We’ve all heard it: leadership is servanthood. And then someone tells the story of how Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and tells us that we shouldn’t be above doing menial tasks in our ministry. To me, that was basically my grasp of servant leadership.
Then I came across Improving Your Serve by Charles Swindoll. I had read The Grace Awakening by the same author and it was one of the best books I had read in years. So I figured I’d give Improving your Serve a try, to see if there was anything new in there for me.
Boy, did I learn from this book. Swindolls shows in Improving your Serve what servant leadership is all about and that it’s much more than willingness to do the nasty jobs no one else wants to. Being a true servant is about giving, forgiving, forgetting. It’s about a state of mind, a way of thinking, a change of the heart to truly become like Jesus.
And Swindoll makes this point by using Scripture to tell us what God has in mind for us, how He wants us to serve. His key verse is Mark 10:45:
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
It’s the verse that triggered Swondoll himself to further investigate the wholeservant-thing. He is very honest about hisown shortcomings in this area, which I find both refreshing and encouraging.
Swindoll also uses wonderful stories and quotes that help us grasp truths we haven’t understood before, like this one about the famous conductor Leonard Bernstein who was asked what instrument was the most difficult to play:
“Second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm or second French horn or second flute, now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.”
For me, the biggest eye-opener was to discover through this book that much of my serving was still aimed at me. I did it to be a good leader, to show that I wasn’t above doing the dishes, or mopping the floor. But in my heart, I did it to prove something, I didn’t do it for God. I served, but I still wanted people to see it in some way and appreciate me for it.
It was a bit of a nasty confrontation with what was inside of me, but it helped me change in this area. I realized that being a servant meant giving without expecting anything in return. Or as Swindoll states: “Life’s greatest joy is to give His love away.”
If you are someone who struggles with the concept of servant leadership or if you want to simply grow in your serve, please read this book. You won’t regret it.