Monday, October 8, 2012

Can You Be A Servant Without Leading?

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)


"I'm glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess...I don't have a sense of
needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever
my circumstances.  I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much
as with little.  I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry,
hands full or hands empty.  Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make
it through anything in the One who makes me who I am."

Philippians 4:10-14



    Can you be a servant without leading?

    That sounds like a silly question; but churches are plagued, polluted, and paralyzed by people who cannot serve unless they lead.

    Truly, those who lead serve if called by God to lead for a season or seasons or...

    Leadership can be excruciating service in a Matthew 5:10-12; 10:16ff. kinda way.

    Folks don't like to talk about that during PAM.

    Be that as it is, let's get back to the question.

    Can you be a servant without leading?

    Churches are plagued, polluted, and paralyzed by people who cannot serve unless they lead because of the If-I'm-not-in-charge-I'm-gonna-quit-stop-participating-give-less virus from the pit of...

    Sadly, they miss Him: "Whoever wants to be great must be a servant.  Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve..."


    I've been in this business for almost four decades; and that virus has been in every church that I've been called to undershepherd.

    While our family of faith in Belvidere, Illinois is experiencing slow, steady, and solid growth in, through, and for Him in every way, there's also been a trickle out by people who cannot serve unless they lead.

    Again, this virus plagues, pollutes, and paralyzes just about every church.

    If not yours, praise the Lord!

    So if not yours, then pray for the infected.

    Anyway, I've seen very active/generous elders drop out of sight after "serving" on session, pastors drop out of sight after "serving" as chairwomen/men of presbytery/conference/paradenominational/civic/whatever committees, musicians/vocalists drop out of sight after "serving" as section leaders or lead instruments or choral directors, PNCers drop out of sight after "serving" and not getting the kind of pastor who will be her/his best friend or champion of their agenda or lover, teachers who can't be students, and...

    They take their energies, giftings, and money away to another "place" and usually buy their way into "service" to punish who they've left who will not acknowledge, affirm, and applaud their "service" that only "serves" when they lead.

    Of course, the cycle repeats itself when they rotate off or move out or get nudged out of their "servant" leadership and can no longer serve unless they lead.

    I suspect most of you know what I'm talking about; and, again, if you don't, praise the Lord!

    If you can't relate to this problem, pray for the infected.


    I've been reading classical devotionals.

    No, not Joel or Ricky or...

    Classical not navelgazing devotionals that are more about Jesus than...

    I'm just scratching the surface of my relationship with Jesus and I figure I can learn a lot from folks who've scratched before me.

    Well, I was reading the January 7 devotional - yeah, I know it's October but, uh, that's just me - of Cowman's Streams in the Desert and a parable in it caught my attention juxtaposed to the preceding:

        A king went to his garden...only to find everything withered and dying.

        He asked the oak tree...what the trouble was.

        The oak tree said it was tired of life and determined to die because
        it was not tall and beautiful like the pine tree.

        The pine was troubled because it could not bear grapes like the

        The grapevine was determined to throw its life away because it
        could not stand erect and produce fruit as large as peaches.

        The geranium was fretting because...

        And so it went throughout the garden.

        Yet coming to a violet, the king found its face as bright and
        happy as ever and said, "Well, violet, I'm glad to find one
        brave little flower in the midst of this discouragement.  You
        don't seem to be the least disheartened."

        The violet responded, "No, I'm not.  I know I'm small, yet
        I thought if you wanted an oak or a pine or a peach tree
        or even a lilac, you would have planted one.  Since I knew
        you wanted a violet, I'm determined to be the best little
        violet I can be."

    Cowman: "People who are God's without reservation 'have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.'  His will becomes their will...They strip themselves of everything, and in their nakedness find everything restored a hundredfold."



    Three recent conversations come to mind.

    Yielding much of the worship leadership of our second service to our Director of Music and Arts, I confessed, "I'm actually worshipping in worship now.  I just do my thing - message, prayers, sacraments, and other stuff every now and then - and participate in worship like everybody else.  It's so great to give up control to Him through others.  I should have yielded long ago."

    I begged a colleague, "Please don't come to meetings only when you're leading or advocating something 'cause it comes off as so arrogant and condescending and..."

    I urged the organist of another church who quit because she didn't like..., "You can set a great example of love and service if you join the choir.  There's nothing more powerful and persuasive and humble someone who can be led after leading..."


    It's a spiritual problem/possibility.

    Go back to Philippians 4.

    Now get out your concordance and read entries for humility.


    God really seems to like those who can be servants without leading.



Blessings and Love!


Bill said...

In Christ's church you can't lead without being a servant. However, not all who are called to serve (that's ALL OF US) are called to lead in the exercise of our servanthood. And from my point of view, you learn how to lead by first showing what kind of servant you are.


PS: My standard response to those who throw down the gauntlet over "my way or I quit" is "I am sorry you feel that strongly. We will miss you. May God bless you in the next place you are called to serve Him." Because the minute you let someone win by threatening to quit (or give less, or whatever) you have given over control and forfeited your position of leadership. The short term gain of keeping a malcontent on the membership rolls is far out-weighed by the long term destruction in the life of the church by keeping them.

Joseph Cejka said...

One of the best comments came from an Episcopal priest who had many of the self-serving servants in his parish. Two of the five died closely together in time and on the Sunday following one of their funeral services, the priest said, "What we need here are a few more good funerals."

I have bid farewell to certain self-serving servant leaders--manipulators--by asking them to not let the door hinder their behind's progress through it.

Pete said...


Truly one of your best posts.

Thank you.

Dr. Robert R. Kopp said...


That's interesting!
When I studied in Rome back in the early 70s, I asked Father Fachtna McCarthy when Rome would, uh, move into the current century. He said, "Some Cardinals have to die."
In the particular family of faith that I'm delighted to undershepherd, we have had many additions by subtractions a la Jeremiah 1 and related texts; basically, judgmental sorts who love Jesus by hating the rest of His children.
We're broke right now because of people who are punishing us for allowing His Spirit and new children to...
Well, obviously, you know, brother.
Praise the Lord!

Dr. Robert R. Kopp said...


Praise the Lord!

Anonymous said...

Hi Pastor Bob, Servant Leadership is a concept that trips a lot of good people up. Blessings,....John

Ella Jane said...

This is excellent! I will be sharing with our congregation! Thank you!

Dr. Robert R. Kopp said...


You're right, brother.

I remember a common mantra in seminary - the seminary training men (then) to be the statesmen of the church: "Somebody's gotta minister to the rich!"

Yeah, I miss having money; but my conscience is a little clearer now to work on other stuff.

BTW, have you ever wondered how imperial robed ones can look at the Suffering Servant without blushing?

Excuse me, John, I've gotta go - got this log in...