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Developing a Servant-Driven Church

Dan Dumas
Pastor of Assimilation and Conferences

In some ways I feel like I am singing to the choir with this topic. However, we all need from
time to time a fresh reminder regarding God’s expectations for leadership. Equipping people to
become servant leaders will be a task of the church until Jesus returns. Therefore it is imperative
that we keep the mentality of a slave at the forefront of our ministries.

Jesus, the greatest leader of all time, was unquestionably a servant-leader. The crown of his
servant-leadership was a crown of thorns.

• The symbol of Rome’s leadership—a sword

• The symbol of the Greek’s leadership—a pen
• The symbol of secular leadership—a chair
• The symbol of the Christian’s leadership—a towel and basin

Maybe a better title for this topic would be, “Developing a Foot-Washing-Driven Church.”

To say that the Bible places a primacy on servant-leadership is the understatement of a lifetime.

In the last 50 years, “the church” has been experiencing an identity crisis. She has unfortunately
been receiving her cues from the secular market place rather than the authoritative Scriptures.
Pastors have courted the world’s philosophy so long it’s become second nature, the norm, and
embraced as a viable style of leadership.

The by-product from this type of secular thinking is a spiritual aristocracy in the pastorate (2 Cor.
4:5). Service, not status, is the goal of a leader who has Christ as his master.

• Natural Ability vs. Spiritual Giftedness

• CEOs vs. Shepherds

• Executives vs. Servants

• Managers vs. Leaders

• Mega churches vs. Ministry-minded Churches

The church does not need SNL (strong-natural-leaders). The church needs SSL (strong-servant-
leaders). Two many pastors are building resumes rather than people and churches.

“Most of us would have no objection to being masters, but servanthood holds little attraction.”
- J. Oswald Sanders

A leader starts by first being a follower.

A servant-leader is not a title or position. It is a lifestyle.

The principle is simple ─ The way up is the way down in God’s economy.

A successful servant-leader in ministry descends not ascends. So many leaders excel at climbing
the ladder but fail at coming down the ladder.

The more authority, giftedness and natural abilities you have the more you have to work at
servant-leadership. The flesh is a menace to servant leadership. Me-ism is the idol of today’s
leadership and it is antithetical to Christ leadership style.

Let me draw your attention to some key texts:

Mark 10:35-45 (The scene is a borrowed guest room in the city of Jerusalem)

• This, without question, is the key text in the Gospels to define Christ’s leadership style.

• Christ has already made three predictions about his soon crucifixion (Mark 10:32-34
being the third).

• James and John ask an inappropriate question that is still being asked, or at least being
thought, today.

• Jesus’ closest disciples were looking for a messianic “secretary of state” not a suffering

• Notice that their ambition is not wrong. However, their ambition is certainly misinformed
and misguided. Notice they are not condemned for seeking greatness. Aspirations are not
wrong as long as they would seek the right kind of greatness. Their error is in the goal.
(Self-centered vs. Others-centered)

• On the spot, Christ transforms their concept of greatness. Jesus redefined greatness and
being first. True greatness is when you serve. You are first when you are a slave.

• The paradox of all paradoxes is the way to the top is through the bottom!

• God’s standard for leadership is selfless-servanthood! Servant-leaders give up personal

rights to find greatness in service to others.

• Jesus spent his whole life and ministry serving others. The cross, a case in point, is the
ultimate sacrifice/service to others. Jesus wanted James and John to know that following
him would cost them their lives, not gain them places of position.

• Servant-leadership is two-sided. On one side it requires drinking the cup and being
baptized with the baptism of Christ’s suffering (Mark 10:38-39). On the other side
serving others is a tremendous privilege (Acts 20:35).

• These exhortations are unqualified! Jesus did not call us to servant-leadership only when
it…is convenient, fits our schedule, or if fits our personality.

Servant-leadership is God’s standard for spiritual leadership! To say it another way, servant-
leadership defines spiritual leadership.

I Timothy 3:1-13

As we move into the Epistles, especially the Pastorals, we find two different offices established in
the church.

• Elders (1 Tim.3:1-7). Character and specific roles are defined (Timeless or Supra-

• Deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-13). Character and unqualified service is defined (Need-driven


Elders serve the people by laboring in the word and prayer. (1 Tim. 5:17; Acts 6:1-4)

Deacons serve in any and every way possible. Notice there is not a specific responsibility like the
elders’ list.

Deacons by definition are servants. This word servant (diakonia) is the most comprehensive
biblical word in the New Testament.

• The largest usage is the reference to menial and mundane activities such as waiting on
tables. The word emphasizes the servant’s role in relationship to what he or she is asked
to do.

• Servants voluntarily give of themselves to others.

• Servants voluntarily humble themselves.

• Servants are highly and supernaturally motivated by the love of Christ.

• Servants are focused on pleasing their master. When applied to leadership they are
consumed with giving God the Glory. (1 Cor.10:31)

One writer puts it this way:

“Ministry” is not the activity of an elite class, but the mutual caring of a band of
brothers. Such service is personal and practical, rather than institutional. A “ diakono” is one
who by choice and position has come to be under the authority of his Master and who therefore
serves others in love and gratitude.

The emphasis in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 falls under three categories:

• Character ─ who they are

• Content ─ what they know

• Commitment ─ how they serve

When God established servant-leadership for the church he expected qualified servant-leaders.

As we strive to develop a servant-driven church it starts with the potential servant’s character.
Willingness to serve should be cultivated but it must go deeper than pure desire. The foundation
for servant-leadership is one’s character.

It is easy but dangerous for us to simply assign tasks to people without evaluating their character.

• Example: I want to serve? Well, then, I have a job for you passing out bulletins.

Avoid being project-oriented and strive to be people-oriented.

• Servant-leadership is first a heart issue then a labor issue.

At Grace Community Church, we strongly believe in a time of examination that precedes their
position of service. Ask them some crucial questions before you proceed.

• Where are you spiritually?

• Are you practicing the “one-another’s” that are clearly prescribed in the New Testament?

• How are you spiritually gifted?


• To be a Christian and not to serve, is sin

• Different people serve at different levels

• We have over 800 qualified servant-leaders at Grace Community Church. However we

had tons of people serving beyond the 800 recognized and approved.

• If they come to serve and they’re not qualified in their character, this provides the pastor
with a shepherding opportunity. They can still serve but they will not be able to do
certain service opportunities, e.g., usher, bible study shepherd.

How do you develop a Servant-Driven church?

1. You must influence the mind with biblical truth (Information)


We need to have our people think right before they act right. Thinking biblically precedes
acting biblically.

It is impossible to change a church without changing their thinking first.

It’s more than a style or option; it is God’s plan for spiritual leadership.

The more you become like Christ the more you become a servant.

It is imperative that we deposit the truth into the servant’s mind.

Developing a servant-driven church does not happen overnight. It takes time to cultivate
the mentality of a slave in throughout your congregation.

Other’s-Minded (Philippians 2:3-4)

The Apostle Paul establishes that humility is foundational to serving. Humility

is the oil that makes the intersecting gears of human personality turn without

Servants cannot have there own self-interest at stake. Servants must work as a
team pulling in the same direction. They have one goal and that is to be others-

How do we accomplish such unity? The key to unity is humility. Servant-leaders humble
themselves and wait for God to exalt them (Luke 14:7-11; Prov.15:33). Head tables have
replaced the towel and washbasin as symbols of leadership among God’s people.

This is a whole paradigm shift in a churches view of leadership. It’s taking

John the Baptist’s statement, “I must decrease and He must increase,” to a
corporate level. Self-preoccupation cannot be tolerated in the body of Christ.

Paul says to “do nothing” with the focus on self. Paul uses a double negative to
ensure the readers of the absoluteness of his appeal. We are to completely stop
this type of inordinate self-centeredness.

Empty conceit means to not crave your own honor and glory. Remember
servants are passionate about giving to others. The Philippian church modeled
this principle in the area of giving to the Apostle Paul (2 Cor. 8:1-5).

Humility of mind means to have the mentality of a slave as noted above. He then tells
them to regard each and every one as more important. In other words do the math,
calculate your service. We need to understand our depravity. We are pitiful not
somebody. This should deflate our over-inflated thinking.

Servant-leadership is not just the process of putting ourselves down in humility. It’s also
the practical act of lifting others up. Servant-leadership lives for others (v. 4). To “ look
out” for others interests means to fix your attention and focus on their needs not your
own. Servants see beyond themselves and become preoccupied in other’s interest.

This servant mindedness is a paradigm shift for most. Therefore it is imperative to teach
them the biblical expectation.

“Two things are needed to humble us. First, let us consider God in His greatness, glory,
holiness, power, majesty, and authority. Then, let us consider in our mean, abject, and
sinful condition.”–John Owen

Others-focused (James 2:1-13)

Servant-leadership avoids partiality—We are to love God and love our neighbors. (Matt.

A biblical philosophy of ministry is concerned with everyone’s progress not just a few

• Favoritism first and foremost offends God (Jas. 2:5)

• Favoritism offends the poor (Jas. 2:6-7)

• Favoritism offends the Scriptures (Jas. 2:8-11)

2. You must inflame the heart with biblical examples. (Motivation)

Servant-leadership 101 (John. 13:5-11)

A disciple is not above his teacher (Luke 6:40).

A church is a mirror of its leadership. True servant leaders lead by example rather than by
a memo. I Peter 5:1-3 makes it clear we are not to “lord it over them.”

Servant-leadership starts with us. We don’t coax the church to serve, we model

Servant-leaders model what they want their followers to do. Your actions weigh as heavy
as your words.

Your greatest test of servant leadership may be to wash the feet of those you know will
soon betray you.

A leader leads by serving. A healthy church starts with healthy servant-leaders.

Servant-leadership 102 (Phil.2:19-25)

The church at Philippi had some clear examples. After 2:4, Paul gives a litany of
examples of genuine servant-leadership. One in particular is Timothy. He was
unquestionably one of Paul’s spiritual allies.

Paul affirms Timothy’s servant-leadership to the church at Philippi. His plan is to send
Timothy to help shepherd and serve this church.

Paul affirms Timothy’s like-mindedness (v. 20). He was on the same page as Paul. He
had learned well from the master. Paul’s discipleship had taken root in Timothy’s life.
The acid test of servant-leadership is to turn around and see who is following.

Paul surveys the potential leaders to send to Philippi and concludes everyone else is
preoccupied with himself or herself. Only one was a candidate for this mission (v. 21).

Timothy was consumed with serving the gospel and serving Paul. His proven selfless
service was the basis of Paul’s decision to send him to Philippi. They weren’t just getting
a leader they were getting a servant-leader.

3. You must inform the hands with genuine opportunities. (Application)

Our Motto: Enter to worship, Exit to serve.

We inform the hands in three areas:

• Spiritual Gifts—gift-oriented

• One Another’s—people-oriented

• Ministry Opportunities— service-oriented

We must continually, systematically, and intentionally lay at the feet of our people
opportunities to serve. Be creative, be prepared and be ready when people ask to serve.
(An Invitation to Involvement)

My fear is that we have become more Roman Catholic than we would like to admit. By
Catholic, I mean we have a huge division between the pastorate and people. We are all
called to minister whether that is with a capital “M” or with or a small “m”.

One of the primary metaphors for the local church is that of a body. (Eph 4:16)

It was never God’s plan the one-man to do the all the work of the ministry.

God has entrusted us with a uniquely gifted people, sovereignty placed into the body to
serve one-another. Either we give our life and ministry away or we take the life of our

We need to return to the Reformation watchword, “the priesthood of the believers.”

Have we forgotten Ephesians 4:11-12?

The lack of servant-leadership in this area manifests pride and control in our influence.
Pride and a controlling spirit are the evil twin sisters behind not training and delegating
people in ministry. Leaders multiply their leadership by empowering others to serve (2

Owning responsibility for a task does not mean you go alone to do the task. Servant
leaders share their responsibility with others to meet a need. Genuine leaders give their
leadership away.

If you are NOT reproducing servant-leaders you are stealing the joy of biblical
servanthood from your people!

It is incumbent upon us to raise-up an army of servant-leaders.

We can teach the greatest commandments for years, but we will make little progress unless we
have a group of dedicated, volunteer SERVANTS willing to march for the Master on a daily
basis. These servants are not jealous or lazy. They do not care who gets the credit because they
want to give honor and glory to their MASTER, Jesus Christ. They have learned to deny
themselves and daily take up the cross of Jesus. They have reached a spiritual maturity where
they are more interested in giving then in receiving—and more interested in what’s best for the
entire church than what they would individually want for themselves. There is nothing in
leadership more powerful than a servant example. ─ Fulenwider

I think no servant of God is tired of serving his Master.

We may be tired in the service, though not tired of it. ─ C.H. Spurgeon

“Servant leadership begins by submitting to Jesus as master and obediently following His
teachings and lifestyles as a leader.” —Gene Wilkes

During the American Revolution a man in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers repairing
a small defensive barrier. Their leader was shouting instructions, but making no attempt to help
the fellow soldiers. Asked why by the rider, he retorted with great dignity, “Sir, I am a corporal!”

The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers. The job done,
he turned to the corporal and said, “Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not
enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help them again.”

It was none other than George Washington.

There must be first a collapse of self-reliance and authoritative leadership and a return to
biblical leadership–servant-leadership.