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From the Servant General - Servant Leadership

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On Worship Series by FAP

Lent and Lamentation Series

(Part 15)
November 15, 2009
Today’s psalm reading (Ps 16:5-11) points us to a servant’s reward.
To be a servant leader is hard and at times thankless work. One may be unappreciated or misunderstood. One may even be maligned and persecuted. It is even ironic since one does what he does for the sake of the Kingdom.

But if we live out servant leadership, there is One who will always be grateful, and there will always be His reward to look forward to, if not in this life, then in the next. In fact, given that we serve God, our perspective should really be that of eternity. If we look to rewards in this life, we may be disappointed. But if we look to the life that is to come, we will never be disappointed. “For you will not abandon me to Sheol, nor let your faithful servant see the pit. You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.” (v.10-11).
After all, eternal life in heaven with God is our ultimate goal, and the reason why we serve and pastor others.
How can we assure this reward? Just serve faithfully.

How do we assure that we are serving faithfully?

First, we must always maintain our relationship with God. “I keep the Lord always before me” (v. 8a). It is He whom we serve, it is He who gives us grace to serve, it is He who helps us to endure. Further, we are called to holiness, and servant leaders ought to show the way to holiness for those whom they serve. As we walk in the footsteps of Jesus, as we live out God’s commandments, then we will be holy.

Second, we need godly wisdom and understanding in order to serve well. Since this is God’s work, then we look to God. “I bless the Lord who counsels me” (v.7a). God will show us the way, if we are willing to seek Him. Thus we pray, we read the Bible, we take instruction from the Church, we seek the wisdom of other wise leaders.

Third, since we are weak human flesh doing godly work, then we need a power beyond ourselves, and that comes from God. We recognize that we are mere instruments. We take our anointing and empowerment from God’s Spirit. Our strength is the Lord’s, and “with the Lord at my right, I shall never be shaken.” (v.8b).
When we realize that God gives us the privilege to serve, that God is there for us, that we can look forward to our eternal reward, then the effect should be that we are joyful and we feel secure. “Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure” (v.9). Whatever happens, even if we are unappreciated or maligned, we rejoice. Whatever happens, we are secure in God’s love and the blessings that He has already reserved for His faithful servants. When Peter quoted this psalm of David at Pentecost, he said, “my flesh, too, will dwell in hope.” (Acts 2:26). So we should have great hope, and we can confidently face the future.

God has already decided how He wants to treat His faithful servants. We just need to reap what has already been reserved for us. It is ours to take. Thus David speaks about his allotment and his inheritance. “Lord, my allotted portion and my cup, you have made my destiny secure. Pleasant places were measured out for me; fair to me indeed is my inheritance.” (v.5-6). A secure destiny and pleasant places--what great things we can look forward to!

A secure destiny spells hope. Knowing God and trusting in Him brings hope. As we have encountered in the book of Lamentations: “My portion is the Lord, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him.” (Lam 3:24). Our share is the Lord Himself. If such is the reward of faithful service, then we are privileged indeed. Then we, as did Peter and David, can truly look forward to a future full of hope.

God promises, and we simply need to receive.
*     *     *
(Note: Get your copies of our new book “Servant Leadership” and learn more about this great calling.)

(Part 14)
November 11, 2009
Today’s reading from the book of Wisdom (6:2-11) has important instruction for servant leaders.
Servant leaders stand in God’s place, doing His work and caring for His people. Now that is an awesome privilege and responsibility. God entrusts His plan for the life of the world to His people, especially His servant leaders. God gives them His anointing, and they do their work under the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. As such, “for those in power a rigorous scrutiny impends” (v.8).

God holds us accountable! God will probe our works. God will test the quality of our service. “Hearken, you who are in power over the multitude and lord it over throngs of peoples! Because authority was given you by the Lord and sovereignty by the Most High, who shall probe your works and scrutinize your counsels!” (v.2-3).
What will be the standard of God’s judgment?

The standard is God Himself. Servant leaders must judge “rightly, and .... keep the law, (and) walk according to the will of God” (v.4). We are to live righteous lives, avoid sin and wrongdoing, and make decisions according to His ways. This is because we represent God, and we are tasked to care for His people. Thus we reflect the image of God. Thus we obey God’s commands and do things His way, not our way.

If not, our punishment will be severe. “Terribly and swiftly shall he come against you” (v.5a). But why? We are just trying to serve Him. It is voluntary and we may not be getting paid for it. Punishment will be severe “because judgment is stern for the exalted” (v.5b), and “the mighty shall be mightily put to the test” (v.6b). God gives us power and authority, entrusting His people to us, and we must care for them the way God wants us to.
It seems such a heavy burden. Why even take the chance of being punished by God by becoming a servant leader? Well, it is a great privilege. And if we truly love God, and if we know that He acts through leaders that He chooses, then we must respond if called.

For those called, God provides the grace to be able to serve well. First, God gives us His commands, which lead us to righteousness and holiness, which in turn transform us into the image and likeness of God. God assures us that “those who keep the holy precepts hallowed shall be found holy” (v.10a). God desires that we be holy as He is holy. If we desire this as well, and strive to live according to His ways, then we will be holy. “To you, therefore, O princes, are my words addressed that you may learn wisdom and that you may not sin.” (v.9).

Second, as we strive to obey God’s laws, and thus grow in godly wisdom, then we will know how to respond to God’s call, and act according to His will in caring for His people. God again assures us: “those learned in them will have ready a response” (v.10b). God will not withhold His wisdom, grace and anointing. He just wants to have obedient leaders, whom He is committed to form and transform.
To be a servant leader is a great and wonderful calling. It is both a great privilege and responsibility. Being tasked to do the very work of God, we will be held accountable. In this we must not be afraid, but trust in the God who calls us.

God provides for all we need in order to do His work and be effective servant leaders. God guides us and instructs us, and God does want us to succeed. He has given us His guide book, the Bible. He has given us the Church and her magisterium. He has given us our community, with elders and brethren. 

Now it is up to us. “Desire therefore my words; long for them and you shall be instructed.” (v.11).
*     *     *

(Part 13)
November 10, 2009
Today’s gospel reading (Lk 17:7-10) teaches us about our proper posture as servant leaders. The following reflection is taken from my new book Servant Leadership, chapter 16.

Servants are important to a master. A master gets things done by having servants do tasks for him. We too are called to serve God, and as such are important to Him. In fact, though God can and does act directly in the lives of people, most of the time He acts in and through human instruments.

Now problems come when the instrument given the privilege to serve and empowered by the master for service begins to think that he, having done great things, is himself great. When such pride comes in, the fall inevitably follows. God wants to avoid this, so as to keep His servants functioning well so that He can accomplish His plan for the world.

The key is in the servant being constantly aware of who he is before the Master, and of knowing that apart from the Master he can do nothing. If the servant simply obeys and knows his place, then he will be used by the Master and be blessed.
The attitude of a servant
Jesus himself illustrated the proper attitude of a servant.
“Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable[1] servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”[2] (Lk 17:7-10)
A first observation is that it would seem Jesus is quite harsh, perhaps even cruel. After all, servants, even with their lowly status, should be afforded proper respect and due consideration.

To think that is to miss the meaning of being a servant, or a slave, during those olden times. Today we think of a servant, or perhaps an employee, as someone who has rights, is paid justly, has set hours of work, enjoys vacation and other privileges, or can even go on strike. It was not that way in Jesus’ time. The so-called servants during those days were actually slaves. They may have been taken captive in a war or in a raid on a village, and then sold in the marketplace as a slave. Once purchased, they became the property of the owner. They had no rights, no identity, and could not complain if they were overworked or not fed.

So when Jesus told his disciples about a servant being called by his master from the field and told to recline at table for a meal, his listeners might have burst out in laughter and engaged in good-natured ribbing. Such was simply unthinkable. When the laughter died down, Jesus then told it as it really is. What the servant needed to do, even after a hard day’s labor out in the field, would be to serve the master at his meal. Only after the master finished could the servant have his own meal.

But there is more. The master did not even have to thank the servant for his service. Why? The servant was only doing what was expected of him. He was only doing his duty. He was only following orders.

Then the clincher. The servant’s own posture is simply to accept that he is worthless or unprofitable. It was not a question of what service he rendered, or of how valuable he had been to the master, or how much he had sacrificed. Rather, it was simply a question of who he was. He was a slave, a nobody, one with no rights. He was one who did not need to be thanked or acknowledged.
The attitude of a servant leader
We are servants of Jesus, our Lord and Master. We had been under the dominion of the evil one, a situation of slavery to darkness and sin. Jesus redeemed us with his blood. He purchased us, and we now belong totally to him.

As such, our proper attitude is the same as that of the slave. In serving God, we are to expend ourselves, we are not to look to our convenience or comfort, we are not to demand wages or perquisites, and we should not expect to be thanked. We are only doing what we ought to do.

In fact, if anyone is to be thanked, it should be we the servants thanking Jesus the Master. Jesus has given us the privilege to do his very own work, to participate in that very wonderful task of proclaiming him to the world, to care for the very people whom he died for and saved, to help bring people to their eternal destiny in heaven. Jesus allows us to stand in his very own place, caring for his very own flock. Such is a privilege like no other.
Such an attitude should manifest itself in different ways in our service.
  • We serve without counting the cost, ready to bear any sacrifice.
  • We do not serve according to our own priorities or interests.
  • We are totally obedient to the Master, following his directions without question.
  • We think of nothing else but serving the Master, and how we can be pleasing to him.
  • We do not look to being thanked, and many times might be unappreciated or even rejected by the very people we serve.
  • We always realize the great privilege we have been given in serving God.
  • We rejoice in our holy slavery to Jesus.
The attitude of Jesus
Our attitude is clear: we are merely servants or slaves of Christ. We must know our proper place.

But here is something very important. Jesus is not a cruel taskmaster. He is in fact everything to the contrary.
  • Though he owns us, he respects our free will.
  • Though he is the Master, he washes our feet.
  • Though we are his slaves, he has made us his friends (Jn 15:15).
  • Though we are worthless, he has endowed us with dignity and honor as his own brethren.
  • Though he holds our lives in his hands, he is the one who gave his own life for our sakes.
  • Though we are unworthy, he has entrusted the very gift of salvation into our hands.
  • Though we should serve him at table, he allows us to eat and drink at his table in his kingdom (Lk 22:30).
Only the divine Master treats human servants in this way. In that lie our great privilege and joy.
*     *     *

[1] Other translations have “useless,” “unworthy,” or “worthless.”
[2] Other translations have “our duty” or “what we ought to have done.”

(Part 12)
November 8, 2009
Today’s gospel reading (Mk 12:38-44) teaches us about servant leadership. It gives us a DON’T and a DO, with many ramifications on how we serve God and others.
First, Jesus denounces the scribes, who look to trappings of authority, and being acclaimed and recognized (v.38), who look to prestige and being honored (v.39), but prey on those they serve, while making a pretense of spirituality to cover up their wrong acts (v.40).

So what are the things that a servant leading is NOT to do?
  • Look to the wrong P’s as one’s motivation for service: power, position, prestige, perks and pay.
  • Look to being acclaimed, or even aspire for Church or secular awards.
  • Be unduly protective of one’s reputation.
  • Look to always being affirmed or acknowledged in one’s service.
  • Take undue advantage of those one serves (borrowing money, using their time and resource for one’s personal benefit, and so on).
  • Make a pretense of one’s spirituality.
Second, Jesus affirms the widow, who put in two small coins into the temple treasury, versus the many rich people who put in large sums. Jesus said that the “poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury” (v.43). Why? “For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” (v.44).
  • What does this teach us about what a servant leader is to DO?
  • Just serve, knowing that everyone has something to offer in serving God, no matter how seemingly menial according to worldly values.
  • Do not be overly concerned about so-called performance, for it is not what one is able to accomplish that is important, but what one puts into the effort in his service. Know that it is up to God to provide the fruit. We simply need to be available to become His instruments.
  • Be willing to make a sacrifice in serving, even giving out of one’s poverty of resources, even depriving oneself of what he can justifiably use up for himself.
  • Trust that if one honors the Lord and His work, then the Lord will be the one to take care of his needs. The Lord is never outdone in generosity.
The world extols leaders who are like the scribes, while ignoring or putting down those who are nobodies in society like the poor widow. Worldly leadership looks to high positions of power and authority, while servant leadership looks to taking the lowest place, to serve and not to be served, to being last while putting others first.

For the true Christian, whether in service in the Church or in secular society, there is only one way--that of Jesus, and that of the poor widow.
*     *     *

(Part 11)
November 7, 2009
Today’s reading from the gospel of Luke gives us some points about servant leadership, which is so different from leadership in the world. Worldly leaders often think in secular and humanistic terms, and seek to be pleasing to human beings. But God warns us: “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Lk 16:15).

God’s ways and thoughts are indeed so far away from our own (Is 55:8-9). What we esteem could be an abomination to God. Worldly leaders seek power, position, perks and pay, which could all lead us away from God, even as we endeavor to serve Him. Worldly leaders, even as they serve God, could actually be serving mammon.
What is “mammon”? Mammon here is the Greek transliteration of a Hebrew or Aramaic word that is usually explained as meaning “that in which one trusts.” When we trust in our human wisdom rather than God’s wisdom, when we look to human esteem rather than God’s approval, when we serve as lord over others rather than as a slave of Christ, when we have our own personal agenda and priorities, then we are serving mammon.

Such a posture could creep into our hearts without our knowing it, or perhaps without our being fully aware of it. Thus we need to always look to God for guidance and wisdom, humbly seeking these as we serve. It is God who knows our hearts, since He created us and is all-knowing.

God warns us right off. “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Lk 16:13). Those who are worldly leaders, even as they strive to serve God, will ultimately have to make the choice.
But here is the interesting thing. While we do not serve mammon, we can make mammon serve us. This is the point of Jesus’ parable of the dishonest steward.

In this parable, Jesus is not approving of dishonesty, but rather is commending the steward for his prudence, given that he was about to lose his job. As steward, he followed the Palestinian custom of adding a usurious commission for himself on business transactions made on behalf of his master. Now he was foregoing such commission. In letting go of his monetary interest, while still protecting the interests of his master, he assured his own future well-being.

Then Jesus says, “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth” (Lk 16:9a). As servant leaders, we do make use of power, authority and position. We do enjoy acclaim. We utilize money and modern means of communications, such as the Internet. All these things of the world could easily lead people astray. And so we need to guard our hearts, and ensure that we are truly serving God rather than mammon.

If we pass the test, then God can truly use us for His purposes. If we remain faithful to God in our exercise of leadership, then He can use us for greater things. “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones” (Lk 16:10a).
What are the great matters God can entrust us with? It is the salvation of souls. This has to do with our mission and our work of evangelization. It is the very work of God. It has to do with the very salvation won by Jesus on the cross. This after all is the true work of the servant leader.

God can entrust such work to us if we are found trustworthy with small matters, that is, with money, worldly possessions, positions of authority, power, and the like. If however we are found untrustworthy with the worldly blessings that God provides for us, then we will miss out on the privilege of bringing Christ to others. “If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?” (Lk 16:11).

Further, if found untrustworthy and thus unable to bring Christ to others, we will miss out on what God wants ultimately to give us, which is eternal life. If by our infidelities we fail to become the instruments that God intends to use to bring to others what God wants them to have, we endanger our own salvation. “If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?” (Lk 16:12).
And so Jesus tells us, “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” (Lk 16:9). We can be sure that dishonest wealth, the world’s goods and what is esteemed by the world, will fail us. But this ought not be any cause for concern. What we simply do is to utilize all worldly resources at our command to pursue the Lord’s mission.

Thus will we be placed in right relationship with God, and make many friends, the new brothers and sisters in Christ whom we would have helped evangelize and pastor.
And when we finally leave this world, we are assured of welcome into our eternal home.
*     *     *

(Part 10)

September 8, 2009
On the 12th death anniversary of Jun and Ben

A servant is one who is a slave of Christ, who belongs totally to him. As a slave, a servant has no rights. He is to simply obey the commands of his master. His very life is in the hands of the master.

Jesus was the suffering servant of Yahweh. He washed the feet of his disciples, taking the lowest place. He suffered and died on the cross, winning for us our salvation.

As the servants of Jesus, we are to follow him. When we follow him, we must deny ourselves and take up our cross. When we follow him, he leads us all the way to the cross. When we follow Jesus, we must be willing to give up our lives for him, just as he gave up his life for us.
Martyrs for the cause
Today I honor, once again, our brothers Ben Donato and Jun Frias. They are our first martyrs. They died 12 years ago in Vanuatu while on mission. They gave their all, to the offering of their very lives. They died with their sandals on. They were true missionaries and servant leaders.

Today we persist on our mission and our work. We are an evangelistic and missionary community. We continue to field our missionaries to different parts of the world. And there will be more of them to come.
Our missionaries face hardships (just listen to their testimonies) but rejoice in the privilege. And our missionaries lay their lives on the line every day for Jesus.

Our missionaries in Ghana had an encounter with death. Our brothers Mike Javier from Canada, Deks Gonzales from the Philippines, and David from Ghana, had a terrible road accident. Their Ghanaian driver was killed. They were bloodied and bruised, with cuts and broken limbs. They needed to be hospitalized and operated on. But they lived. 

Recently also, while on their way home from our conference, our brethren had a serious accident in Italy. The car was a total wreck and cannot be repaired anymore. But thank God, all four passengers were unharmed.

In the Philippines through the years, there have been various vehicular accidents involving our brethren while on mission, causing various injuries and also deaths.
Paul, the missionary par excellence, suffered a great deal (just look at 2 Corinthians 11:23b-28!). He made four missionary journeys. He did not have the modern conveniences of vehicles or the Internet. His was a hard life. But he rejoiced in the privilege of serving Christ, and especially in suffering for him.

Today we do mission, and our missionaries indeed suffer. But we have not been lashed or stoned. We have not been shipwrecked. We have not been imprisoned. But we do face the possibility of serious accidents and even death.

Not everyone is privileged to do mission. In that our missionaries should exult and rejoice.
Mission and money
There are many more opportunities for us to do mission. The potential missionaries are there, especially among our young single brethren. It is of course not limited to them. Ben’s very own widow Menchie has gone to many different and difficult mission areas, all by herself.

But our big problem is finances. There simply is not enough money.

This is tragic. How I wish that we could simply call on God to send His angels who can bodily whisk away our missionaries to Africa or to Latin America or elsewhere. But every time I pray, the Lord says the same thing, “You need to buy a ticket.” It sounds funny, but I am not laughing. I am grieving.

How can we let such a mundane thing as money prevent us from serving the Lord more, from being the missionary community that we are called to be?!

It is doubly tragic because it is not for a lack of money on your part. If only every CFC-FFL member gave some amount every month, no matter how small, we would have more than enough for mission. Is that too much to ask? I am not wringing blood out of you. Far from it! You would not even notice what you forgo if you give.

People at times ask why God does not provide for our needs. But God has indeed already provided. Whenever we respond to His authentic call, then He will provide. So where is the money? It remains in your pockets and purses! “Dare a man rob God? Yet you are robbing (Him)!” (Mal 3:8a). What a tragedy for our mission. What a tragedy for you.
In the accident in Ghana, we needed to raise money for the hospital and for operations. You responded! Do we have to wait for such serious accidents before we give for mission? Does the Lord have to allow an accident before you take out your wallet or purse?

People continue to die in their sins. They are the object of our evangelization. Physical death, especially martyrdom, is not tragic, for we live and die for Christ. But spiritual death is tragic. And for you who already know the Lord and are striving to live a truly Christian life, failure to give is even more tragic. You are accursed because you rob God (Mal 3:9). But this does not have to be. You can prevent this by your giving.
Going on mission
Ben and Jun died on the birthday of Mama Mary. So death and life come on the same day. But our brothers’ death has led to eternal life their own and those they have helped evangelize. This is the wonderful work that we have been given the privilege to do.

Our singles, couples and handmaids are stepping forth and willing to become missionaries. They know the hardships this entails, and even the possibility of death. But they persist.

You can do your part, from the comfort of your homes, in the presence of your loved ones, without the threats to life that they face. You can pray for them. But you can also make it possible for them to be sent as missionaries, by your giving of your finances. This can be your way of going on mission.
Our call as servant leaders
We are all servants of Jesus. And our community has been tasked to raise the leaders who will pursue the work of Jesus, that of evangelization and mission. There is much to be done, and we must give of ourselves so that we can lead the way for many others.

As servant leaders we must take on the mind and heart of our Master. We must be willing to give our all, including our very lives. And if we are to give our all, we certainly must be willing to give back to God what He has entrusted to us our time, talent and treasure.
Today we honor our brothers Jun Frias and Ben Donato. Thank you, Jun and Ben, for your ultimate sacrifice.

May there be more of them, including those who will give their lives for the cause.

May our community be so blessed.

(Part 9)

I suppose none of us who are serving as leaders in CFC-FFL would disagree with the call to servant leadership. We readily agree and actually try to live out its high ideals. However, the problem might be in our not realizing certain aspects of leadership that actually keep us from fully embracing true servanthood.
I would now like to take up some of these.
When Jesus washed the feet of the apostles, he took the lowest place. The washing of feet was not even fit for the lowest slave, but that is what the Master did. To have to wash others’ feet is to experience shame, humiliation and being looked down on (literally and figuratively).

Jesus was Master but he did the work of a slave, even lower. This is the context by which we must understand that we are leaders but more importantly servants.
Authority and power

Leaders do have authority and power. But it is authority and power to be able to serve. It is not authority and power to be able to dominate.

What to avoid:
  • Being dictatorial. We are pastors and not tyrants. We guide, advise, enlighten, encourage and also give direction. We are there to give care. We are there to love.
  • Being controlling. We do not have to have everything under our control. We in fact should delegate and practice the principle of subsidiarity. We trust in our subordinates.
  • Acting in any way that intimidates subordinates, thus preventing them from freely expressing their views and giving their inputs. Leaders must not only not act in an authoritarian way, but must actively encourage subordinates to give their inputs, even negative ones.
  • Demanding blind obedience. We are not a cult, and the freedom of our members to choose can never be taken from them. What we in fact promote is active submission, where they can freely (but respectfully) question anything and give their inputs.
  • Becoming impatient with people, to the point of just dictating on them. We must learn to work with and to walk with our people. It indeed is our privilege, and burden, to help form our brethren through loving pastoral care.
  • Acting unilaterally on decisions affecting the body. We must make it a habit to consult and seek the wisdom of others, especially of counselors and core teams, who are there precisely to give wise inputs.
  • Becoming functional. While we do have a function to perform, the basic reality is that we live in community, where loving relationships are at the core. Our relationships are primarily personal and fraternal, not merely functional.
Looking good

For their able leadership, leaders ought to be respected, emulated, esteemed and even extolled. This is to encourage the brethren and help them trusting in their leaders, for the good of the body and the mission. However, looking good ought never be a factor in our handling our leadership. Jesus was demeaned and spat on. If circumstances cause us to suffer that same fate, then it is cause for great joy.

What to avoid:
  • Preventing subordinates from having access to a higher authority where the subordinates can express their disagreements with their leaders, so that we do not look bad to our superiors. We in fact should welcome such, so that if we are doing anything not right, then we can be corrected. We must humble ourselves. We should also trust in our superiors to be able to wisely handle any complaints against us.
  • Telling subordinates to take up matters with us first before going to a higher authority. While we do have a pastoral-hierarchical structure that brings order to our day-to-day community life, a subordinate must not be intimidated into not freely going to a higher authority if he/she feels the need to do so.
  • Becoming defensive or overly sensitive when criticized or questioned. Rather, welcome the criticism, which hopefully is constructive, and learn whatever needs to be learned. If there is no validity to the criticism, then simply explain and then leave the matter in the hands of the superior.
  • Becoming resentful when corrected by a superior due to the inputs of a subordinate. Rather, welcome every correction, wherever and however it comes about. Thank the one who gave the input that led to the correction.
  • Not fully disclosing problems when asked by one’s superior. The superior is there to help us in improving our service.
  • Keeping quiet about problems when not asked by one’s superior. Rather, we should volunteer “negative” information and eagerly solicit advice and inputs.
 Looking to one’s own shortcomings
Yes, we are leaders. But we are leaders in spite of ourselves. We stand in the place of the Chief Shepherd Jesus, and so we will always fall short. But such realization is in fact a blessing, if only we will acknowledge our shortcomings and look to Jesus for grace and help. Such help is often given by God through our brethren.

What to avoid:
  • Thinking we have all the answers, and that seeking inputs from others especially subordinates would diminish us in their esteem.
  • Not humbly and actively seeking help from superiors or peers. We work as a team with other leaders. We compensate for weaknesses and enhance strengths. Not seeking help when needed is missing out on a great resource.
  • No longer being open to learn; being fixed on our ways, even if such have proven problematic at times.
  • Insisting on one’s stated position or decision even in the face of clear indications that a change is desirable. This is sinful pride.
  • Not constantly being in a posture of dependence on and trust in the Lord. Such a posture is foolhardy.
 Trusting in God’s working through subordinates
God raises leaders to lead, but God does not speak to His people only exclusively through His chosen leaders. Every member of community has a gift from the Holy Spirit, and every member can become a particular instrument of God to manifest His will and His direction for the community. Leaders must keenly desire to tap on to the mind of God through his subordinates.

What to avoid:
  • Looking on subordinates only as those under one’s leadership, rather than as brethren who are equal in personal worth and dignity, and whom God can use to give wise inputs to their superiors.
  • Not being open to the work of the Spirit in subordinates with regards to matters of governance. Even though authority resides in a particular governor, it is always wise to seek counsel from others.
  • Fault finding; being focused more on the faults of subordinates. We are all works in progress. Leaders should in fact thank God that they are given the privilege to help form subordinates, and so patiently do so. God has every reason to be impatient with us, but that is not what we experience from Him.
  • Cold shoulder treatment to critics. We must always be patient, tolerant and forgiving, trying to win people over by our good works and loving care.
 Rejoicing in affliction

Jesus not only washed the feet of the apostles, but he went to the cross to suffer a humiliating and extremely painful death. The cross is the only way to glory. This is why Jesus tells his disciples, if they are to truly follow him, to deny themselves and take up their cross. As leaders, Jesus certainly wants us to travel the same path.

What to avoid:
  • Being depressed when things do not go our way. We must realize that God uses difficulties, challenges and crosses to keep us on the right track and to purify us. As such, they are blessings to be embraced.
  • Being discouraged and even wanting to give up one’s service whenever we meet with opposition or correction from superiors. We should persevere and endure. We in fact should be encouraged that brethren care enough to correct or chastise us.
  • Looking on affliction as undesirable. Again, the cross is the way of true discipleship. Suffering is redemptive. As long as we act in righteousness, being misunderstood or being unjustly persecuted is to be considered as part of our continuing purification and growth to holiness.
  • Not rejoicing in affliction for the sake of righteousness.
  • Missing out on the reality that our enemy is Satan and not our brethren. Satan opposes God’s work in and through us. At times he is able to use brethren to afflict us. But we should always know that he is the true enemy.
We have a long way to go in fully appreciating and living out servant leadership. But this can be the only way for us in CFC-FFL, because this is the way of Jesus.

Servant leadership is to be lived out, from the very top to the bottom, from the Servant General to the Household Servants. Servant leadership is the way to unity and peace in the body.

(July 17, 2009)

(Part 8)
In CFC-FFL, we serve as a team, from the Servant General down to the Household Servants.

Our pastoral-organizational structure, characterized by a pyramidal structure of leadership and the subdivision of the whole community into groups and sub-groups, can be traced to the time of Moses.

After the exodus from Egypt and before they arrived in Sinai, where God entered into covenant with them, after experiencing much grumbling from the people right after God had miraculously freed them through Moses from centuries of slavery,[1] Moses was given some sound advice by his father-in-law Jethro. Jethro told him to group the whole people into smaller sub-groups, into “groups of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.” (Ex 18:21b).

Such today is our community pastoral-organizational structure.
            “tens”                    -     a household of 5 couples[2]
            “fifties”                  -     a unit of 5 households[3]
           “hundreds”[4]      -     a chapter of 5 units
           “thousands”          -     a district of many clusters and chapters[5]
The purpose of the structure
What is the purpose of such a structure of pastoral leadership? Jethro advised: “Enlighten them in regard to the decisions and regulations, showing them how they are to live and what they are to do.” (Ex 18:20).

Leaders are to inform, educate and help form members in the ways and means of community life, culture and service. For us in CFC-FFL, this is about our life and mission in Jesus. We enlighten brethren regarding our Covenant, our Core Values, our ways of relating with one another, how to live our marriage and family lives, how to build the Church of the Home and the Church of the Poor, how to give of ourselves in service, and so on. We teach them “what they are to do,” that is, to be obedient to God. We are to teach them “how they are to live,” that is, to be holy.

Further, the structure is designed to enhance our transformation in Christ. Moses said, “The people come to me to consult God.” (Ex 18:15). We are primarily concerned about each member’s relationship with God. It is the leadership at each level that helps feed members. As members start to mature, they go up the pastoral ladder and are given more mature leaders who can continue to help them in their spirituality.

Moses further said, “Whenever they have a disagreement, they come to me to have me settle the matter between them and make known to them God’s decisions and regulations.” (Ex 18:16). Peace and unity in community is crucial. But because of people’s sinfulness, there will always be disagreements that can lead to strife and division. Leaders help resolve these by making known God’s ways and showing how differences are resolved in the Lord.
Serving as a team
Why is it necessary to subdivide the community into such sub-groups?

As the community grows in number, the task becomes too heavy for one man or a few leaders. “You will surely wear yourself out, and not only yourself but also those people with you. The task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.” (Ex 18:18). When the task is too heavy, people are not all properly attended to. Jethro gave his criticism to Moses, “Why do you sit alone while all the people have to stand about you from morning till evening?” (Ex 18:14b). The result is a failure in adequately tending to the flock. Both the overburdened leader and the under-cared for people suffer.

This is especially true with caring for people who grumble, which inevitably many of us do. As the number of Israelites grew, Moses said, “But how can I alone bear the crushing burden that you are, along with your bickering?” (Dt 1:12). When things are going great, there is not much pressure or burden for leaders. But the world, the flesh and the devil conspire to ensure that things will not go great all the time. Then bickering can cause a really heavy burden.

So different servant leaders at different levels have different functions.[6] The basic purpose remains the same, that is, to help brethren be more deeply transformed in Christ, but there is a sharing of work, a team effort, to accomplish this. “They rendered decisions for the people in all ordinary cases. The more difficult cases they referred to Moses, but all the lesser cases they settled themselves.” (Ex 18:26).

When the pastoral-organizational structure is working well, then the community is well poised to do the mission God assigns it. “If you do this, when God gives you orders you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” (Ex 18:23). The heavy burden will be shared, both leaders and people will not be worn out, everyone will be satisfied, and community is able to carry out its mission.
Choosing servant leaders
How are servant leaders to be chosen?

Jethro gives four basic qualifications. “But you should also look among all the people for able and God-fearing men, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain” (Ex 18:21a).

First, servant leaders are able. This means that they are “technically” competent for the task. Since this is spiritual work, this means they are growing in their own spirituality, ahead of those whom they are caring for, so that they have something to give. Moses expounds: “So I took outstanding men of your tribes, wise and experienced, and made them your leaders as officials over thousands, over hundreds, over fifties and over tens, and other tribal officers.[7]” (Dt1:15). They have the human intelligence to understand teachings and our ways, but more especially they manifest wisdom that is from on high. They are experienced not in the sense of having already done the task assigned to them, but in what they have learned as they moved up the pastoral ladder, as they grew in spirituality and service.[8] [9] They are outstanding in the sense that they stand out among their peers, from among whom they are chosen.[10]

Second, servant leaders are God-fearing. They have a personal relationship with Jesus as Savior and Lord, they are obedient to God, and they live their lives and conduct their service under the inspiration and strength of the Holy Spirit. They are striving to live righteous lives, and desire to be holy as God is holy. They are living out their family lives according to God’s ways.

Third, servant leaders are trustworthy. They have been entrusted with the pastoral care of the flock, and desire to do their task willingly and not grudgingly. They will work without having to be pushed, without their overseers looking over their shoulders, with initiative and enthusiasm. They are loyal to God and to community, and will not betray their Covenant and our Core Values.

Fourth, servant leaders hate dishonest gain. They are not in this for money, power, prestige, position or acclamation. Their single desire is to please God and to serve His people. They live lives of integrity. They will not move up in pastoral leadership through deception, lies and half-truths, through being a toady,[11] or through power politics.[12] They will never deprive God of the glory that rightfully belongs to Him alone.
The task at hand
CFC-FFL has been raised by God to do His work in this third millennium. We are to renew the family and to defend life. This is an awesome task, befitting an awesome God. We are mere instruments, but how we respond will determine how we will experience the anointing and power of God.

God has built a large army that will grow larger still. For peace, order and unity, God has given us our pastoral-organizational structure, and our call as servant leaders. We will do well to make such a structure work.

Let us listen to what Jethro has taught us, and what Moses has demonstrated to us.
“Now, listen to me, and I will give you some advice,
that God may be with you.”
(Exodus 18:19a)
“May the Lord, the God of your fathers,
increase you a thousand times over,
and bless you as he promised!”
(Deuteronomy 1:11)
April 17, 2009

[1] This is so much like people, even renewed Christians, who often grumble in times of adversity even as they have experienced so much blessings from God.
[2] 5 couples more or less.
[3] 5 households more or less.
[4] When we say “tens” we mean several 10s. When we say “fifties” we mean several 50s. But when we say “hundreds,” it can mean 100 or 300 or 500. So here we presume 5 units, more or less.
[5] In the same way as “hundreds,” when we say “thousands,” we usually mean several thousands. A cluster of 5 chapters will already number around 1,250 people, more or less. A district of 5 clusters will number around 6,250 people. In CFC-FFL there is no limit to the number of clusters in a district. Thus “thousands” can go to any number.
[6] See paper on “Roles of District Pastoral Leadership.”
[7] In CFC-FFL, aside from the basic district pastoral leadership, there are many other servant leaders, such as core team members, coordinators, etc.
[8] For example, a Household Servant would have been a member of a household for at least a year, who would have experienced many household meetings and would know how they were handled. With adequate training and such experience, they are qualified for the task.
[9] In certain unusual situations, we may appoint leaders who are not experienced. For example, when starting in a new territorial area and our first CLS results in a big harvest, some CLS graduates might already be assigned as Household Servants. With proper guidance and regular pastoral support, we hope such leaders will quickly learn on the job.
[10] When looking for a new Household Servant, we look at the members and see who among them might be ready to now take on servant leadership. This is the same pattern at higher levels of leadership.
[11] In Tagalog, “sipsip.”
[12] In Tagalog, “palakasan.”

(Part 7)
In today’s reading (Jn 13:1-15), we have one of the clearest lessons on servant leadership, taught and demonstrated by Jesus himself. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.

People during Jesus’ time traveled by foot on unpaved roads. They stepped on dust, mud and dung. When entering into homes, it was customary to wash their feet. It was such a lowly task that it would not even be required of the lowliest slave in the household.

Thus it was that when Jesus came to Peter to wash his feet, Peter objected vehemently, “You will never wash my feet.” (Jn 13:8a).
Taking the lowest place
By washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus demonstrated servant leadership. Jesus took the lowest place.

At the end, Jesus gave his lesson on servant leadership. “You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.” (Jn 13:13-14).

Jesus knew well enough the fallen human nature’s inclination to power and position. This would be especially true of those given leadership positions. Had not an argument in fact broken out among the apostles as to whom should be regarded as the greatest (Lk 22:24)?

Jesus would be using his apostles powerfully for the spread of Christianity and the building of the Church. They would be great missionaries and founders of Christian communities. They would occupy places of prominence in the Church hierarchy, with Peter becoming the first pope. It was time to impress upon them the true meaning of servant leadership. It was to be a lesson they would never forget.
Servant leadership
What is servant leadership?

First, it does not belittle the position of being a leader. Jesus affirmed the apostles’ recognition of him as teacher and master, saying, “rightly so, for indeed I am.” (Jn 13:13). Such positions of leadership are important in the work of the Church. We need not be apologetic or embarrassed in being recognized as leaders.

But second, it recognizes that to be a leader is to be a servant. As Jesus said, “I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet” (Jn 13:14a).
What does it mean for a leader to be a servant? 

Jesus “took off his outer garments” (Jn 13:4a). Our outer garments are often our expressions of position, power and acclaim. It might be the expensive branded shirt, the medals and insignia, or the bejeweled cape. Some of these might have been given to us as well-deserved expressions of appreciation and honor. But when we serve, we shed these. We do not stand on privilege and pomp. We are just servants.

Jesus “took a towel and tied it around his waist.” (Jn 13:4b). It is not a sword or a gun that we have around out waist, which are instruments of power and domination. Rather, it is a towel, a standard tool of servants. When we serve, even as we do exercise authority and indeed power, we are not authoritarian or dictatorial or domineering.

Jesus knelt before his apostles to be able to wash their feet. Jesus literally took the lowest place. Jesus humbled himself before those who were his subordinates. When we serve, no task is too menial for us.

Jesus “poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet” (Jn 13:5). What Jesus did was degrading work. It was also an allusion to his humiliating death on the cross. Jesus did not look to acclaim or glory which he richly deserved. Rather, he embraced the cross, with all its pain and shame. When we serve, our only concern should be those whom we serve, and we look not to our own comfort and privilege. We serve simply in order that those we serve may be refreshed, cared for and loved. And if ever such service causes us great difficulty and even pain, then it is cause for rejoicing.

Jesus washed the feet of even his betrayer Judas. Jesus “knew who would betray him” (Jn 13:11a), but he washed the feet of Judas anyway. When we serve, we do not discriminate against those who do not like us, or who do not respect us, or who have done us wrong. 

Jesus told Peter, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” (Jn 13:8b). The ultimate aim of our service is to help bring people to their eternal reward. Our service is centered and founded on Christ. Our pastoral care is intended to help people grow in holiness and righteousness unto the Lord. We extend to people the love of Jesus, in order that they might grow in that love. We help bring them to their true relationship as children of the Father, being able to take hold of their eternal inheritance.
A lesson to be learned, a model to be followed
Jesus washed the feet of his disciples to give them a lesson they would never forget. Though washing of the feet is done in churches every Holy Thursday, it is not meant to be done literally for those who are servant leaders. Though there might be occasions that will call for it, we do not normally go around actually washing the feet of those whom we serve. The “washing of feet” is not external but rather an internal disposition of the heart. 

Servant leadership is a posture that calls for humility and unconditional loving service.

Because this is not easy to do, because the temptation to pride and authoritarianism is something that will always beset us, Jesus needed to demonstrate what he wanted us to learn. “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (Jn 13:15). In his call to service as leaders, Jesus now directs us, “you ought to wash one another’s feet.” (Jn 13:14b).
We ought to realize what a great privilege it is to be given the opportunity to serve. Because Jesus loves his people, he touches their lives, even directly without the intervention of others. But Jesus calls us to service perhaps not so much for the good of others so that they might become pleasing to God (though using human instruments certainly is God’s way), but for us to have the opportunity to be pleasing to God.

Jesus says, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over” (Jn 13:10a). People can be purified and can attain to holiness without us. But God gives us such people to have their feet washed, so that we may have the opportunity to do so. When we serve, it is for our good as well as for the good of those whom we serve.
Such servant leadership is a radical overturning of the wisdom of the world. We might object like Peter. We might find the demands of servant leadership unreasonable or even unacceptable. But Jesus tells us, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” (Jn 13:7).

Let us take to heart the lesson that Jesus is teaching us. And be assured, if you humble yourself, you will understand.

Holy Thursday
April 9, 2009

(Part 6)
What is the work of servant leaders? Here is the instruction of the first pope.
“So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Pt 5:1-4)
Here in a nutshell are the marching orders for servant leaders. What does it mean?
Peter is addressing presbyters. Presbyters are the officially appointed leaders and teachers of the Christian community. They were appointed for each church that was set up by the apostles (Acts 14:23), and later for each church in every town set up by others mandated by the apostles (Ti 1:5). The presbyters shared with the apostles in the governance of the whole Church (Acts 15:6,22,23).

Presbyters (presbyteros) were also called bishops (episkopos) (Ti 1:5,7; Acts 20:17,28). The Greek term episkoposmeans “one who oversees” or “one who supervises.”

In Christian communities such as CFC-FFL, the overseer of the particular community in the diocese is the District Head, supported by the Chapter Heads for the local communities in the parishes. However, there are also many other functions that are categorized as overseers, or “elders,” or “seniors” (in current CFC-FFL usage). Further, there are also other positions of servant leadership.

As a Catholic movement that is fully a part of the Roman Catholic Church, CFC-FFL’s seniors and members are subject to the overall authority of the Church hierarchy.
The people of God
 In our work of leading people, one of the most important aspects is to realize that we are taking care of the flock of God. God’s people belong to Him, not to us. This has certain ramifications.
First, it is such a great privilege. We do the very work of God! We care for God’s own people! God puts us in His place with regard to the well-being of His people. God takes a chance on us, entrusting to us the people He loves and whom Jesus died for. We become instruments of His grace and blessings to others.

Second, it is such a great responsibility. God went to extreme lengths to win salvation for all, sending His very own Son Jesus to the cross. God wants all to be saved and to make it home to heaven. But first they have to travel the narrow path in a world that is in darkness. That is a great challenge, and many people lose their way. Jesus now enlists us to help his flock along that path. Though every person needs to take responsibility for his own response to Jesus, God intends His servant leaders to play a big role as well.

Third, we are not free to care for people the way we want to or the way we believe is best. We care for them according to how God would have cared for them. That necessitates that we know God and His ways more and more. We shed off our secular minds and put on the mind of Christ. We eschew worldly wisdom and take on godly wisdom, which many times can lead us to be fools for Christ.
The flock of God
Jesus is the chief Shepherd and we are delegated co-workers. The people of God are the flock. This speaks about the kind of care that we are to give. It is pastoral care. What does this mean?

Let us consider the role of a shepherd. Since Jesus is the chief Shepherd, we look to his definition. Jesus says, “I am thegood shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (Jn 10:11). Jesus pins down the most basic requirement for a shepherd, and that is, to be willing to lay down one’s life for the flock. This is the call to unilateral, unconditional and self-sacrificial love. We are to be ready to give our all, without holding anything back, even our very lives.
Practically speaking, how do we give pastoral care to those under us? Peter gives some particulars.

First, we do it not by constraint but willingly. Servant leadership is something we volunteer to do, because we want to serve Jesus and God’s people. We are not just ordered to take on this service, we are not compelled, but rather we are requested to do so. We are not just forced into it by circumstances, though at times circumstances conspire to bring out what is good in us with regard to serving. We do not grudgingly accept to serve, while repressing our negative feelings, but rather we joyfully take on the challenge.

Second, we do it not for shameful profit. It is not a job, it is not a secular undertaking, it is not to carry out our own agenda. Our only profit should be our reward in heaven, and on earth the satisfaction that we have served. Any focus on our own personal benefit, whether material or otherwise, would be a shame. Thus we never look to personal advantage, whether making money, having power and influence, building turf, being acclaimed, or the like.

Third, we do it eagerly. This means enthusiasm, zeal, intense interest, strong and urgent desire, quick responsiveness. The task is important. We are standing in for Jesus himself. Our efforts can have eternal consequences. It is one of the best things we can do in our lives. It is worth investing our time and effort.

Fourth, we do not lord it over those under us. Though we have God’s authority, it is given so we can serve. Though we are authoritative, we are not authoritarian. Though we issue directives, we are not dictators. Though we pastor, we do not run the lives of people. Though subordinates are to obey their leaders, we do not seek blind obedience. Though we correct, we are open to correction, even from subordinates. Though we are leaders, we are servants. Though we are first, we are the least of all.

Fifth, we are to be examples to the flock. We live what we teach. We model how to follow Jesus. Though we face personal challenges in responding to God, we are on our walk towards holiness. 
We see that in all of these, Peter stresses the proper attitude or posture. He is not after the technicalities of doing a job, that is, what tasks to perform, though those would be important as well, but rather he is concerned about the condition of the servant’s heart. If the heart is right, then everything else would fall into place.
The reward
Servant leadership is hard and challenging work. Many times it seems unrewarding, as even the people we serve would not appreciate what we do for them. Thus Peter even mentions his being “witness to the sufferings of Christ.” Jesus is the chief Shepherd and so is our model. He is the suffering servant (Is 53:3-11). He was spurned, stricken, afflicted, crushed, oppressed and condemned. But precisely through his suffering, he justified many (Is 53:11b). We walk the way of Jesus. As such, we open ourselves to affliction for the sake of others.

But God is never outdone in generosity. In His love and justice, He also rewards those who serve. As such, Peter counts himself as “one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.”

We do spiritual work so we receive spiritual wages. We look forward to the unfading crown of glory, to be given by the chief Shepherd himself. This is a great treasure, far surpassing any material rewards. This is wonderful recognition, not by worldly acclaim, but by God Himself. This is satisfaction not only for the moment, but for all eternity.
Just like Peter, as your co-servant, I thus exhort the servant leaders among you: go tend to the flock in your midst.
(March 22, 2009)

(Part 5)
The apostles, all called to be servants of the Master, argued among themselves on who was the greatest (Mk 9:33-34; Mt 18:1; Lk 9:46). Jesus said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” (Mk 9:35). Then Jesus took a child and gave them their lesson. “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18:3-4).

What is it about a child that Jesus wants to teach us about servant leadership? What is it about a child wherein unless we become like one we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven?
Once again, Jesus turns our world topsy-turvy. To be first is to be last. To be the leader is to be the servant. To be great is to be like a child. While the world expects us to grow up, Jesus expects us to become like little children. While the world urges us to become somebody important, Jesus directs us to become a nobody (children were on the low end of the social ladder during those times).

What is Jesus pointing out about servant leadership?
First, servant leadership demands purity of heart.

Little children, though some of them can be real brats, are basically pure of heart. They are not yet prone to the wickedness and evil that adults manifest. They do not know how to insult, malign, be intolerant, plot against others, seek revenge, or the like.

On the other hand, relationships in the world are characterized by lying, cheating, cover-ups, hidden agendas, taking advantage of others, and the like. Even leaders in the church are not immune from such, leading to much conflict and strife.

But servant leaders, in their personal conduct and service, are called to be pure of heart and intention. They must not be out for power, position or privilege. They must not look to build turf. They should not have any personal agenda or ulterior motives. They should simply want to serve.
Second, servant leadership demands total dependence on God our Father.

Little children on their own are basically helpless. They need their parents to feed, clothe and protect them. This too is our basic relationship with God. We are nothing without God, and apart from Jesus we can do nothing (Jn 15:5). The good news is that we simply need to ask our Father for what we need, and we are assured He will provide us all good things (Mt 7:7-11).

The world abhors dependence on anyone other than self. The great leader is the independent, self-made man. But for servant leaders, it is precisely their dependence on God that enables them to become His instruments. It is precisely their weakness that enables His strength and power to be experienced in their lives.
Third, servant leadership demands humility.

Little children have nothing to brag about. They have no accomplishments, no money, no developed talents, no family influence, no extended circle of admirers. Their opinion, advice or counsel is not sought.
Now Jesus teaches, “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Mt 23:11-12).

Greatness in the world is accompanied by pride. Pride in human achievement, pride in accomplishing something out of one’s own strength, pride in besting everyone else. But the servant leader recognizes that all achievements are due to the blessing of God. Paul puts it this way: “Who confers distinction upon you? What do you possess that you have not received? But if you have received it, why are you boasting as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor 4:7).

It is humbling to be totally dependent. But this dependence of ours on God is actually such a great privilege. And it is the acknowledgment of this dependence, resulting in humility, that is the key to even more of God’s favor and power. As Jesus says, “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk 18:14b). Therefore our response should be that as directed by Peter: “And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: ‘God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.’ So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (1 Pt 5:5b-6). 
Fourth, servant leadership demands obedience.

Little children are simply told what to do and are expected to follow and obey.

Now Jesus teaches that “whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:19b).

Christians call Jesus their Lord. But many Christians do not live their lives with Jesus as actually Lord. A requirement of the lordship of Jesus in our lives is obedience to his commands. Many Christians need to seriously consider and answer Jesus’ question, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command?” (Lk 6:46). We will need to come to terms with and be sobered by Jesus’ warning: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Mt 7:21).

Servant leaders call Jesus their Master. They should act only in accordance with the directions of Jesus. They are to obey without reservation. They are to give their all without holding back in any way.
God does want us to be great. God does want us to perform great works for the kingdom. But God has His own standards.
  • Not the first but the last.
  • Not to be served but to serve.
  • Not pride but humility.
  • Not independence but total dependence on God.
  • Not being a lord but the servant of all.
  • Not doing it our way but God’s way.
  • Not indulging self but embracing the cross.
 Do you want to be first? Then be the last.
Do you want to be great? Then be the servant of all.
(February 27, 2009)

(Part 4)
To be a servant leader is to first of all be a disciple of Jesus. Since servant leaders are entrusted with Jesus’ flock, then they need to reflect the mind of heart of the Chief Shepherd himself. Since as leaders they are servants, they need to look to the example of Jesus, who declared that he came not to be served but to serve.

True Christian leadership is being able to serve, not as a leader (or at least not as a secular leader), but as a servant.
How do we become a true disciple of Jesus? He himself instructed us:
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mk 8:34)
If we desire to come after Jesus, that is, to be his disciple, then there are three things we need to do.

To be a disciple, we first of all need to deny self.

To deny self is to not look to our own welfare, well-being, interest, desires or gratification. It is to turn our back on ourself. It is to count ourself as nothing.

Now such a posture does not exist in a vacuum. If so, then it is just a lack of true self-worth or it is just self-flagellation, which are negative and not good. Rather, such a posture is in relation to Christ. Christ is everything and our life is attuned and offered to Christ. In that sense, then there is no place for self.
“None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” (Rom 14:7-8)
In doing so, however, we gain everything, since Jesus himself will be the one to take care of us. And certainly God can take so much better care of ourselves than we ever can on our own. This in fact is what salvation is all about. God has redeemed us on the cross, thus purchasing us with the precious blood of Jesus. We now belong totally to Jesus. We are his slaves. As such we are to expend our whole life for Christ. We are to live for him and we are to live to proclaim him to others.
Letting go of self and taking hold of God is how we attain to the fullness of salvation. Such is the divine contradiction.
 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” (Mk 8:35)
Wishing to save our life is to live for self. It is the opposite of self-denial. It is what will ultimately cause us to lose the very life that we desire to save.

In what ways do we as servant leaders fail to deny ourselves?
  • When we serve God with a personal hidden agenda.
  • When we look to power and position.
  • When we look to being glorified and applauded.
  • When we look to being recognized and thanked for our work.
  • When we do not submit to those over us (note: we look to active submission, and not blind obedience).
  • When we refuse an assignment simply because we do not like it or have another preference.
  • When we look to comfort and convenience, or are limited by comfort zones.
  • When we fail to give our all, without counting the cost.
  • When we insist on our own way, contrary to what is right.
  • When we are unable to let an insult pass.
  • When we nurse our hurts.
  • When we fail to forgive.
 Self-denial is what enables us to love God with our all, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Loving God with our all leaves no room for self. But God shares the love we give Him with others our neighbors and ultimately our own selves.
Self-denial is what allows us to give our very lives for the cause of Christ. It is what allows us to focus only on Christ in everything. Our life and service is not about ourselves but about Jesus alone. “He must increase; I must decrease.” (Jn 3:30).

Self-denial is what enables us to give our lives for others. In this we fulfill the very commandment of Jesus, to love one another as he has loved us, and to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (Jn 15:12-13). 
The true servant leader, one who is a disciple, denies self, even life itself, in order to serve God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)
To deny self is to not embrace self. Once we have denied ourselves, then we are ready to embrace something else other than self. Our arms, and our hearts, are not full of ourselves. They are empty.

Now we are able to embrace the cross.

Embracing the cross

To be a disciple, the second thing we need to do is to take up our cross.

There is only one way of taking up the cross or carrying the cross, and that is to embrace it. With both hands and arms. With the horizontal bar across one’s chest. With the wood weighing down on one’s whole being. The cross is to be clasped tightly, otherwise it will fall away from one’s shoulder.

And of course the cross is to be embraced, because it is the instrument of salvation.
One who decides to deny self and give his all to God will inevitably encounter the cross. This is because the cross is the very way of salvation. The cross is the very message of Jesus Christ. The cross is the very way of life of a committed Christian disciple.

One who serves to proclaim the gospel will encounter hardships and trials. One who is committed to Christ’s ways will inevitably be persecuted. Paul asserts this as a matter of fact. “In fact, all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tm 3:12). This is because fallen humanity is antagonistic to God, and the evil one stokes such antagonism.

But the cross is something that we cannot avoid, if we are to live for God. Indeed, as Paul and Barnabas asserted, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22b).

And so it is that one who decides to serve God will inevitably have to embrace the cross. In fact, just like Paul, it is our very participation in the salvific work of God, and we are to rejoice in such a privilege. “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God” (Col 1:24-25).
In what ways then, as servant leaders, are we called to embrace the cross?
  • By not counting the cost of service.
  • By giving our all for the cause of Christ, even unto death.
  • By rejoicing even in the most trying of circumstances. “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials” (Jas 1:2).
  • By not retaliating in kind whenever insulted or maligned. “Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Pt 3:9).
  • By gladly accepting and being thankful for fraternal correction.
  • By continuing to care for those placed under us even is they do not appreciate what we do or even speak against us.
  • By enduring and persevering through the trials and tribulations of life, focused only on Christ and his work.
  • By having hope amidst lamentations.
  • By accepting seeming defeats while looking to the inevitable victory of Christ.
  • By accepting humiliation, abandonment and desolation according to God’s will.
  • By continuing to serve even when ignored, forgotten or unrewarded.
The cross is our way to be purified. The way of the cross is the way of holiness. It is the only way for the servant leader.

With self-denial and embrace of our cross, we are now ready to follow Jesus, all the way and wherever he may lead us.

Following Jesus

So the third aspect of discipleship is following Jesus.

To follow Jesus is to obey him, to live according to his ways, to reflect him in all we think, say and do.
A servant, by definition, is one who is obedient. He obeys the master. How can one be a servant if one is not obedient? 

In what ways do we as servant leaders obey and follow our Lord and Master Jesus?
  • We evangelize and do mission. “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15).
  • We proclaim Christ in everything we say and do, including by means of a silent witness.
  • We care for those placed under us according to how God would. “Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.” (1 Pt 5:2).
  • We do not lord it over our subordinates. “Do not lord it over those assigned to you” (1 Pt 5:3a).
  • We are living examples of paternal/fraternal leadership. We are to “be examples to the flock” (1 Pt 5:3b).
  • We submit to and respect those over us. “Obey your leaders and defer to them” (Heb 13:17a).
  • We are single-minded and single-hearted for mission. We are not deterred by disappointments, or even betrayals.
  • We do not hold grudges against brethren but continue to serve and love those placed under our care.
  • We rejoice in the privilege of suffering for Christ. “But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you.” (1 Pt 3:14a).
  • We strive for holiness unto the Lord. “Like obedient children, … as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, ‘Be holy because I am holy.’” (1 Pt 1:14-15).
 Being a disciple
If we wish to come after Jesus, then the way forward is clear. We are to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. If we carry our cross and follow Jesus all the way to Calvary, and in our life participate in his salvific work through our sufferings and dying to self, then we can truly say:
“I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:19b-20a)
 The true disciple, the one who is a genuine servant leader, is the one who not only lives for Christ, but one in whom Christ lives. He has denied self, such that there is nothing more of self to come in the way of serving Christ. He has embraced the cross, such that there is no suffering that cannot be endured for the sake of Christ. He has followed Jesus, such that there is no other Teacher, Master or Lord, who will direct his life and work.

May all of us who have responded to the call to leadership be true disciples and servants of Jesus.
February 17, 2009


(Part 3)


One of the most important aspects of servant leadership is integrity. What is integrity? It is a word often used, but superficially understood, and not so much appreciated in its depth of meaning.

The dictionary defines it as "uprightness of character." Another definition is "firm adherence to a code especially moral or artistic values. Synonyms given are probity, incorruptibility and honesty.

I would offer my own definition. Integrity is living the truth in word, thought and deed.

For us to better appreciate the meaning of integrity, let me give some instances that point to a lack of it. Here I do not speak of what is obvious-such as dishonesty, corruption or moral failures. Rather, these are instances that are committed even by supposedly renewed and God-loving Christians, who are serving Him and the Church.

A Lack of Integrity

Speaking half-truths

Lying is a sin. In fact, since Satan is "the father of lies" (Jn 8:44), one who is a liar exchanges his sonship under the Father for that of Satan. But what is more diabolical is deliberately speaking half-truths. This, in a way, is worse than an outright lie, because it manipulates the truth, twisting it to one's own ends. Because it is based on a truth, and on the surface might seem like the truth, it becomes more deceptive, and can lead many people astray.

Let me give an example. There was a person who had attacked and betrayed me who suddenly found himself sitting in a plane right beside me. Throughout the 4-hour flight, he slept (or pretended to be asleep), not eating nor taking a comfort break. When the plane landed, he bolted out of his seat and closeted himself in the toilet, until all had disembarked from the plane. It was obvious that he did not want to speak to me, or felt ashamed to do so. Later, he made two claims that were half-truths. One, he said I was seated beside him for 4 hours but did not speak to him! Two, to another audience, he said it was evidence of our friendship and continuing acquaintance that we were even seated together in the plane.

On both occasions, he told the truth, that we were seated together and that I did not speak to him (not wanting to bother him if he was truly tired, I was waiting for him to wake so we could talk). But on both occasions, he was lying, giving a false impression, deliberately twisting the reality, misleading his listeners.

Truth is of God, as Jesus himself is the truth (Jn 14:6a). On the other hand, lies are of the devil, who "is a liar" (Jn 8:44). To lie is already a grave sin. To manipulate or use the truth in order to lie is even graver. 

Saying yes but doing no

Have you ever said yes to something but then did not follow through and did not do what had been agreed on? Now I am not talking about circumstances changing from the time you said yes to the time when you were about to act on it. In such a case, we simply go back to the person we had an agreement with, and work it out.

What makes it a failure in integrity?
  • If you were just saying yes, but in your heart and mind you had no intention of doing what was agreed on.
  • If you were just saying yes in order to get the discussion over with, to set aside all opposition, or to put closure to a contentious situation.
  • If you were just saying yes in order to lull the opposition to a false sense of acceptance, but with the intent to ultimately get your own way.
  • If you might have had the intention to act, but later decided to renege, because this was to your personal advantage.
  • If you ignore or maneuver your way out of what was agreed.
  • If you put your own interpretation on what was agreed and carry on accordingly, knowing that it is different from the mind of the one with whom you agreed.
Saying yes but not following through is worse than just saying no. With the latter, at least the other party knows how you stand. With the former, the other party is deluded into thinking all is well when all is not. And of course, it adversely affects how things move forward, as seemingly agreed on by the parties.

Jesus told the parable of the two sons (Mt 21:28-31a). The first said no but then changed his mind and did what his father asked him. The second said yes but did not go. The first did the father's will but the second did not. Now consider this: if the first son had not changed his mind, then he too would not have done his father's will. But the posture of the second son would still have been worse, since he said yes but reneged, since he in effect deceived his father, since by his yes his father was not able to decide on an alternative so the work would be done. The second son failed in integrity.

Being plastic

This is about being double-faced or hiding behind a mask. It is saying one thing and meaning another. It is putting up false appearances. It is living a lie.

Some examples of this are:
  • Acting piously while deliberately living sinfully. This is not to speak about the sins that we all commit from time to time, even as we might not want to.
  • Extolling people while thinking ill of them or cursing them under your breath. This does not refer to the courtesy and respect that we ought to accord to people, because of their inherent dignity as children of God, even if we do not get along with them. We should still be nice to people we have problems with.
  • Encouraging people to Christian generosity while living selfishly.
  • Embracing and patting people on the back while planting a knife on their backs.
Another word for being plastic is hypocrisy. It is not only pretending to be what one is not, but it is worse than that. It is outright deception.

Jesus severely condemned the Pharisees and scribes for their hypocrisy (Lk 11:39ff). This was especially so because they were teachers of the law and ought to have known better. Where much is given, much is expected. Thus servant leaders are called to the highest order of integrity.

The opposite of being plastic is being authentic. So say what you mean, and mean what you say. Live in the light and truth of God's ways.

Own agenda, not the Lord's

We are the Lord's servants. We serve His agenda. One who looks to a personal or hidden agenda is one who lacks integrity.
  • In what ways does one serve his own agenda?
  • Seeking power or position, or looking to prestige or pay, in doing Christian service.
  • Wanting to be recognized or rewarded for one's service, and feeling resentful when this does not happen.
  • Making decisions not for the good of the body but to consolidate one's position or to build turf.
  • Stealing money from God. This includes outright theft as well as improper handling of tithes and donations for Christian mission.
  • Spending community funds lavishly for one's own comfort for mission (travel, accommodation, mission transport, food, etc.).
  • Maligning others in order to promote one's cause. This is especially grave when there is no truth to what is being said.
  • Having a political agenda in helping the poor.
Jesus has already instructed us how we are to serve Him. First we follow Him by denying ourselves and taking up our cross daily (Lk 9:23). Then, when we go on mission, we are to be "lean and mean," taking nothing unnecessary and relying on the generosity of those we serve (Mt 10:9-11), being detached and completely reliant on God (Lk 9:3). This is God's agenda, even for those wonderful souls who respond to His call to service. This is how God wants mission and Christian work to be done. We cannot insist on our own way of doing things. And worse, doing things our own way while proclaiming that we allegedly are doing it for God.

Judas had his own agenda in following Jesus. Though he might have genuinely been looking for the messiah, he was also a thief, helping himself to the money contributed for Jesus' mission (Jn 12:6). He compounded this sin by feigning righteousness and love for the poor, complaining about the waste of costly perfumed oil used to anoint the feet of Jesus (Jn 12:3-5).

Judas betrayed Jesus, accepting money from the chief priests (Lk 22:3-6). When Jesus spoke about his coming betrayal, Judas even feigned innocence (Mt 26:21-25). This again compounded his failure in integrity.

Be forewarned. When we fail in integrity, sin will pile upon sin. We will get deeper into the hole. When we have our own agenda, but hidden within the context of our serving the Lord, we will continually be lying, dishing half-truths, covering up, giving disinformation. We will find ourselves in a spiral of deceit and deception that inevitably leads to death.

Living in Integrity

To live in integrity is to avoid the actions that rob us of our integrity, such as stated above. However, integrity is not just about avoidance, but is about compliance. It is complying with the way of God for us.

Integrity relates to the word integral, which denotes a situation of being unimpaired, or wholeness, of soundness, of being undivided. This is how God would have us.
  • Unimpaired by sin.
  • Structurally sound according to God's design.
  • Undivided in love for and loyalty to God.
In the end, integrity is all about morality, living according to the truth of God and His ways. In the end, integrity is all about righteousness and holiness. Such is the way of God; such is the way to God.
  • It is being preserved in honesty and virtue (Ps 25:21a).
  • It is walking without blame (Ps 26:1a).
  • It is the way by which we can look to God's support and being allowed in His presence forever (Ps 41:13).
  • It is the only way we can continue to serve God (Ps 101:6b).
  • It is the way by which we can assure happiness for our children (Prv 20:7).
Integrity has to do with our relationship with God, and therefore, also with our relationship with each other, especially within the context of community. Living the truth of God's ways and His call to us as community, integrity is essential for the proper functioning of the body.
  • It is what truly makes us brethren, open and loyal to one another.
  • It is what enables one to be a true and valuable team player, one in our common vision and mission.
  • It is what makes one trustworthy, to whom others can entrust their very lives.
  • It is what enables us to be unique individuals with unique gifts, but who can be formed into one body that God can truly use for His purposes.
  • It is what supports and strengthens one's faithfulness to covenant and the way of life God has given us.
Eliphaz the Temanite said to Job: "Is not your piety a source of confidence, and your integrity of life your hope?" (Jb 4:6). The same is asked of us.

Let us realize that integrity of the highest order is the call to all Christians, but especially to servant leaders.

Let us affirm our commitment to the kind of life God desires for us, so we can look forward with hope, trusting only in Jesus.

"I follow the way of integrity;
I act with integrity of heart"
(Ps 101:2a,2c)

God bless you all.

February 10, 2009

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: CFCFFL Home Office <homeoffice@cfcffl.org>
Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 8:15:26 AM

(Part 2)
December 16, 2008
When things are going well in community, then leaders get along fine. But when disagreements come, this is where many fail in servant leadership. But disagreements happen all the time. In fact, it is good to have disagreements, as long as we do not become disagreeable in handling these. Disagreements enable us to sift through a particular situation or decision, look at new angles, hear fresh insights, and challenge our own thinking about the issue at hand. The result is hopefully a better solution or decision, being the fruit of different minds and a thorough discussion.
Perhaps more importantly, God allows disagreements in order to test the quality of our servanthood. When there is no disagreement, then we can be very nice and agreeable. But when there is someone who opposes what we believe to be right, how do we react? Do we become defensive? Angry? Do we dig in? Are we onion-skinned? Do we get hurt? God wants what is hidden to surface, in order that we might address our own shortcomings and sins.
When we handle disagreements in the right way, especially in the face of provocation and seeming unreasonable opposition, then we are on our way to greater holiness.
How do we handle disagreements?
First, when someone disagrees, do not dismiss it outright, but thank God that someone cares enough to try to come up with a better move or decision. Second, be really open to the input, looking at it as possibly coming from the Lord. Then go and have a good discussion.
When having your discussion, here are things that you should NOT do:
  • Be defensive. If you genuinely welcome any input, then you do not have to put up any defenses. If you stand up for your position simply because you already articulated that position, then that is pride.
  • Be onion-skinned. Do not take a dissenting opinion negatively. Look at it as being given not as a personal affront but out of a genuine desire to help out.
  • Pull rank, in case you are speaking to a subordinate. He is your brother, and the Lord can speak to him as much as to you.
  • Walk out. You may not come to an agreement, and the situation can become a bit heated, but be committed to working things out. There is always the right way which is the Lord’s way. If things cannot as yet be resolved, shelve it for the moment (whether for a little while or over some days) and return to it after cooling down and after praying. Or bring in others who can help in resolving the impasse.
  • Quit your service or even the community, if things do not go your way. Do not penalize and turn your back on others, including the Lord and the community, because of your conflict with just one person.
On the other hand, here are some things that you should DO:
  • Be pure as a dove but wise as a serpent. That is, be meek and humble and pure in thought, truly open to contrary opinions, but also fight for what you believe to be right, arguing your case strongly.
  • Look on the other party as truly a brother, committed to you and to the well-being of the community. So keep cool, knowing that you are both on the same side. Do not judge him to be a trouble-maker (he might be, but it is not up to you to judge).
  • Look to our pastoral structure and system in community, which provides for ways and means of making decisions in the face of contrary views. If the system is working, be willing to subordinate your view to the decision of a higher authority.
Always remember that we are appointed as leaders in order to serve the Master and to carry out His agenda, not ours. We should aggressively stand for what we believe to be right and true, but we must always consider that we could be wrong, or that there could be a better way than ours. Then we rejoice that there are brethren, whom the Lord provides, who can help keep us on the right track.
God bless you.

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Easter Group <eastergroup@gmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, November 5, 2008 5:56:49 PM

November 5, 2008
My dear brethren in Christ,
      One of our 7 Core Values in CFC-FFL is Servant Leadership. This is a value that is crucial if we are to become the instruments that God can use for His work.

      A proper understanding of Servant Leadership becomes even more critical, given what happened to us in the crisis of 2007 and up to now. We saw how brethren who were at the highest levels of “servant leadership” suddenly acted in unbrotherly and unchristian ways lying, maligning, slandering, attacking, oppressing. What happened? And can it happen again? Yes, it can, for we are all too human and sinful.

      And so we try to look deeper into the meaning of servant leadership.
      First we see a seeming oxymoron. The words “servant” and “leader” seem opposed. A person is either one or the other. And so to put the two words together creates a new reality that is somewhat of a contradiction. And indeed, this is where the problem starts.

      Being a leader means having position, power, influence, submission from subordinates, and recognition. Indeed, even for a servant leader, this is part of his role. These elements are objective realities that are not per se wrong. In fact, these are necessary for him to function well. On the other hand, being a servant means having the lowest position, no inherent power, submission to a higher authority, and even non-recognition of the good one does (Lk 17:10).

      What leads a servant leader astray is when he looks to being a leader but not really to being a servant. This is when he looks to pride rather than humility, to power rather than powerlessness, to being first rather than being last, to being applauded rather than anonymously doing his work. This is where he lords it over people. This is when he becomes more concerned about how people look up to him, rather than on how he can look to his people and serve their needs. In other words, the focus is now on himself as leader rather then on others as their servant.
      Now Jesus is the servant leader par excellence. And the text we often quote is the lesson he gave to his disciples, when James and John, with their mother, tried to secure places of honor at his right and left. Jesus told them, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:25-28).

      Jesus gave the principle: the great will be the servant, the first shall be the slave. Then he gave himself as an example. He would model servant leadership. Even if he was the Master, he came to serve rather than be served. Finally, he said what could be the key phrase for our deeper understanding of servanthood, and that is, Jesus would give his life as a ransom.

      What do we think of when one speaks of ransom? We think of kidnapping (Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines) or hijacking (Somali pirates in the gulf of Aden). For them to release their captives, whether persons or ships or goods, a ransom is demanded. The ransom is given by someone who has an interest in the person or thing being ransomed. The ransom paid then passes into the total control of the kidnapper or hijacker, to do with as he wills.

      Now with Jesus, this is what happened. We were under the dominion of Satan. In a way, since our natural environment as children of God is heaven, we were abducted. Jesus then offered himself, suffered and died for us, paid the price, and secured our release.
      How about us? As servant leaders, we too are to give our life as ransom. What does that mean?
  • We expend ourselves for the good of others, having the utmost concern for their well-being, especially spiritually.
  • We hold nothing back, even our very lives.
  • We give up all human desire for power, position and influence; we look not to human acclaim nor to protection of our reputation.
  • We serve even when those we serve do not appreciate us or might even act negatively toward
      Remember: a ransom, though having value of itself, in this particular context has value only in relation to the person or thing being ransomed, that is, only as it can provide relief or well-being to the captive. A ransom becomes a mere commodity, an instrument to be used. A ransom substitutes itself for the captive, putting itself in place of the captive, in order to secure the latter’s release. A ransom loses its freedom in order to secure freedom for the captive. A ransom gives up its own “life” in order to save the captive from “death.”

      This is what Jesus did. And in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we see the very fact of how Jesus exercised servant leadership.
“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:6-8)
      Being a ransom involves death to self, in order to give life to another.
      Servant leaders are called to expend themselves for the sake of those they serve. And though their service is what brings benefit to those served, what is important, for the servant leaders’ own sake, is knowing who or what they are rather than looking to what they do. Knowing and living out who they are supposed to be is what will keep them on the right track. What they are able to do then simply proceeds from who or what they are. While their action is to lead; their identity is to be a servant.

      A servant leader is not so much about serving as a leader, but rather leading as a servant. Or put another way, a servant leader is not so much about a leader who serves, but rather about a servant who leads.
      The call to servant leadership is a wonderful calling. It is the very way of Jesus. It is God’s way of caring for His people. Servant leaders are needed in order to accomplish God’s plan for the life of the world.

      Let those who are privileged to be so called never forget that in the kingdom of God, the greatest is always the least. And those whom the Lord will exalt are only those who have been humbled.
      May we be worthy to be the Lord’s servant leaders. God bless you all.


Renewing the Family and Defending Life