Three portraits of Christian leaders: servants, stewards and shepherds. (22 Apr 2012)

As servants, they emulate Jesus the Servant-Lord (Luke 22:27). Jesus serves as a lowest ranking servant when He washes His disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). The word “diakonos” gives us the word “deacon.” A deacon is a servant and not a title or position. All Christians are called to serve Christ wherever they are. In the world and home, they are all “servants” whether they hold high or low or no positions. Worldly leaders love to lord over their subordinates. Christ’s servant-leaders must be willing to work under others, out of reverence for Christ.

As stewards, they are like the managers or housemasters. In the New Testament period, wealthy householders employ stewards to supervise their servants and manage their domestic affairs. In companies and organisations, general managers, supervisors, foremen are employed to help the owners manage their businesses. Those who are in the government agencies are entrusted with the tasks of keeping public services in good running order. Within the household of faith, Christian stewards are to manage affairs of their homes, their departments, small groups, or committees. They are also God’s trustees charged with the privilege of living out the gospel. Christian stewards are also guardians of the gospel so that it would not be adulterated or changed to a different gospel. As faithful stewards they are to transmit the teachings of the faith as commanded by Jesus.

As shepherds or rather under-shepherds, their chief responsibility is to the Chief Shepherd. They need to learn what make good and bad shepherds (Psalm 78:70-72; Ezek 34:2-6). In the New Testament, the noun poimēn (shepherd) and verb poimaino (to shepherd) are used a total of 29 times, most frequently referring to Jesus. The word pastor is derived from the Latin which means “shepherd.” Like “diakonos,” shepherding is a role and not a mere title. “Give a shepherd’s care to God’s flock among you, exercising oversight not merely as a duty but willingly under God’s direction, not for shameful profit but eagerly” (1Pe 5:2 NET). Five qualities of good shepherds are: (1) They know their sheep by name. (2) They are with the sheep. (3) They lead the flock and guide them to pastures (Jn 10:3, 14, 27). (4) They are concerned for the lost sheep (Luke 15:4-6). (5) They protect the sheep from wolves in sheep’s clothing and hirelings. They are prepared to make sacrifices for the sheep. In a medium size or large church, small groups are needed so that the under-shepherds of small groups can fulfil these five qualities.

In the world, people are lost and live as if God is not coming back to judge. Christians who can read and understand this article are responsible to be living examples of Christ’s followers. People without Christ need to be loved, to be served, to have their business managed with integrity. They need to be prayed for and be led to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Who can do it better than those who have tasted the goodness of Christ? While the church body needs Christian leaders who are blameless, the world without Christ thirsts for the Living Water and hunger for the Living Bread. As the Lord enables, in our dispersion in the world, all of us are to put on the mantle of servants, stewards and shepherds. This is worthy cause – “to conduct ourselves in fear during the time of our stay upon earth” for the God will impartially judge according to each man’s work (1Pe 1:17).

Read more in Learning to Lead – Biblical leadership, Then and Now by Chua Wee Hian. 2010.

Elder Yoong Yuen Soo