the church.  We’re simply not to “lord it over others”, whether we’re a leader or an ordinary Christian, assuming there’s such a thing as an ordinary Christian.  


In Mark 10:44 Jesus tells us that whoever wants to be great among us must be “slave to all”.  This means you get at the back of the after church lunch line, even if you’re the pastor.  You don’t sneak out the back door after you preach your sermon to avoid the people you’re caring for. You embrace all those in the church, both rich and poor.   You mingle with people as if you’re one of them, not as one superior  to them.  


This hit home to me years ago when I had the privilege of speaking with David DuPlessis, one of the world’s most well known and effective Pentecostal ministers in the 20th century.  He actually took 25 minutes of his valuable time to talk with me, a 21 year old long haired Jesus Person.  I’ve always considered that to be an act of service and humility on his part.     


In contrast an associate pastor once told us from the pulpit that the senior pastor wasn’t really a people person and that’s why he didn’t mingle with people after the Sunday morning service.   That makes me wonder why he’s a pastor in the first place?         


Some of our leaders in the 1970’s may have demanded service and strict obedience, but don’t get me wrong, we had some good servant pastors, and this problem wasn’t exclusively ours.  What really makes a Christian a good Christian, and a leader a good leader is his ability to lay down his life and serve the one’s Jesus has placed before Him.  Little else matters.   


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