October 21, 2017

Leading Servants

John C. Vaughn

FrontLine • September/October 2007

For part 1, see here.

Every minister is to be a servant (Matt. 20:26, 27), and every Christian is to be in the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:12). Servant-leaders are to be “leaders of servants” as well as servants themselves. On the Front Line introduced the lesson that Christ taught His disciples about servanthood in response to their ambition.

In the context of the naïve request of James and John to be honored in Christ’s kingdom, Christ reminded the twelve of the authority structure of the Gentiles (vs. 25). The contrast in His kingdom couldn’t be clearer: “But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister [diakonos: servant]; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant [doulos: slave].” The greater the leadership, the deeper the servanthood. Thus, the Greatest Leader of all was the Greatest Servant. “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Christ’s command cuts beneath the method and exposes the motive. The man who craves authority or position kneels in vain. His service is mere “eyeservice.” He is a “menpleaser.” Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians (6:5, 6) was to Christians serving their human authorities: “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” The servant of Christ who is not “doing the will of God from the heart” is not “obedient.” He may be doing the right things, but he is not doing right. Christ was not making a word play in Matthew 20:26–28; He meant it, literally. Often He taught this way. To live, you must die; to be exalted, you must be abased; to become rich, you must forsake your possessions; to be a leader, you must be a servant.

Men long for the happy ending in this life. We read the Book of Job and expect soon to have “twice as much” (Job 42:10) as we had before our suffering. But Foxe’s Book of Martyrs tells of those who knew the happiness was yet to come. The heaviness of human burdens wears us down; we would not be warned about being weary in well-doing if we were not susceptible to fainting. Wrong motives are exhausting; they rob us of peace and contentment. Godliness must be accompanied by contentment (1 Tim. 6:6). That is impossible without the mind of Christ.

Philippians 2:1–11 reveals the mind and motives of Christ. Christ was already “in the form of God,” already “equal with God,” but He “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” He was “obedient unto death.” My father’s tombstone is engraved with the reference to Philippians 3:14. If the Lord tarries, until we are laid in our own graves, we must “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”: obedience, as servants. It is tempting for a man who holds authority in the ministry to focus on the obedience of those he leads. God would have us obey Him, and to lead others into obedience by our own obedience.

Fundamental Baptists must never forget this. If anyone is disaffected with Baptist Fundamentalism because of carnality in leadership, then leadership must be humble before God and confess any failure that is a stumbling block to others. But the disaffected must never forget that Biblical Fundamentalism is the truth, so they may actually be disgruntled with God Himself. Complaints about Biblical obedience are complaints about the authority of God. The authority of God’s servants and leaders is not in titles but in teaching. Whether we lead or serve or lead men to serve, we must “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

There is much to overcome in the present world, but one of the most important is human ambition—the corrupting, carnal pretense of righteous flesh. The man who seeks to make a name for himself dishonors the name of Jesus Christ. Twice it was said to John (Rev. 2:17; 3:12) that the overcomer will receive a new name that no one else will know. He will be like a pillar in the temple of God, on which is written only the name of God.


John Vaughn is the President of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International.


Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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