“Servant Leadership”

Mark 10:35-45

October 18, 2015

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches


Mark 10:35-45
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’


When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’




Really James and John?

One wants to be on our Lord’s right and left?

Why don’t you asks the thieves on the crosses that flanked Jesus

How that worked out for them.


Really James and John?

When the good Lord handed out social grace

You thought He said “go stand by the fireplace,”

And you walked away in search of one.


In the male machismo, manly-man world of Caesar, Anthony, and Brutus

One climbed their way to the top by dominating others.

Character was pride.

Strength was masculine;

Weakness was feminine.

Braggarts boasting and promoting themselves

Loudly enough for all other possible contenders to hear

Was drawing a line in the sand,

And it achieved its desired result.

The other disciples were … enraged!


Really James and John?

You want to lord it over others?

After this check into the boards and dropping the gloves,

Are you looking for a fist fight?

You want to be tyrants in the name of Jesus?


That’s how you ruin a brand

Before it is ever launched.


Jesus reveals today He


“came not to be served but to serve,

and to give his life a ransom for many.’”


– Mark 10:45

Today, I’d like to focus on the servant leadership aspect

Of our Lord’s statement.


If Jesus came to serve

And discipleship demands we live like Jesus

Then we are called to be servants

Just like Jesus.

We are called to be servants.

Servant leaders.

Disciples are called to be servant leaders of the Body of Christ,

For the kingdom of God.


Let’s take a look at what this means.


Jesus wasn’t the first on the scene to endorse servant leadership.

Nearly five-hundred years earlier, Lao-Tzo wrote:


The highest type of ruler is one of whose existence the people are barely aware.

Next comes one whom they love and praise.

Next comes one whom they fear.

Next comes one whom they despise and defy.


When you are lacking in faith,

Others will be unfaithful to you.


The Sage is self-effacing and scanty of words.

When his task is accomplished and things have been completed, All the people say, ‘We ourselves have achieved it!’


- Lao Tzu, Tao Teh Ching, trans. John C. H. Wu (Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala, 2006),35.


Neither is Jesus the last to endorse servant leadership.

Robert K. Greenleaf first wrote in 1970 about individuals and corporations

Functioning as servant leaders.

The ten characteristics of servant leaders he identifies are


1.    Listening

2.    Empathy

3.    Healing

4.    Awareness

5.    Persuasion

6.    Conceptualization

7.    Foresight

8.    Stewardship

9.    Commitment to the growth of others

10.                    Building community


His work has served as curriculum for business schools ever since.

(See Models under “Servant Leadership” on Wikipedia at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Servant_leadership)


I don’t know if culture influences the Church

Or if the Church is influencing culture,

But I’ve been listening to Bishops, Seminary faculty, and Church leaders

Endorsing and promoting servant leadership for the past 30 years.

They obviously cite this tenth chapter of Mark

And take the quotes right from the lips of Jesus.

Usually the context is the call to the ordained ministry.

We are, and always have been, seeking women and men

Called by God,

To be ordained, servant leaders,

Endowed and entrusted with

The stewardship of the Body of Christ.


What I don’t hear quite so forcefully

Is the call to laity for servant leadership.

I hear a lot about lay empowerment,

But not much about lay servant leadership.

As clergy and laity alike,

We are all called to be disciples of Jesus;

To lead as he led,

To be the servant leaders of His Body, His Church, and His Kingdom.


Some business and community leaders

Assume the role of traditional leaders.

Others assume a different role;

That of servant leaders.

Far too often we see traditional leadership practices in the workplace

Attempted to be translated into the Church,

Many times leading to disastrous consequences.

Conversely, when servant leadership practices in the Church

Are translated into business, politics, or community organizations,

Many times the results are miraculous.

(Of course, we know the source of all miracles!)


Jesus was calling James and John to a life of servant leadership.

He was calling the rest of his disciples to a life of servant leadership.

And he is calling us today,

Lay and clergy alike,

To lead His Church by becoming the servant of all.


What does this mean?

And what does this say about our God?


It is helpful to compare and contrast Traditional Leadership

With Servant Leadership:

In business, politics, and in all things temporal,

The best leadership may be situation specific.

However, when it comes to leading the Church,

There is only one, preferred way,

The way of Jesus:

To become the servants of all.


Serve others, Jesus teaches us.

Serve everyone.

No one gets left behind in the Marine Corps and in God’s Kingdom.

Serve without judgment.

Serve with no other motive than service itself.


Until the cows come home.


Until we are called to glory.



Until the last becomes first

And the first becomes last.


Until Christ comes again.


Each of us will have to come to our own conclusion

About what Servant Leadership tells us about our God.


For me

God is most concerned with placing Jesus in the center of our world.

I am not the center of my own universe.

I am not in control.

Christ is.

Life got a whole lot easier for me

When I came to understand

That I am not in control;

Christ is.


The call to servant leadership

Is about increasing faith and trust in God

And decreasing faith and trust in myself.

This appears to me

To be God’s desire.


The call to servant leadership

Confirms the repeated effort by God to heal a broken world.

From God’s creation, to law giving, to prophet leading, to Son giving,

It is clear to me

God has been in the never ending business

of healing our sin soaked existence.

God wants us to be better,

To live better,

For all of us to be well.

Embrace God and embrace wellness.


How does this call to servant leadership resonate with you?

Are you ready to stand up and lead

By first sitting down and serving the deepest needs of the world?

Of our country?

Of our neighborhood?

What does this call teach you about God?

Let the discussion continue with you and your loved ones this week

About the call to be a servant leader.


Dearly beloved,

I leave these questions as our Lord’s gift to you.