Those who want to exercise a leadership role over others usually believe that it comes with glory, power, and positions of honor. There has to be a reason that wealthy people spend a lot of money to get elected to an office that pays less. Exercising control over others is a reprehensible act in the church. That attitude is the occasion for Jesus’ words in the above passage. James and John had just asked Jesus to place them at His side when He assumed His throne in the kingdom to come. As a result, the other disciples became indignant probably because they had thought about it but didn’t get there first. (Mark 10:41). And as an object lesson, Jesus modeled the true servant style of leadership. He washed their feet, teaching them leading by first serving others (John 13:12-17).
The word “servant” in Matthew 20:27 means “slave.” Not every servant was a slave, but every slave was a servant. It is sad commentary in the church today that we have many celebrities, but very few servants. There are many who want to “exercise authority” (Matthew 20:25), but few who want to take the towel and basin and wash feet. Paul reminds us that our attitude is to be like Christ’s in that we consider others better than ourselves and do nothing out of vanity or selfishness. Rather we look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4). In this sense, then, every Christian is a servant.
Servant leadership is not only being free of wanting to be the center of attention, wanting to be totally in control of everything, micromanaging, running after others in places of power to get on their good side, but (Ephesians 4:12). It is first and foremost based on mutual respect and love for one another. But it is also willing to stand up to those who are “lording it over others” or who are trying to be “man pleasers”. Paul stood up to Peter and the others when he thought they were being hypocrites and he separated from Barnabas over Mark’s inclusion in a mission trip.
Leadership in the church is based upon not worrying about what people think of you, but what they think of Christ.
Leadership should not be about how people view you but how you deal with “the least of these”.