John 13: 1-4 (MsgB)
Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the Father. Having loved His dear companions, He continued to love them right to the end. It was suppertime. The Devil by now had Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, firmly in his grip, all set for the betrayal. Jesus knew that the Father had put Him in complete charge of everything, that He came from God and was on His way back to God. So He got up from the supper table, set aside His robe, and put on an apron.
This blog series you are currently reading (Follow The Leader) began as a personal pursuit of the New Testament model for leadership. If you recall from my earlier series (To Lead or Not To Lead?) I’m going through a major transition in my pastoral ministry. After years of pursuing the 3-B’s; 1) bigger Buildings, 2) more Bucks in the offering buckets; and 3) increased numbers of Butts in the seats; I’ve decided to get off that roller coaster and become a ‘contemplative pastor’ instead. Eugene Peterson, author of The Message Bible, talks about this holy pursuit in his book by the same name. You can see my blog series on that subject (The Contemplative Pastor), if you’re interested.
As I see it, the contemplative pastor is one who chooses to wait on God before moving haphazardly into ministry situations. The contemplative pastor is one motivated by the love (agape) of God and not by the 3-B Syndrome found so often in the Americanized church. Success for the contemplative pastor is defined, not by a drive to make our churches bigger and more prominent, but by the hungering desire to simply care for souls.
In my blog series To Lead or Not To Lead?, I discussed the unfortunate way we 21st century clergy have re-defined ‘leadership’ by using corporate business models while giving only lip-service to important New Testament words like pastor, shepherd, servant, etc.
Today, we arrive at John 13. The washing of the disciples’ feet. Here, Jesus makes His supreme statement on leadership models in the Church that will bear His name. Over the next three sessions, we’ll unpack this text, with the hope of restoring Jesus’ vision to our roles in public ministry.
Jesus’ first point?
New Testament-based leadership is all about taking off your robe and putting on an apron.
Here on the evening of Passover 33 AD, we find Jesus of Nazareth on the doorstep of what will be His most difficult hours of His thirty-three years of life on this planet. He is about to be betrayed by one of His close associates, His other friends are within 24 hours of deserting Him, and He is about to face the most cruel and in-human punishment known to man.
Any of us in leadership, if faced with the same set of circumstances that Jesus is facing, would most likely be curled up on the floor of life, focused exclusively and inwardly on our own selfish interests and thoughts.
Here we find our Supreme Leader, doing just the opposite. He takes off His robes of authority, forgets about Himself and His own problems, and puts on an apron, readying Himself to serve those around Him who will be facing their own inner-monsters over the next 72 hours.
True biblical leadership, you see, is not about elevating self and promoting our agendas. It’s not about pursuing the 3-B’s where BUILDINGS, BUCKS, and BUTTS in the seats rule the day. It’s not even about positioning ourselves to a place of authority so we can do some exciting things for Jesus and His Kingdom.
It’s all about servant-hood. It’s all about taking off my robes of self-centeredness and putting on an apron. Anybody care to join me?
My prayer: Lord, I’m so sorry that I’ve made church leadership into a competition for success. In truth, serving You simply means putting on an apron and humbly working behind the scenes, caring for people’s souls. Allow me, Lord, to follow Your prime example. Spirit, flow through me as I simply put on my apron today, going forward to minister in Your agape love, in Your Name. And for Your name’s sake.
My questions to ponder: How have I made ministry for Jesus more complicated than simply taking off my robe, putting on an apron, and going out, in His Name, to love ‘the hell’ out of others? What can I do to simplify the ministry I’m currently serving in? How can I consciously remove my pursuit of the 3-B Syndrome, while seeking first and foremost, the Kingdom of God?
So what is God speaking to you today? Are you practicing the Kingdom presence of God?