Biblical Servant Leadership

            To take on the role of the servant, the leader first has to serve God. If any other priorities are first, compromise will result and jeopardize the leader’s success. The servant-leader then must place the needs of others ahead of their desires and aspirations. Jesus provides the example of the servant leader, the “Son of man,” who “put the welfare of others over personal power and perquisites.”[1]

            The experience of challenges and difficulties in secular leadership is primarily from focusing on personal success and outcomes. The servant-leader must put the interests of those they lead first. As Howell points out, “leadership in the secular or religious world is always a moral test.”[2] There is often a disconnect between the secular and religious world in that the secular world encourages competition rather than cooperation. Competition can be healthy, but only when considering the team’s overall goals and determining the best candidate for the task.

Leadership Attitude

            We nurture the attitude and lifestyle of ministry by instilling an environment of cooperation and mutual success for all participants. The practice of ministry requires following the example of Christ to first serve others, unlike the example of the disciples that repeatedly felt entitled to high positions in Christ’s coming kingdom (Luke 9:46).[3][4] Humility, reconciliation, and forgiveness characterize the lifestyle of ministry.

            I have seen the characteristics of proper leadership in the corporate world, as shown by managers who provide honest feedback, counsel, and encourage the team’s progress based on their strengths. Group leaders and pastors have shown that patience and mediation are essential in the church. Church leaders that perform effectively recognize the individual spiritual gifts and offer encouragement and steps for their success.

            A recent new senior pastor in my church shows effective servant leadership by speaking with small group leaders and classes about their goals and offers an opportunity for a spiritual gifts inventory and discussion. The interim senior pastor shows the servant by offering only spiritual guidance rather than policy changes to the congregation.


Howell, Don N. Servants of the Servant: A Biblical Theology of Leadership. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003.

[1] Don N Howell, Servants of the Servant: A Biblical Theology of Leadership (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003), 198.

[2] Ibid., 189.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical references us the English Standard Version, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.)

see also: Biblical Servant Leadership