Wanted: servant leaders


This morning (Sun 8th March) we were up early to worship with our friends at the English language service of Limbe ZEC. We heard a suitably quiet but impactful exposition of the first few verses of the Beatitudes from the great sermon preached by Jesus on a Galilee mountain side and recorded by Matthew in chapter 5 of his gospel.

The way the preaching elder unpacked verse 5 – concerning the biblical meekness of a true disciple – seemed to sum up perfectly the lessons from the week I (Myles) have had as I continued to talk with rural preachers (pastors and elders) across Malawi. Meekness, he said, is the quietness of spirit and inner liberty that comes from humbly recognising that our own strength is insufficient, and relying on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

First, I was reminded of the meekness and servant heart I need in my own heart as an over-educated, achievement oriented, westerner visiting brothers and sisters living and worshiping in such a different context. For, as we begin to “peel the onion” layer after layer on the complexities of Malawi culture and the spiritial and material challenges faced by believers every day, it would be all to easy to make one of two mistakes: to become cynical and hard hearted at the steps being taken by Malawian brothers and sisters in the face of their overwhelming problems, or to become overwhelmed and give up. The elder’s point reinforced one God had already made during my daily readings in 1 Corinthans: Paul had neither been driven to cynicism or defeat when faced with the challenges of the emerging first century church, but demonstrated the meekness that comes through knowing who really is in charge.

Secondly, I was reminded of the flashes of encouragement this week as among so much societal temptation to be controling and power hungry leaders, I met several truly meek and servant hearted men striving to please their Master wherever they had been sent. Again the Limbe elder’s point re-enforced one that God had already made during our team devotions at the zm office using Our Daily Bread. That day’s writter (Dave Branon) used the example of King David in Psalm 86, and the business insight of  Max De Pree to show that a biblical “leader must become a servant and a debtor”.

We are all in some leadership position whether we are a pastor, an elder, a missionary, a parent, a teacher, a boss. The message of my week was clearly that we need to remember to be the humble and meek leader of Psalm 86,  and the words of Dave Sper:

Controlling other people’s lives Is not a godly leader’s trait; But serving other people’s needs is what the Lord considers great. —Sper

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