For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45 ESV
Kingdom leaders often refer to the above statement of Jesus as a defining text for servant leadership. They define a servant leader by one who has certain humble values and one who does certain servant-like activities. But we often miss the import of the statement by ignoring the final phrase – “… and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
It was the sacrificial leadership of Jesus that he was pointing the Twelve to as He contrasted Kingdom leadership with the world’s. Yes, the world’s leaders used their power and influence to ‘lord it over’ others and to promote self-serving causes. By contrast, His example was to humble Himself and use His power and influence to serve others. But He did not stop there in His explanation of Kingdom leadership.
He went on to say that His example would end in the great sacrifice – His death on the cross – paying our debt for sin and taking on the punishment we deserve. It is the sacrificial nature of Christ’s Kingdom leadership that truly sets it apart from the benevolent, ‘turn the organizational pyramid upside down’ type of leadership that is promoted by many as true servant leadership.
Kingdom leaders who follow the example of Jesus are called to lead with personal sacrifice as a hallmark of their leadership style. It is this that helps set Kingdom leaders apart. Not only are they humble servants, but they are also willing to give up all for the sake of serving others. This is a great, high calling and privilege. Some may even be called to die for their King – the ultimate sacrifice of a servant leader.
The story is told of a band of Moravian missionaries who sailed from Europe to the South Pacific seeking to take the gospel to the native peoples of some scattered islands. While on the long sea voyage they led the ship’s captain and many of the crew to faith in Christ. Finally arriving at their destination they anchored offshore and saw the local peoples gathering at the shoreline making threatening gestures.
The captain and crew pleaded with the missionaries not to disembark as they feared that they would be attacked and die as they reached shore. To this, the leader of the missionary band replied, “Sir, you don’t understand. We have already died.” They disembarked, landed and were summarily killed on the beach.
These paid the great price of servant leadership. Sacrifice for the cause of the advance of the Kingdom – even to the point of death if needed – is the mark of the King and His Kingdom leaders. Jesus modeled it and we are called to follow.