Servant Leadership: Pathways
“Choosing Your Old Testament Champions” (SL#58)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 1:2 - Following Biblical Patterns 

Servant leaders of Old Testament times reflect a diversity in the pattern--the direction, terrain and content--of servant leadership. As we walk along the pathway, ask yourself the question: “Who is my favorite Old Testament personality?” The Old Testament tells the story, long or short, of countless servants of God. Many of those selected were in leadership positions (kings, prophets, priests). Others came from among the people because of their calling, qualities, or circumstances. The same is true of New Testament champions of our faith--see SL#59.

Leadership Lessons

  • Servant leadership is developed by choosing the right champions, by following the best models.
  • Champions from the Old and New Testaments clearly demonstrate a wide variety of characteristics, spiritual gifts, life situations, assigned tasks, and leadership styles.
  • Even the best of biblical champions also reveal flaws and failures. Learn from them.
  • Choose very carefully those you follow as contemporary champions for your life and leadership.

Choosing Your Champions
Now there are specific pathways to follow in learning from these champions:

  • Study and make your own notes. Write your thoughts and questions, and save your notes!
  • Reflect--How did God choose, prepare and utilize each servant as a leader? Does the biblical character remind you of someone or some situation you know?
  • Apply--What specific lesson will you add to your servant leadership practice? Which champion do you most resemble? Which do you want to be like?
  1. Abraham - Believer/Visionary

    The story of Abraham is a narrative of faith and obedience, overcoming many shortfalls and imperfections. Abraham’s greatness as a believer and visionary is to be found in his continuous return to a faith in God’s plan and promise, after many wanderings from the path. Abraham’s leadership, that would propel his family to become a great nation, was forward-looking with great vision and faith and patience. (Gen. 11-25; Rom. 4; Heb. 11) Reflection:
    • followed the call of God (Gen. 12:1,4; see also Heb. 11:8).
    • believed the promises of God (Gen. 15:6).
    • endured the hardest of tests (Gen. 22:1-2).
    • was visionary, saw what God was doing (Heb. 11:10).
    • lived by faith (James 2:21-22).
    • called God’s friend (James 2:23).

  2. Joseph - Executive/Statesman

    As reported in Genesis 37-50, Joseph was a model of character and divine providence. Endowed with a forgiving, gentle spirit, he was also blessed with great intelligence and foresight. Together, these attributes made Joseph a highly trustworthy figure, who rose to great prominence in Egypt through these gifts of administration. Reflection:
    • was tested and remained faithful (Gen. 39:7-10).
    • made the servant/executor of Egypt (Gen. 41:41-57).
    • blessed in the task (Gen. 45:4-8).
    • depended on divine providence (Gen. 50: 19-21).

  3. Moses - Emancipator/Law Giver

    Called by God to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery and into the land of Canaan, in fulfillment of the Lord’s covenant with Abraham. Moses was a great political leader, and the recipient of miraculous, divine assistance in his task. Reflection:
    • called to the task of deliverance (Ex. 3:7-10).
    • created Egyptian dissatisfaction (Ex. 7:1-5).
    • responded to wise counsel (Ex. 18:24-26).
    • relied on divine resources (Ex. 19:3-6).
  4. Joshua - Commander/Encourager

    A descendant of Joseph’s son Ephraim, Joshua was appointed Moses’ commander in leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. As a leader, Joshua exhibited great encouragement and counsel against seemingly overwhelming odds. His strength through faith led the Israelites into fulfillment of God’s covenant. Reflection:
    • “Come on, we can do it!” (see Num. 14:6-9, 30)
    • “Come on, move it out.”(see Joshua 1:6-11)
    • “Come on, take your stand.” (see Joshua 24:14-15)

  5. David - Shepherd/King

    Chosen by God and anointed by Samuel, David was prepared through the strength and courage and commitment required in shepherding his father’s flock. He was a shepherd/king who prophesied the coming of Christ and sought to build a great temple in Jerusalem in anticipation.

    The significance of the shepherd is well noted both in the Old Testament, in which shepherds are pictured as devoted servants, looking out for the best interests of the entire flock, and in the New Testament, in which Jesus becomes the messianic Shepherd of His Father’s flock. Reflection:
    • chosen by God (1 Sam. 16:7,11-13).
    • prepared by experience (1 Sam. 17:32-37).
    • commissioned as Shepherd / King (2 Sam. 5:1-3).
    • prophesied the coming of Christ (Acts 2:25-28, 34-36).
  6. Isaiah - Servant/Prophet:

    The prophet Isaiah is a model of hope, believing in the promise of the coming Messiah even during troubled times. He spoke with great fervor of the time of redemption at hand with the arrival of the promised Savior. All the while, the prophet encouraged them with great majesty and poetry to hear and heed the voice of the Lord. Reflection:
    • Isaiah, life-changing vision (Isa. 6:1-8).
    • prophesied the coming Messiah (Isa. 7:14; 9:6-7).
    • prophesied during troubled times (Isa. 22:1-3).
    • the Servant of the Lord (Isa. 42:1-4).
    • a comfort to God's people (Isa. 40:1-2).

  7. Esther - Subject/Queen (Esther 1-10)

    A Jewish woman of modest birth who would become queen of Persia, Esther is most celebrated for saving the Jews threatened under Haman's plan to annihilate them. She rose to the challenge of leadership by exhibiting great and selfless courage at a time of great peril to her people. “If I perish, I perish.” were her words as she strove to save others. Reflection:
    • began in humble circumstances (Est. 2:7).
    • lived among a despised people (Est. 3:6).
    • rose to the challenge of leadership (Est. 4:14).
    • acted with believing courage (Est. 4:16).
    • followed through to completion (Est. 9:28-29).

  8. Nehemiah - Builder/Manager (Nehemiah 1-13)

    A great builder and manager, Nehemiah was among the leaders returning to Jerusalem after exile, upon hearing of the city's ruin, to build the walls of the city. Despite opposition, Nehemiah successfully delegated responsibilities involved in the restoration of the wall. Reflection:
    • challenge to build (Neh. 2:11-20).
    • resisted opposition (Neh. 6:1-4).
    • completed the task (Neh. 6:15-16).

Reflections Along the Pathway:

  • Whose sandals will you wear?
  • What biblical champion will you choose?
  • What contemporary model will you affirm?
  • Who will walk by your side in servant leadership?
  • How can you use biblical characters to mentor others?
  • Will you discern the positive--and the negative--lessons?

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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