“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over
them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your
servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man
came not be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28
While I was at ILC attending the recent Co-ordinating Council meeting, I listened to a chapel
address reminding us that the greatest quality for leadership in Jesus’ Church is service. This
is contrary to the thinking of the world. The apostles were incensed because the mother of
James and John had asked Jesus that her two sons be permitted to sit at the right and left
hands of Jesus in his kingdom. The apostles were indignant not because she had asked, but
because James and John might have gotten in the front of the line. Jesus acknowledged that
this is the way it is among the rulers of the Gentiles who lord it over you. But Jesus said, “It
shall not be so among you.” Jesus turned everything upside down, “Whoever would be first
among you must be your slave.”
Through the Apostle Paul, Jesus calls his people to have this humble, serving attitude, “Have
this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). But Jesus
especially reminded those he called as shepherds of his flock of the need for humble service
when he washed the feet of the apostles the night he was betrayed.
A pastor is especially vulnerable to feelings of pride, arrogance, self-interest. This is because
he is called to occupy a position of leadership as the minister. Sometimes the pastor feeds off
the love and respect for the office. Pastor MJ Witt use to warn me about the pastor who,
because he is the pastor, thinks that he has the best answer for everything. It is hard for a
pastor to allow others to do things if he thinks that he can do them better himself.
There are dangers of conceit in pastors today. It is possible that a pastor feels that he
deserves a higher salary because of his education or his position. We get caught up in the
world’s evaluation of worth and job based on salary. It is also possible that a pastor takes for
granted his calling and does not give his all in his work effort. Your dedication and your going
the extra mile is totally voluntary. You don’t even have to keep regular hours. It is also possible
to compare our work in terms of the recognition we receive. The modern evangelist feeds off
the recognition and power he receives in his ministry. The modern large church para
organization is based on the personality of the pastor or leader.
These are real dangers for the Church of the Lutheran Confession and our ministry. There is
the danger that the ministry becomes all about us, and we become dissatisfied with simply
preaching Christ crucified. On the one hand, there is the danger that those in leadership
positions think that they have all the answers and do not listen to others. On the other hand, it
is easy to criticize those who make decisions and like Absalom say, “Things would be different
if I were king.” Our arrogant pride can ride roughshod over the concerns others may have
about the applications we make of Scriptural principles, or we may seek to impose our
conclusions upon others (members or other pastors).
Jesus is the answer for these very real dangers. Jesus reminds his servants, “The Son of Man
came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Jesus was the
suffering servant of Isaiah 40. We cannot even imagine the love of Jesus which moved him to
serve his apostles and to serve us with the ultimate sacrifice of the cross. Jesus humbled
himself and became obedient unto death even the death of the cross.
There are a few practical ways that you as pastors can carry our your servanthood:
1. Send in your Lutheran Spokesman subscriptions to Benno Sydow by the end of May.
I would encourage you to have the Spokesman sent to the homes of your members and
then ask them to make an extra contribution to your budget. Let Benno know if you will
not have any subscriptions in your congregation.
2. Go online and fill out your congregation’s statistical report today. This is an important
part of the snapshot of where our church body is today and is useful as a planning tool.
This is one of the easiest things to put off and forget to do.
3. Send in your equalization form to Mark Bernthal so that he can get this back to you in
time for convention. Again fill it out, even if you are not attending.
4. Encourage your congregation to send delegates to the convention. Fifty years ago,
the CLC made a conscious decision to load the convention with lay delegates for better
representation and input.
5. Pray for servants in the CLC: boards, elected officials, professors and administration
at ILC, missionaries, committees, all who are called to serve.
Like John the Baptist, each of must decrease so that Jesus may increase. May the Lord bless
us with a spirit of humility as we again gather in convention this June.
With a confession that I find it difficult to serve and delegate, but with the assurance that God is
working on me