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In the book of Matthew, Jesus called his disciples to the same humble servitude that He modeled for them, asking in essence, “May I serve you?” The head table at a special event is the principal table, as at a wedding reception, banquet, special dinner, or conference. It is often positioned at the head of a row of tables or raised on a dais, where the presiding officer, chief speaker, guests of honor, or, honorees are seated. Individuals’ positions at the head table speaks to us of their importance, if no more than at that particular occasion. The head table can be viewed as the power seat and those individuals who sit there unconsciously designated as those who have the most authority or the ones upon whom honored is being bestowed.
When we attend such events we are often impressed with whomever is so esteemed to be seated at the head table, while we take our places as the “less important” guests at the unreserved other tables in the room. There are some in the audience who cringe with jealousy that they were not selected to join the honorees at the head table. And perhaps there are also those in the audience who may be more influential, “important,” or prestigious than those who are seated at the head table. For example, think of Jesus when he attended the wedding in Cana. He was not the guest of honor, neither a member of the wedding party. He would not necessarily have been seated at the head table. But that He was the most important person of all at the wedding is without question.
Servant leadership is a term that has been used a lot in recent years. However, it is not a new term. Servant leadership is a very popular leadership model that was developed by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970. In this model, the servant leader serves the people that he or she leads, which implies that employees are an end in themselves rather than a means to an organizational purpose or bottom line. Servant leadership is meant to replace the command and control models of leadership, to be more focused on the needs of others. Hawkins and Parrot say that, “servant leadership is the preferred paradigm.” Christian leaders must first and foremost be servants. Authentic leadership is being last, not first. President John F. Kennedy, in one of the most memorable inauguration speeches of all times challenged Americans to, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Jesus Christ gives us this definition and displayed it through his life of service. He calls on us as Christian leaders to do for others what has been done for us.
Servanthood is actually defined as greatness according to Matthew 20:26. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” I quote I heard recently by an unknown author says, “A lighthouse is not interested in who gets its light! It just gives it without thinking! Giving lights is its nature.” That is how the true servant leader should present himself to the people of God. It should be natural to serve God and His people. The true servant leaders are not worried or concerned about making a name for themselves or building their resumes. They are concerned about what they can do to help advance the Kingdom of God.
Joyce C. Edwards received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Louisiana State University (LSU) and a Ph.D. in communications and leadership from Louisiana Baptist University. She has served as a teacher and school administrator, and she recently retired as a district-level instructional supervisor. She is currently an Educational Consultant and public speaker.