Servant Leadership: Pathways
“Pathways: Following Biblical Patterns” (SL#52)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 1:2 - Following Biblical Patterns

From my Journey: When I was pastor of Gambrell Street Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, I preached a sermon series from 1 John entitled “Walking Today With Jesus.” The theme sermon was “Walking As Jesus Walked,” from the text, l John 2:5-6: “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”--1 John 2:5-6

The Monday following that sermon, Dr. T. B. Maston, a member of that congregation and a distinguished biblical ethicist, asked me to come by to see him. I was glad to do so since he was also one of my all-time favorite seminary professors, then retired. After referring encouragingly to my sermon effort on 1 John 2:5-6, he reflected on the biblical text with a quiet passion: “Pastor, in recent years, I have come more and more to hold that passage before me as a pattern for my life. There is no greater challenge to me than to walk as Jesus walked.” It was a sacred moment. I thought then, as I do no, how this must explain Bro. Maston’s devotion to Christ and His church, as well as the impact of his brilliant scholarship. (By the way, within the membership of the Gambrell Street congregation, he did not want any of us to be addressed as “Doctor.”)

“Walk as Jesus Walked” is the challenge for servant leaders today! Servant leadership is the biblical pattern for all of us in Christian ministry. If we are to be consistently faithful, if we are to plunge to the depths and explore the heights in service to Christ and to others, we must walk that pathway with Jesus!

1. Putting Yourself on the Pathway

These studies seek to provide you with fresh images for consistent, effective leadership. The Psalmist, in one of our favorite of all the Psalms, testified to God's guidance for His path: “He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake” (--Psalm 23:3). The above graphic, although it fails in its simplicity, seeks to portray that your servant leadership is a journey: with a beginning and a destination, with short-term markers along the way, and with many ups and down.

Our purpose is to facilitate your putting yourself in the picture. Biblical, language, and application sources express insights for the experience:

Reflections with Anticipation - Meeting the servant challenge cannot be done hurriedly or one time for all times. Some of us have tried. Years ago a businessman flew to England for a week-long conference. In the opening session, the leader asked (as usual), “What would you like to get out of this conference?” Misunderstanding a “what” for a “when,” that same conferee readily volunteered, “Oh, about noon tomorrow?” To London for a one-day conference? Now that's a trip. But, I’ll risk it anyway: “What challenge do you want and need to receive from your study of servant leadership pathways?”

2. The Challenge: Lifetime Practices

The real challenge of this article for most of us is to put servant leadership into our daily pathway and practice. It is a challenge to unlearn some things and to move ahead into “a more excellent pathway.” We should, all of us together, consistently practice servant leadership as a lifetime journey. Jesus did, and He taught us to do so:

    For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.--Luke 22:27

The graphic below seeks to picture servant leadership in five components, from the large frame of serving in Christ’s power (1.) to the more specific of doing each task efficiently (5.). This seems to me to be a holistic way of viewing our challenge. This pattern seeks to provide guidance for the “what” and “how” of a pattern of servant leaders today. For a full presentation of this graph, see SL#62 and #63.

3. Steps Along the Pathway

In succeeding articles of this series, you will be challenged as a Christian leader to follow the pathway of Christ, to explore multiple messages and examples, and to apply the biblical patterns of servant leadership to your own life and journey. Again, the obvious truth is that you must learn leadership for yourself; but the articles will seek to provide resources helpful for your journey:

Early in my Christian experience and ministry, I became acquainted with the devotional novel, In His Steps, by Charles M. Sheldon. Throughout the story, characters from all walks of life were confronted with the question, “What would Jesus do?” Responding to that challenge actually changed the course of people in a small city. More recently, youth of today have abbreviated this concept to a popular bracelet, “WWJD?”

Though seemingly over-simplistic, that is the central thesis of these articles. Other concepts and characters fill in the context and put flesh on the forms. The critical undercurrent, however, is “What did Jesus do then?” And, “What would He do now as a servant leader today?” 1 Peter 2:21 says, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

For Reflection, Application: Wherever you begin with your interest, you may want to review the set of Pathways articles. If so, when you conclude, why not take time to create personal and professional travel plans; just map your own pathway toward biblical patterns of servant leadership.

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© 2006; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership