Thursday, January 31, 2008

India Part 1

After visiting India a few weeks ago, I was required to write a 10 page reflection paper on the experience as it pertains to Servant Leadership in order to gain full credit for the class I was taking. I have decided to go ahead and post the paper here since I really do feel that it sums up a lot of what I learned on this trip. Hopefully you will enjoy it. It's hard to say exactly how much this trip has impacted my life because I am sure that even later in life I will still be learning lessons from it.

Biblical and Theological Foundation of Christian Servant Leadership

Union precedes kenosis. This particular concept has been on my mind since first hearing about it and since coming home from India. In fact, I think the key to servant leadership is wrapped up in this teaching. “If God is a communion of inseparably related persons, for us to exist as persons in ministry we must be in communion-in relationship-too.”[1] Before I can begin to think about being in the right mind set to act as a servant leader, I must learn to kindle my relationship with the Triune God. Jesus is the ultimate example of this process. John tells us that “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”[2] From the very beginning of all things, Christ has been in constant union with the Father and the Spirit. The circular motion of cyclical giving and receiving provides the foundation or the backdrop for Christian ministry.

Christ’s relationships with the Father and the Spirit preceded his kenosis, or self giving love which is found in the story of His incarnation, death and resurrection. Philippians 2:5-8 states,

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death on the cross.”

Paul admonishes me to put on the mind of Christ. This can only be done if my life is grounded in constant relationship with Christ. How am I to have the mind of Christ if I am not in daily communion with Him? To believe that I can have a servant’s heart without knowing the servant of all servants would be utterly foolish.

It is true that the “trinitarian circle where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit indwell and are indwelt by one another is open, not closed.”[3] Continuing to use the model of the Trinity for ministry leads me to believe that not only should my personal life be indwelt by Christ, but I should dwell and be indwelt by my fellow believers or even those who I am attempting to serve. By this I mean that I need to humbly ask Christ to give me the ability to let down my personal defenses. Put another way, I need to live my life as an open book. As a human being I have a tendency to put up barriers which stifles and snuffs out relationships. Through prayer and communion I believe these barriers can be consumed by the love of God so that healthy, fruitful relationships will be born. Now, if these human relationships are truly Trinitarian in nature then they will also be bathed in a natural outflow of giving and receiving. Selfish tendencies will be put on hold and selflessness will be the rule of the day every day.

This is not to say that I, as a minister, am called to give free reign or control of my life to those I am ministering to. The Father, Son and Spirit should always possess the controls of my life. Again, Christ proves to be the righteous example of this. The Gospels are full of instances where Christ is seen retreating from the crowds so that He could be filled and renewed by intimate fellowship with His Father in Heaven. If He had allowed the crowds, or even the Disciples, to dictate His schedule then they would have run Him ragged. This may be a stretch, but even He might not have had energy enough to fully function with a true servant’s heart. I too must learn the discipline of retreat. Retreating from dire situations gives a chance for much needed reflection. This reflection and meditation helps to renew both the body and spirit. It also allows for a freshness and renewed vigor to be pumped into the life of the work being done. Without retreat there is always the constant threat of an overwhelming feeling of despair, loneliness, depression and finally utter defeat. I pray that God gives me the foresight to know when it is time to take a retreat on a daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly basis.

Lastly, servant leadership shows a genuine care and concern for the other. I must find a way to recognize my own faults and failures and not blame them on others.[4] Recognizing my faults and failures and attributing them to me allows me to humanize the other. By humanizing the other I can then begin to form an intimate relationship with them. Forming an intimate relationship frees me to genuinely care for their needs and concerns. It frees me to serve without expecting compensation and this freedom gives me the willingness to “put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” so that I can bear “with one another” and forgive “one another.”[5] Above all, I can begin to love with the pure love of Christ.

[1] Seamands, Stephen. Ministry in the Image of God: the Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity P, 2005.

[2] Radmacher, Earl D. The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version. United States: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1997. Philippians 2:5-8

[3] Seamonds, pg. 145

[4] Arbinger, Institute. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box. San Francisco: Berret-Koehler, Inc., 2000. 91.

[5] NKJV, Colossians 3:12, 13 pg. 2016

Thank you Adam, for sharing your heart. Love you, mom
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