Readings: Isaiah 58:1-9a, Psalm 112:1-9, Matthew 5:13-20
“Well, I’m only human!” No truer words have ever been used to cover more harm. “I’m only human” is meant to convey the idea that, given our human nature, “We have limits” or “We can’t do everything” or “We can’t be perfect.” Fair enough. But too often today those words are meant to cover almost every wrong or explain away all patterns of poor behavior.
Here is the deal: of course we are only human. That is not saying much. There’s more: our nature can grow, deepen, and be transformed. This transformation is what servant leaders pursue as a first-order issue. In this chapter I want to help you think more deeply about it.
I have coached young leaders during most of my career. I’ve seen those who can’t help but cut people off when they feel threatened, and others who accuse people without knowing all the facts. I’ve known men who habitually threaten others rather than reason with them. I’ve worked with women who tell lies to avoid confrontation. Yes, we are only human, but these are not the only human options available to us. Transformation is both possible and needed.
Servant leadership literature assumes that specific characteristics are needed to be a servant leader. These include listening, empathy, healing, awareness persuasion, stewardship, commitment to the growth of others, and building community. But what do we do if our default positions are the opposite: being talkative, self-centered, hurtful, inward, argumentative, and wasteful? Maybe we worry that the success of others harms us. What if, despite our stated values and best efforts, we are still the kinds of leaders who impede community? Humility is a core trait for servant leadership. How do we become humble? Why would someone attempt it? What would cause as responsible leader to pursue an unpretentious manner? (Our Character At Work, pp. 93-94, Todd Hunter)
Readings: Micah 6:1-8, Psalm 15, Matthew 5:1-12
The idea of cooperating with God, of being an ambassador of the kingdom, is often scary or negative. Some fear it will lead to works righteousness or legalism. Others fear that people will become self-appointed, power-abusing religious leaders. I understand the fear. Terrible harm has been done in the name of God. When we try to bring about the kingdom of God by our own force, all manner of evil can be released. Thus, just about everywhere I go these days I sense tension regarding the intention to be the cooperative friends of God. There’s uneasiness about intentional evangelism and leadership. In most of the emerging, alternative church scene, it is not cool to enter a relationship with evangelism in mind or to lead a group toward a preferable future. But there is nowhere else to go. There is no legitimate place to run from our responsibilities as ambassadors of God. The answer to former evangelistic or leadership abuses is not to stay home or clam up. The answer is to go correctly – with a humble and serving attitude. (Christianity Beyond Belief, p. 86-87, Todd Hunter)