And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. ~Mark 9:33-35
When I was younger, I was a bit of a rebel. I loved freedom. I was so excited when I got my driver’s license at 16. I finally got to decide where I wanted to point the car, how fast I could get there, and when I wanted to return home. I was my own man, or so I thought.
Even in college, when I didn’t want to continue pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering, but I couldn’t convince my parents that I wanted to do something different, I rebelled. Probably in the dumbest way ever. I stopped going to class. Because of that I was kicked out of the school until they could review my records. I was readmitted for another semester and then transferred to another school entirely to finish my degree. I could mention a few other dumb rebel moves, but suffice it to say, I enjoyed my freedoms.
When I gave my life to Jesus, however, I soon realized that a rebel heart was not compatible with a servants heart.
With each position of leadership that the Lord put me into, whether that was a Bible Study teacher, member of a spiritual leadership team, a member of an elder board, or now, a pastor of a very small house church, with each position I realized that to be a true leader I must be a servant to all. But in order to be a servant, I first needed to learn how to be obedient to other leaders.
I was reminded often of how David learned the same thing as he was serving under King Saul. He knew that he would one day be king, but he never used that knowledge as a reason to force his will upon others. David learned how to lead by first learning how to serve, even under bad leadership. Thankfully, I had godly leaders to serve under, but King David was always an example for me to follow as I served in my various positions.
King David’s example became clearer when I became an elder. Once appointed, I thought, “I get to do some of the things I always wanted to do.” I soon however realized that I wasn’t there to carry out my plans. It took me a while, but eventually I realized that the Lord put me in that position to learn how to lead by first learning how to serve, to obey, and also to sacrifice.
Being obedient to leadership is not something that came natural to me. I still had that rebel heart within me. I needed to learn how to submit to others, even when decisions were made that I didn’t fully agree with. I even learned to sacrifice my preferences for that of others. I eventually took the position that as long as there was no false doctrine being taught or exercised, and it was more of a matter of preference, then I would agreed with the direction taken.
Even then, to be obedient to other leaders, whether it’s to a senior pastor, to a church board, or to the Lord Himself, I had to learn that there were personal wants and desires that I needed to sacrifice because they didn’t serve others. They would have served me, but not others.
Of course, our greatest example for leading, serving, obeying, and sacrifice is Jesus Christ. The Lord put it upon my heart to be a pastor almost 20 years ago, but I wasn’t ready then. I thought I was ready to lead, but I clearly wasn’t ready to serve. Neither was I willing to obey, or to even sacrifice my own wants and desires.
Proverbs 15:33 says; “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.” Every one that is called to lead, if it’s of the Lord, will have to learn humility. Whether you willfully submit, or he puts you through situations that bring about the learning, either way, you will be humbled.
My prayer for Family Bible Church is that the Lord will send us men that feel called of the Lord to serve as pastors. And if they are truly called, then they will have to learn that before they can lead, they must learn how to serve, to obey, and to sacrifice.