Last month, we had our first student leadership meeting. At that meeting, I shared these thoughts with our leaders! Stay tuned for part 2 after this Sunday when we meet again!
When I think about examples of leadership in the Bible, I naturally am drawn to these descriptions of leaders in the early church: 1 Tim 3:1-13 or 1 Peter 5:1-3.
But THE ULTIMATE EXAMPLE OF LEADERSHIP, of course, is Jesus. My favorite example of Jesus' leadership comes from John 13. Here, Jesus showed the disciples the manner of leadership that they were to have - to serve one another! And what Jesus teaches us here is that to be an effective leader is to be one who is an example of what they want other people to do and be. So watch what he did:
In the first century, people walked to visit family and friends. And they walked in sandals on dusty dirty roads and towels. Proper hospitality meant that the slaves of the house would offer guests clean water to wash their feet and towels to dry them. Sort of like we offer folks a drink or place to sit when they arrive at our houses today.
The act of Jesus taking off his outer clothes and wrapping the towel around his waist meant He was in the position of a menial slave. Without saying it, Jesus is showing the disciples that being a leader sometimes means being a servant, that there are no boundaries of status (I’m better/more powerful than you). And this act of foot-washing was a chore given ONLY to the LOWEST slave. This is not something that any other Jewish or Roman leader would have ever done. So it was a BIG deal!
Here’s the deal with the act that is important or teaches us leaders a lesson from the ultimate example of a leader. Jesus requires that we step out of our comfort zones a bit in 2 ways.
Over and over, Jesus taught his followers about the value of humility. Now the Jesus is placing his closest friends – the people who would now become the leaders of the church – He is placing them in a situation in which they must act out humility. If I said to you right now, take off your shoes, I’m going to wash your feet, how would you feel? Right, there’s that pride / humility feeling we’d all have. The bottom line - to be effective as leaders we sometimes have to set aside our pride. There will be times as student leaders here at Zion that we will be humbled by God.
"What would you find most difficult: washing someone’s feet or having someone wash yours?" For me, and for most, the answer was always the same. Having someone wash my feet bothers me a bit more than my washing someone else’s. I confess: I have a very independent streak in me. I do for myself, thank you very much, and these feet don’t need your help. I can wash them on my own, no problem. Besides, I don’t want another person to see the dirt between my toes and under my toenails or the hair on my legs because I forgot to shave this morning. The problem with this thinking, however is that it is far from the spirit of the Christian faith. An independent nature is not a highly valued trait for a leader. In fact, as leaders of this student ministry, we will become a “family” where we are mutually dependent for ministry and encouragement. We might not “like” each other all the time, but we will have to depend on each other. In fact, the disciples didn’t really like each other. Just before this part in Scripture, they had been battling and jealous of each other about which of them were more important in the Kingdom of God. But, when it came down to it, after Jesus’ death, they pulled together and depended on each other to get done what needed to be done. We will do the same.
Each time we meet, our student leaders will spend some time in prayer about what is going on in our ministry. And, I will challenge us to step our of our comfort zones regularly. Being a leader is great and I am so proud of each of our leaders for stepping up and serving on this team. But, it can also be a little scary or intimidating. We worry that our peers and friends will not like the choices we make for the group, etc.
Our students then spent some time drawing their prayers. I didn't make them wash each other's feet, but they did have to trace each other’s feet on paper. On the papers, they listed what they perceived to be thier individual strengths and weaknesses as leaders and what they were most excited and most challeged about on this team. Then, as a “family” we compiled our drawings together to form a doormat. We'll walk the doormat each meeting as a reminder of our chance to be servants!