When I started ministry I wanted to be a preacher! I soon found that nobody wanted to hear a ‘wet behind the ears’ preacher. It took years before I was eventually given the opportunity to speak to people over 18 years old. I studied preaching and preachers and attempted to imitate them. In my final year in Manitoba I preached over 300 times! Life was good (for me)! In the midst of this season of triumph my little girl cried, as I was off once again, “Why do other kids have a full-time dad and I only have a halftime dad?”
Not long after that I was offered the opportunity to settle in Saint John NB. It was here that I discovered a love for the folks of Uptown Saint John. I had to unlearn much of my preaching. Rather than a standard three part evangelical sermon I learned to share a one pointer and I’m still learning how to ‘punch up’ the application end of these one pointers. I long to see God’s word do its transforming work in people’s lives. This longing is the motivating factor for some changes as we have moved away from our Up Town Church model to our latest monthly ventures; Hopeful and Purposeful.
Occasionally I still get an opportunity to preach in more traditional settings. I had such an opportunity this week as I spoke at the Thursday Noon Hour at Stone. As I began to prepare I realized that I was a bit rusty but it was fun to do this again. We were looking at John chapter 13. Jesus washes feet in humble service and in doing so foreshadows the work he will soon finish on the cross. After this example of selfless service he gives a New Commandment. To a casual reader this commandment does not seem new. The command to love God and love our neighbour was known! What made this new was the addition of the phrase “As I have loved you” The command comes in the context of selfless service!
Christian book stores (those that haven’t been put out of business by the online stores) have shelves filled with books on Christian Leadership. Whole ministries are devoted to this subject but Jesus has little time for the idea of leadership. Sometimes we disguise our love of the carnal model of leadership by adding the adjective “servant”. Jesus admonishes that it is not to be that way with us. Our primary calling and that of everyone who calls Jesus Lord, is to selfless service. This is not a suggestion! Jesus is not saying “Boys I’m about to depart. It would be nice if you followed my example.” No, he commands!
Does this mean I am never to lead? I don’t think so. It means that my vocation is first and foremost that of a servant. If I am getting that right everything else can find its proper place. When as a leader I expect others to serve me and my goals I lose what I call “Kingdom Credibility”. What passes as leadership in the world’s eyes too often doesn’t pass the servant ‘sniff test’.
We often hear the Kingdom of God described as “the upside down’ Kingdom because the Kingdom values are diametrically opposed to those of the world. I hear this so often that it becomes almost white noise. This New Commandment compels me to acknowledge the abiding truth that his ways are vastly higher than mine!