Do You Want the Title or the Towel?

One of my favorite memories from college was an annual tradition on our floor that took place the last weekend of school. We would gather in the lounge and take part in what I can only describe as a very sacred thing. We would wash each other’s feet, following Jesus’ example in John 13. One of our RAs would start and pick another girl and take a few moments to affirm the godly characteristics she saw in her, and then would take a washcloth and bowl of warm water and wash her feet. We continued until each girl had been affirmed and had had the opportunity to affirm someone else. It truly brought to life John 13, when the night before He was betrayed and crucified, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. Jesus, the perfect and holy Son of God, did something usually reserved for the servants: He washed the dusty and calloused feet of His disciples, even the ones who would betray Him, deny Him and doubt Him.

I thought about this when I listened to Chris Brown, co-senior pastor at North Coast Church, speak at a leadership summit I recently attended. His talk was all about servant leadership and what it really means in Mark 10:42-45, when Jesus told His disciples, “”Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave to all.’” One of the things he said is that an insecure leader needs the title and the towel, but a secure leader picks up the towel and serves others. It all comes down, Brown said, to whether we want to expand God’s kingdom or our own reputation. Whether we’re a leader in an official capacity or not, we have to decide what’s more important: that we’re the one spreading the Gospel or simply that the Gospel is being spread.

He also encouraged the older leaders to make room for the younger leaders — to create room at the top for those who are the next generation and who even might be able to do it better. It was interesting to think of servant leadership in terms of being willing to share the influence and title and position.

I think Brown’s advice doesn’t just apply to leaders. Serving someone else and making his or her success your goal is good advice for friendship, the work environment and in marriage.

Have you been impacted by a leader who was first and foremost a servant? How can you apply being a servant leader in your own life?