Serving Leaders Take Sides

February 17, 2021

Leaders are often forced to navigate different sides on many divisive issues of our time. We live in a world that takes sides on political persuasions, social views, health issues, economic perspectives, and many more. The sides chosen by a leader deeply impact their own leadership and those who follow. When a leader chooses a wrong side, they may quickly be sidelined! How does a serving leader decide which side to take? Joshua had an encounter with a man that provides help for serving leaders choosing sides.  

13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” 14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” 15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. (Joshua 5:13–15).

Joshua was leading God’s people into their first battle. It was a crucial time. Success at this point would greatly boost his reputation while a failure would be devastating. He wanted to make sure his side would win! When he meets the man with the sword, likely an angel, Joshua asks a natural question, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”  What does his encounter teach serving leaders?

Serving leaders acknowledge their own side.

Joshua saw the situation from his side. He wanted to know if this man was for him or against him. “Are you for us or for our enemies?” But in the encounter, he realizes that there is another side which he has not considered. Serving leaders acknowledge their own bias to think in terms of sides. They recognize they see the world with the question, “Do you support my vision or my competitors?” But from Joshua, serving leaders learn the need to stop and recognize that there are other sides!    

 Serving leaders accept God’s side.

Joshua must have been shocked with the man’s response, “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” This response completely changed the conversation and reframed the question. It was no longer, Joshua’s question changed from “Who is on my side?” to “Am I on the right side?” God calls serving leaders to change their vantage point, not right and wrong, but about who is in charge. God’s agenda is above ouragenda. His side is often not found in either side of our loud debates. Serving leaders do not compromise truth but they acknowledge that their own view is limited and may not be as close to God’s as they previously thought! Serving leaders don’t dismiss their vision, they just submit that vision to a higher purpose. They accept that their role is not to convince people to join their side, but to rally everyone to God’s side. Serving leaders recognize they can’t win the battle for sides until they get themselves on God’s side.

Serving leaders adjust to a new side.

Joshua fell facedown! He would go back to the same people and continue to lead them into battle at Jericho. But his perspective has changed. He recognizes that he is leading on God’s side, not asking God to be on his side. He would still command, but as one under authority. He would no longer call people to “his side”, instead he would invite all to join him on God’s side. Serving leaders adjust their leadership to acknowledge that God is not on their side; they are on God’s side. They humbly ask God for His direction on the divisive issues facing them and learn that the sides are not so much about ‘us’ and ‘them’ if they focus on Him!

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What situation am I currently facing in my leadership that is divisive or in which people take opposing sides? Consider that issue as you work through the following questions.
  • In what ways do I naturally see the different “sides” only from my side? What have I done in the past week that illustrates this? How could I get a more balanced view of the ‘other’ side?
  • In this situation, how do I assume that God is on my side? What difference does this make in how I lead? What if I asked God if He was on my side on this issue and He responded, “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”?  How might that shape the way I respond? Do I fear that truth will be compromised or can I trust that God knows truth better than I?
  • What does it mean for my leadership for me to ‘fall on my face’ on this issue? When I get back up, how will my leadership be different?  

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we will begin looking at the life of Boaz.

#293 Jesus: Upend the Pyramid

February 3, 2021

In the last four issues we have looked at how Jesus demonstrated the actions of The Serving Leader ModelTM*. He clarified the vision, Run to Great Purpose.  He established the values for His disciples to Raise the Bar. He showed how to Build on Strengths as He sent them out two by two. In these, and many other ways, Jesus demonstrates a radically different way of leading which is captured in the final action, Upend the Pyramid.

1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.

16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” 17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” 21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. (Luke 10:1, 16-21).

What can we learn from the example of Jesus about how serving leaders Upend the Pyramid?

Serving leaders grow their people.

Jesus could have done the work He gave the disciples. But He wanted them to grow and develop their own strengths as leaders. They had watched Him preach, teach and heal. Now, He wanted them to learn to do it on their own. He served them by helping them grow.

Some leaders look at their team only in terms of how they can accomplish the vision. Serving leaders keep their eye on the vision, but they consciously find ways to grow everyone on their team. They focus on the worker as much as the work.

Serving leaders delegate authority and responsibility.

 Jesus delegated authority and responsibility to the disciples. He said, “I have given you authority…” Jesus could have kept all His power and used it for Himself. But He deliberately gave away His authority and responsibility to His followers.

Serving leaders don’t seek to keep authority and responsibility, they consciously seek to pass it on to the team they are developing. They recognize that this not only helps their team to grow and develop but also prepares the team for the future.

Serving leaders prepare for future success.

Jesus wasn’t just sending His team out on a temporary assignment. He was deliberately and methodically preparing them to lead after He was gone. He had a plan that involved passing on the work to those who followed. And He was “full of joy” as He saw it happening!

Many leaders work hard to achieve their goals with little thought given to what will happen when they are gone. Serving leaders begin with their departure in mind and build teams that will continue to fulfill the great purpose far into the future.

Jesus shows leaders everywhere how to turn leadership practices upside down. And He demonstrates that Serving Leadership actually works–His team is still pursuing His great purpose 2000 years later!

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Read the entire passage of Jesus sending out the 72 disciples in Luke 10:1-24.  Reflect on what He was doing as a leader and how it demonstrates Upending the Pyramid.
  • What am I doing to grow my people? What more can I do that will help them develop their leadership capacity?
  • In what area can I delegate authority and responsibility to someone on my team? When will I do this? How will I communicate clearly to them? What support will I offer them?
  • How am I preparing my team to succeed after I am gone? Is my succession plan clear to me and others or do I need to develop it more fully? What do I need to do that will bring me the joy that Jesus experienced as He watched His disciples succeed?        

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll begin a new series. Your ideas are always welcomed for topics that would be of interest to you!

Copyright, Center for Serving Leadership 2020. 

*The Serving Leader ModelTM, was developed by Dr. John Stalh-Wert, author of “The Serving Leader.” See for more information.