Discipleship Is an Investment—It's Not a Program



Making disciples is embedded in the Great Commission (Matt 28:19). It’s not a suggestion, it’s a command from Jesus.

But how does someone make disciples? The simple, perhaps the obvious answer, is to follow the example of Jesus. But what was the model He left for us to follow?

Plenty of books can be found on the subject. The time-tested classic is The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman but there are other solid options available today. Various curriculums for establishing a program for discipleship are also plentiful.

But Jesus’ approach was very simple and He didn’t give His first followers a guidebook for making disciples His way. The approach of Jesus was intentional and very personal, and He expected His disciples to make other disciples—I will make you fishers of men (Matt 4:19).

Jesus poured His life into the lives of His followers for about three years and this is what we see replicated in the Book of Acts through the first apostles. The apostle Paul extended this model as expressed in his exhortation to Timothy—

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Tim 2:1-2)

Jesus knew if He discipled people to be disciplemakers, leaders would emerge through the process of discipleship. This was His plan through the guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13-15; Acts 1:2).

Jesus was intentional and very personal and expected His disciples to make other disciples

Podcasts on discipleship and developing leaders

Pastor Bill Holdridge has recorded several podcasts related to discipleship and developing leaders. The most recent one was with a brother who discipled and mentored Bill—Pastor Cliff Stabler. It’s excellent and is a great example of the model Jesus left us, as Bill’s testimony makes clear.

The next one I’d recommend is a podcast with Pastor Paul Berry on raising up biblical elders. Again, it is excellent and something I would have benefited from when I started in my first pastorate.

The next two podcasts are with me (Trip) and complement the other two podcasts. The last two podcasts—but definitely not the least—are with Pastor Bob Claycamp on identifying future leaders and complement the podcast with Ptr Paul Berry.

We hope these are an encouragement and practical help for you. Give them a listen and let us know how they bless you! (See the links below!)


What We Can Do to Reconnect Young People to Church

Photo by  Devin Avery  on  Unsplash

Photo by Devin Avery on Unsplash

Many Christian leaders are concerned about younger generations and their faith or lack thereof and for good reason. A bunch of research backs up this concern. Here are just a few reports—

Are we losing younger generations from church and the Christian faith? Yes, and we need to learn new ways to reconnect with young people.

The Calvary Chapel movement of churches was part of the Jesus People Movement of ‘60s and ‘70s. A major part of that movement were young people who were disenchanted with church, politics, and religion.

Just as then, the established church didn’t know how to reach many of us who were spiritual wanderers in those days. But God did and used many people from established churches who were willing to reach them in new ways.

In the two podcasts linked below, Pastor Bill interviews Pastor Bryan Newberry on what we as pastors can do to reach and reconnect with young people.

I’ve seen Pastor Bryan in action and have seen the fruit of his ministry, so check out these podcasts for his insights.


Excellence in Ministry Begins with Us

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I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts on my drives to and from ministry assignments with Poimen Ministries. I’m sure I’m a bit biased but the content of our podcasts is excellent.

What is shared in these interviews are topics and insights I wish I’d had the benefit of hearing when starting out in ministry, especially the pastorate.

I mentioned a while back—too long ago I’m embarrassed to say—I’d be writing some blog posts featuring the topics covered in our podcasts. If you didn’t see that post, here’s a link to it— A Pastor Is More Than a Teacher

I may jump around a bit on the topics but wanted to start off with our first 3 podcasts on Excellence in Ministry with Pastor Al James.

3 Interviews with Pastor Al James

Pastor Al is more than a friend and team member of Poimen to me—he’s been a coach and mentor, especially in the area of pastoral transition. I reached out and relied on his counsel many times as I led my first official pastoral transition with Poimen.

I encourage you to listen to these podcasts in their sequence but whatever the order, I encourage you to listen and take in the excellent encouragements and insights Al shares with Pastor Bill in these podcasts.

I’ll include the titles and links below.

Happy listening and be blessed!

A Pastor is More than a Teacher

Photo by  Ben White  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

There’s more to being a pastor than teaching. Every pastor knows this. As pastors, we may know this at one level but what we know and how we handle our responsibilities are two different things.

And for good reason.

A senior/lead pastor needs to be somewhat like a Swiss Army knife.

You know those knives with all those extra gadget extensions like screw drivers, can openers, toothpicks, tweezers, and more with those bigger versions? Oh yeah, and a few different knife blades.

I remember seeing a magazine ad of someone who built a house with nothing but a Swiss Army knife. I remember thinking—why would you want to do that?

Sometimes, like on a Sunday afternoon or Monday morning, I can remember wondering something similar…Why do I do this? Am I really cut out for this? Am I really making a difference in people’s lives?

The average churchgoer doesn’t have a clear sense of all that a pastor does. Even those who are regular attendees and involved in some area of serving don’t really know or understand a pastor’s responsibilities.

I also know church staff members, including assistant pastors, don’t realize the pastor’s continuing responsibilities and workload, especially in smaller churches.

The work of a pastor

As I’ve shared with many church leaders and staff over the years, no one knows the weight of responsibility a senior/lead pastor bears on their shoulders than another senior/lead pastor.

It’s like parenthood. You can have many years of experience and a PhD in children’s education and development but it will never be the same as the reality of being a parent.

When our family was younger and I was pastoring the church we planted in Southern California, Susan and I were foster parents. It was a great experience for us and our family. Yeah, it was tough at times to keep all the plates spinning but it was good.

It was also a valuable time of preparation for what the Lord led us to do in the Philippines for almost 25 years.

Foster parenting was also a lot like pastoring.

Since I did both I could see some parallels. The biggest takeaway was the sense of responsibility we carried with the limited to nonexistent authority.

People only respect authority to a point and that point is different with everyone. Plus, certain limitations are imposed by law—civil and moral, as they should be.

So, why do I say there’s more to pastoring than teaching? Because it is easy to retreat to the study desk to work on messages when faced with the continuous demand of pastoral care and leadership.

For one thing, studying and preparing for messages seems a lot more spiritual and worth our time investment than dealing with all the responsibilities of a pastor, especially the mundane things.

Responsibilities like resolving conflicts, cleaning the sanctuary and setting up chairs, or listening to people tell you what they think you should do, teach on, care about, or how you should let them be in charge of some ministry.

Yeah, I’d rather study God’s Word, thank you!


When I first sat down to write this, I had several things in mind about pastoral leadership beyond teaching ministry and the preparation needed for it. Things like administration, counseling, discipleship, equipping leaders, facilities, pastoral care, and so much more.

But that would be one long blogpost! So, I came up with another option.

Our vision statement at Poimen Ministries is—Strengthening pastors, to strengthen churches. Our goal is to strengthen pastors in ways we were strengthened by other pastors or in ways we wished we could have been strengthened to do the work God gave us.

Of course, we relied on God’s grace and guidance while pastoring but there were many things we learned the hard way. We want to shorten the learning curve of seeing new or different ways to lead God’s people.

We want to be a set of fresh eyes for fellow pastors. We believe we have an obligation to share what’s been poured into us by the Lord and other experienced pastors.

Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to come alongside a couple of pastors in tangible ways. This required me to do some commuting on weekends, which gave me the opportunity to listen to podcasts.

I mentioned this on my personal blog but this past couple of weekends I’ve listened to some of the great podcast content our director Pastor Bill Holdridge has recorded through interviews of other pastors.

In the next few blogposts, I’ll be highlighting some of the specific content of these podcasts and adding some further encouragements.

Until then…

How can we help you?

What are areas of pastoral ministry and leadership you’d like to know more about? Are there specific resources that would be helpful to you as a pastor?

We’d like to know! We want to strengthen pastors—that’s our calling.

So, let us know how we might be able to encourage or help you! Drop us an email or call us, or fill out our contact form online.



Click on the link– How we serve to see what we currently offer through our team of pastors

And check out our growing list of fresh podcasts hosted by Pastor Bill Holdridge– Strength for Today’s Pastor

3 Approaches to Cultural Shifts

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Culture’s fixed point—human nature

Culture is dynamic. Fluid. Fickle. Culture changes over time. Sometimes with extreme pendular swings. Popular culture is reflective of shared beliefs, values, and social norms.

Each swing of culture has its own trends like currents within an ocean or sea. These trends are movements within the larger cultural context.

People tend to respond in one of three general ways to pendular swings in culture — to reject, embrace, or engage each swing. Only one of these approaches is effective in bringing helpful change or productive dialogue.

These pendular swings have one fixed point — human nature.

Though these swings may be wide or wild extremes, it all pivots on self — our basic nature. Not our identity but our being — our innate essence which centers around self-preservation.

Cultural swings have one fixed point — human nature

On the surface, self-preservation makes sense. It’s expected. Natural. But when the self is corrupt or fragmented it’s not so good. At its basest level, self-preservation and self-preference are bound to be in conflict with others.

These conflicts disrupt whatever might be shared culturally and result in culture clashes.

These culture clashes are more noticeable in the cross-cultural situations global missionaries experience but also happen between and within sub-cultures — the smaller currents within the larger context.

Photo by  Joshua Earle  on  Unsplash

Rejection of Cultural Shifts

This is the preferred approach of those who oppose a culture shift, especially when it impacts them personally. It’s not just resistance but rejection — an unwillingness to accept or consider a cultural change.

It’s a defense of what was — an attempt to turn back the tide of change.

On the surface — to those who are opposing the change — it seems gallant and right. It takes on a sense of righteousness. And indeed, it may very well be a righteous stance.

Rejection of cultural shifts is an attempt to turn back the tide

It’s not hard to find exceptional examples of resistance to evil. The prophet Daniel and his three cohorts — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego — refused to worship anyone else but their God — the Most-High God — the Living God(Dan 3:12–18, 26; 6:10–23, 26).

Their stand would cost them their lives but God intervened.

Lessons from history

But taking a righteous stand against evil requires a willingness to die for righteousness sake. And God doesn’t always intervene.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a modern day example of this. He was a Lutheran pastor and theologian who stood up to Nazism and paid for it with his life. His testimony is enlightening and relevant to resisting and rejecting an evil cultural and political trend.

Not all resistance and rejection of cultural change is so righteous or wise. The Jesus People Movement and the Charismatic Renewal of the mid-’60s and early 70’s — parallel moves of God’s Spirit in America — was resisted and condemned by the established churches of that time.

The resistance proved foolish and fruitless. It reminds me of what Gamaliel, the famous Jewish rabbi, warned Jewish leaders about contending with the followers of Jesus —

…if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it — lest you even be found to fight against God (Ac 5:39)

This serves as a lesson to consider when attempting to resist and reject present cultural trends.

Bonhoeffer’s resistance — as with others like him in the German Confessing Church — did not stem the tide of the evil wave of Nazism. Only a world war overcame it. And yet, the Nazi mindset and influence lives on.

The Jesus Movement and Charismatic Renewal did prevail and reshape the practice of Christianity during the cultural upheaval of the Sixties and Seventies.

It impacted American culture in a powerful way but sadly, this influence faded. What was once a powerful cultural influence morphed into the present common approach to culture.

Photo by  Joshua Earle  on  Unsplash

Embracing Cultural Shifts

The flip side of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the German Confessing Church’s resistance to Nazism is the German Christian movement. This movement was composed of fanatic Nazi Protestants — a politicized church movement devoid of the Spirit of God.

This movement embraced the political-cultural wave of Hitler’s Nazi regime. They reshaped theology to buttress their nationalistic beliefs and distorted the gospel and their portrayal of Christ into their own racist image.

Another spiritual movement in America during the Seventies and spilling into the Eighties was a hybrid smorgasbord of eastern religions and amenable philosophies.

This broad spiritual spectrum of quasi-religious groups became known as the New Age movement — a full embrace of the countercultural social revolution of the Sixties.

It epitomized what became known as the Me Generation of the Seventies.

A personal shift

Towards the end of 1969, I began to move out of my wanderings through what the emerging New Age offered in pursuit of Jesus. I became one of many in the Jesus People Movement of the Sixties and Seventies.

My wife and I — each on our own journey — came into a personal relationship with the Lord as we pursued our own relationship. I remember the day we married for a lot of reasons but especially since it marked my own departure from a time of darkness and wandering into the light of God’s kingdom (Col 1:13).

As the Seventies progressed, the difference between embracing and engaging culture became evident. The Me Generation fully embraced and typified the main attraction of the New Age movement — a mystical pursuit of self.

the New Age movement — a mystical pursuit of self

It’s ripple effect built to the current cultural wave — the I-Generation — young Gen-Xers, Millennials, and Gen-Z’s. Some may see it as the idealized-self but the idolized-self seems more apropos.

In too many ways, evangelical Christianity in America tends towards opposing or embracing the current cultural wave. Both approaches fail to have their intended effect.

Fighting culture wars is a losing battle and the if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them approach is futile and foolish. Does this seem too harsh of a judgment?

Consider this. Mere opposition and rejection of the cultural wave builds a wall neither side can or is willing to climb. Pursuing this approach results in the inability — perhaps unwillingness — to reach out to younger generations.

When well-intentioned Christians embrace the cultural flow of expressive individualism — the I-Generation — they stop being light and salt to the world (Matt 5:13–15).

Instead of influencing the culture for good, they get swallowed up with the cultural tide. This leads to a shallow, compromised, pseudo-Christian faith.

Engaging People within Cultural Shifts

Engaging people within the culture means we neither fight nor embrace the culture itself. The key is engaging people. Remember, culture is dynamic — it will change over time. It’s conceptual or theoretical.

People are people — our basic nature doesn’t change from generation to generation. Internal change only takes place when a person’s basic nature — their soul — is transformed with new life.

This is what Jesus referred to as new birth (John 3:3–8) — something God brings about by His Spirit touching our spirit — our nature. The Lord produces this spiritual transformation in us as we personally trust in Him and surrender our lives to Him.

Jesus the great engager

Jesus was a master at engaging people within their culture — whether they approached Him as friend or foe. He related to people without typical cultural filters. Even His primary followers had different backgrounds and livelihoods.

A classic example is Jesus engaging a woman of questionable character at Jacob’s well near Sychar in the region of Samaria. It was unexpected and culturally inappropriate for a Jewish man to engage a Samaritan woman in conversation.

Consider His disciples’ reaction as they return from a shopping excursion and find Jesus talking with this woman —

At that time his disciples returned. They were surprised that he was talking to a woman. But none of them asked him, “What do you want from her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” (John 4:27 GW)

As the story continues — and it’s a great story — Jesus uses this opportunity to train His disciples to follow His lead. He wanted them to see how and why He engaged people of different ethnicities and cultures (John 4:31–42).

When confronted by Jewish leaders about an adulteress caught in the act, which required stoning her according to Jewish Law—Jesus used the situation as an opportunity to display His discernment and wisdom (John 8:1–11).

Somehow Jesus convinces these leaders of their unworthiness to judge this woman —

When they persisted in asking him questions, he straightened up and said, “The person who is sinless should be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he bent down again and continued writing on the ground.

One by one, beginning with the older men, the experts in Moses’ Teachings and Pharisees left. Jesus was left alone with the woman. (John 4:7–9 GW)

He doesn’t excuse or overlook the woman’s sin while showing her great mercy.

Then Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Where did they go? Has anyone condemned you?” The woman answered, “No one, sir.” Jesus said, “I don’t condemn you either. Go! From now on don’t sin.” (John 4:10–11 GW)

We also see how wisely and graciously Jesus engages people in His encounter with a rich young ruler. Jesus listens to him first and allows the young man to declare his moral goodness (Mark 10:17–27).

When Jesus tells the young man something difficult to accept, He shows compassion for the young man —

Jesus looked at him and loved him. He told him, “You’re still missing one thing. Sell everything you have. Give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then follow me!” (Mark 10:21 GW)

Examples abound of Jesus engaging a variety of people in unexpected ways throughout the Gospels. He shows us how we can engage people in gracious and respectful ways.

Photo by  Jake Ingle  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jake Ingle on Unsplash

Reaching younger generations within a cultural shift

If the Evangelical church wants to reach younger generations with the gospel, it needs to engage younger people in dialogue, develop genuine relationships with them, and do this with respect and love — just as Jesus did.

Years ago, a friend of mine — a well-known career missionary — shared a message at a missions conference on the importance of dialoguing when sharing the gospel.

He used the example of Jesus as a young man in the Temple (Luke 2:41–49). My friend pointed out three things — Jesus sat among the teachers, He listenedto them, and asked questions.

If you or I want to engage people, we need to spend time with them, listening, asking and answering questions, and do so with humility.

A message to boomers

I’m a holdover from the Jesus People movement and a baby boomer — so I say this as a boomer to boomers — we need to do more listening than talking. We don’t know everything.

Even when we think we do, we need to follow the example and lead of Jesus — in the Temple, with the Samaritan woman, with the adulteress and her accusers, and the rich young ruler.

I believe dialogue was an important element of the fruitfulness and influence of the Jesus Movement. It was for me.

I remember many conversations with people who were patient and gracious with all of my questions. They helped me move past less fruitful conversations.

But I also remember when I was approached with prepared, one-way presentations of the gospel. When I realized these people weren’t interested in engaging me personally, it turned me off.

And then there was the time I was thrown out of a church because of my challenging questions. Needless to say, this hindered my acceptance of the gospel.

A monologue approach coming across as self-righteous or self-important didn’t work then and won’t be effective now. Personal engagement and humility are far more effective.

Personal engagement with humility is a simple yet effective way to approach cultural shifts

Leadership Transition—Jesus Style


Here are 5 ways a true servant-leader begins and completes leadership transition. These are qualities and roles of leadership seen in Jesus, as He washes the disciples feet the night before His death on the cross (John 13:1-17).

We see how His example of confident yet humble leadership—servant leadership—prepares and makes the way for leadership transition. This is a follow up to a 2-part post on 8 Qualities of Servant Leadership—Part 1 / Part 2.

Some of these things I learned along the way in my own experiences with ministry transition but they became more clear when I stumbled upon them here in John 13. I’m sure more can be gleaned from Chapters 13 through 17 of John but this is a good start.

5 Ways of leadership transition—Jesus Style

Know the Way (verses 1, 3)

The Lord was confident in who He was as God’s Son. He knew where He came from and where He was going. He knew the way His disciples needed to go as leaders and He showed this by loving them to the very end in the fullest way.

Our confidence is not to be in ourselves nor our abilities, but in the Lord and who we are in Him. Every leader within God’s kingdom needs to be confident in their identity as a child of God. If we’re not, why should anyone put their confidence in our leadership?

Knowing the way is basic for us. The first step is to deny ourselves—our selfish nature—die to our self, and follow Jesus (Mt 16:24). It’s a way of faith guided by the Holy Spirit. The people we lead need to be confident that we know the way.

Walk the Way (verses 4-5)

By far, the most common and important element of true servant-leadership is being a living example. This is the picture we have of Jesus as He washes the disciples’ feet. Everything Jesus did was a model for all those who follow Him.

He showed them how to lead by how He walked through daily life—the way Jesus carried Himself in various situations and public settings, and how He interacted with people other than His followers.

We also see the impact of Jesus’ life example as a young man among leaders in the temple (Luke 2:46-47)—an essential element of His leadership even in His youth.

This example of walking the way was carried on by leaders such as Paul and Peter to those whom they led and mentored. This is central to God’s design for leadership.

Show the Way (verses 6-13)

Showing the way is simply an extension of walking the way but moves beyond example to help others see or know the way. How? By teaching and training in a relational and interactive manner.

Here in John 13, we see this of Jesus in His dialogue with Peter and then His instruction to all the disciples. This is not classroom or pulpit teaching but a relational discipleship process. We see Jesus do this often throughout the gospels.

In the early days of the Jesus Movement, this type of discipleship was common. It’s not today. It requires time and commitment because it’s intentional and relational. I believe this lack of interactive discipleship has weakened the church.

It’s resisted or avoided in many ways because of the distractions and insistent demand for people’s attention in our culture. Healthy leadership transition requires interactive leadership that shows the way.

Make a way (verses 14-15)

An important part of leadership is training up new leaders. Again, it is not a program but an intentional and relational process of discipleship. Discipleship done well naturally produces leaders.

The responsibility of leaders and mentors is making way for others to step up and into leadership roles. It may require creating opportunities for others to move forward in leadership or allow for innovation and creativity beyond existing leadership roles.

This requires a willingness to look beyond ourselves as leaders. Jesus had this vision from the beginning. It was always in mind in everything He said and did. Jesus knew His time on earth was short and that raising up leaders for the new church was essential.

Regardless of our leadership role we are responsible to raise others up who can take our place. Pastors don’t always have this in mind but they ought to because of unforeseen situations and knowing when to step away in later life-stages.

Step away (verses 16-17)

One of the more difficult roles of leadership is knowing when it’s time to move on or get out of the way. It’ s usually a matter of timing—the Lord’s timing not ours. For pastors, this timing can be difficult to know but it’s important to prayerfully consider it.

How a leader steps away is also important. If it’s done too quickly, it’s likely to fail. If it’s done awkwardly or too slowly, it’s difficult on everyone involved. Planning on a transition—choosing to step away—may not be something we want to do, but it’s wise.

Again, we look to Jesus as our prime example, but other examples are Barnabas and Paul. Barnabas knew Saul (Paul) was gifted by God and called for the work in Antioch and beyond. Paul gave detailed exhortations and encouragements to both Timothy and Titus for handling and leading ministry transitions.

Stepping away requires self-denial on the leader’s part who steps away. The timing is difficult for those of us who are church-planters and founders of ministries. It’s a lot like letting go of our young adult children as they grow into their own lives.

5 Ways to transition leadership summarized—

So, for a healthy ministry transition—whether pastoral or ministries within or beyond the church—here are 5 ways Jesus demonstrated His transition of leadership.

  • Those we lead and mentor need to be confident we know the way.

  • Those who follow us need to see how we’ve walked the way if we expect them to lead as we do.

  • We need to provide an interactive and living example that shows the way for others under our leadership.

  • We need to look for and create opportunities for others to step into leadership as we make way for others to lead.

  • We need to be attentive to when and how to step away from our role as a leader or pastor.

If you’d like more information or guidance on pastoral transitions, please let us know. It’s what we do at Poimen Ministries!

8 Characteristics of A Servant Leader–part 2


In a previous post, we looked at three characteristics of servant leadership as seen in the example of Jesus in the first five verses of John 13. This post is a follow-up that covers five more characteristics of servant leadership. These are drawn from John 13:6-17.

If you want a refresher on the first three characteristics of servant leadership, click on this link— 8 Characteristics of Servant Leadership.

4– Authority with Purpose (verses 6-9)

Authority is one of the most misunderstood and abused elements of leading others, regardless of circumstance—work, home, church, business, even within the military.

Webster’s definition—speaks of—power to influence or command—but also—freedom granted by one in authority.

When it comes to the role of authority as a servant leader within the Kingdom of God, Jesus is our prime example.

He received His authority from His Father. Those of us called to be leaders within God’s kingdom receive our authority from Jesus and Him alone. Not a government, nor a board, nor any ecclesiastical (church) authority.

Authority—as seen in the life and ministry of Jesus—is both a responsibility and a privilege.

It is a privilege extended to us by the Lord for His purposes and it carries a double responsibility. We are directly responsible to the Lord whenever exercising any authority within His kingdom, which includes any and all local churches. We are responsible for those Jesus gives us charge over.

Abuse of authority happens when a leader loses sight of this double-sided responsibility.

This is what we see of Jesus through His example in washing the disciples’ feet. Sometimes our authority over others needs to be set aside, just as we see Jesus setting aside His outer clothing to strip down to the level of a servant (verse 4).

At times, the Lord’s authority must be exercised for a purpose beyond the immediate situation. This is seen in Jesus’ dialog with Peter in verses 6-9. Jesus was washing the disciples' feet as an example but Peter didn’t understand this. So, Jesus exercised His authority as Messiah to make it clear Peter needed to allow Jesus to wash his feet.

Whatever authority the Lord extends to anyone is a gift because it has value and purpose beyond the person who bears it. It’s not ours to wield in whatever way we want. Its purpose is to bless and strengthen others. Authority in the role as a servant leader is not a position held or a role to play but leadership that guides others with a gentle strength.

Authority given by our Lord Jesus is both a responsibility and a privilege

5– Discernment and Restraint (verses 10-11)

When the Holy Spirit reveals things to us about others, we don’t have to reveal it to them. We need to use discretion. Discernment is too often lacking or neglected by many leaders, as well as learning to wait on the Lord. Patience isn’t just a virtue it’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us as believers (Gal 5:22).

In other words, discretion on our part as leaders means we need to exercise restraint. We don’t need to confront, defend, or warn someone unless the Holy Spirit directs us to do that after prayer and intercession. Otherwise, we may interfere with what the Lord wants to do in someone’s life.

Have you ever wondered why the Lord didn’t warn Judas about betraying Him and the consequences that would follow? In my younger years, I would have jumped into action. Actually, I did too often. I needed to learn the hard lesson that I don’t always know all there is to know (Pro 18:17).

So, why didn’t Jesus warn Judas? It was more than fulfillment of prophecy (John 13:18). Jesus knew the nature and character of His disciples. He knew Judas would betray Him sooner or later.

Discernment and restraint are essential for good leadership

6– Instruction by Example (verses 12-13)

Teaching is not all there is to instruction. Instruction must go beyond words. People need to see the truth illustrated by our leadership. Our life example is always louder than any preaching we do.

This is the basic responsibility of leadership and always has been. Instruction by example is the point of this short story only found in John’s gospel. It’s an unmistakable illustration of servant leadership.

When Jesus stripped down to the role of a servant, He knew it would not be understood (vss 4-5, 7).

When He finishes washing all the feet of the disciples, Jesus returns to the formal role of teacher and asks them, “Do you understand what I have done…?” He then reminds them who they say He is and confirms it. Was the lesson learned and passed on?

Peter, a recipient of Jesus’ physical example of servant leadership, makes it clear in his teaching to fellow leaders that we are to be examples to the people of God (1 Pet 5:1-4). In both of Paul’s epistles to Timothy and Titus, Paul puts great emphasis on the importance of life example.

Do we really understand what Jesus demonstrated by washing the disciples’ feet? Or has it only become an illustration or turned into a ceremony? Our responsibility is to give clear, simple instruction that people understand and visibly see at work in our lives.

Do we really understand what Jesus taught by His example of servant leadership?

7– Exhortation by Example (verses 14-15)

A well-known, obvious, and important element of good leaders—servant leaders—is to lead by example. This means we are to be a model of what is expected of those who follow our lead. On one hand, this is obvious. But as obvious as it may seem, it doesn’t always register with those we lead.

I remember one Sunday checking on the set up for a morning service—checking the thermostat, straightening chairs—with a young believer tagging along with a myriad of questions.

At one point he grabbed my arm and said, “Pastor, I’m trying to discuss important spiritual things with you!” I turned and responded, “Maybe if you help me with the set up I’ll have more time to talk.” But sadly, he walked away in frustration.

Jesus knew the disciples often discussed who was the most important among themselves and He knew His time with them was short. So, when Jesus finished washing the disciples' feet, He again took on His role as Rabbi-Teacher and told them what He expected of them.

It’s okay to have reasonable expectations of those we lead. Actually, it’s our responsibility as leaders.

People have expectations of their leaders, as they should. They expect us to lead! But we need to show them what we expect, then remind them of what we expect and make it clear how to do so. This is especially true when delegating responsibility and tasks, but also in any form of discipleship.

The apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).

Servant leaders need to be able to confidently say, “Do as I do. Follow my example, as I follow Jesus.” This echoes what Jesus said to the disciples as He sat down to instruct and explain to them why He washed their feet.

Can you confidently say—"Do as I do”—Follow my example as I follow Jesus?

8– Exhortation to Action (verses 16-17)

Most people do not want the responsibility of leadership. They are, as Jesus saw them, “sheep without a shepherd.” They need leadership and the obvious responsibility of leaders is to lead.

Just as Jesus does with the disciples in this story, we need to challenge people to put truth into action. This is not optional.

Yet, too often people are exhorted to make application of truth without understanding why. So, we as leaders need to follow the Lord’s example of explaining why a certain truth needs to be applied in life.

We cannot expect people to have integrity in their daily lives if they don’t have integrity in their spiritual life. Likewise, they need their leaders’ lives to exhibit what we expect of them. They need to see how our life matches what we teach and preach when we exhort them to follow our example.

It’s great to have biblical knowledge and a spiritual mindset and heart, but if it doesn’t translate into real life then it’s suspect. Real discipleship should result in actions that bring a changed life.

This is underscored by the Lord here in John 13 and also at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 7:24-27). Apostles John and James (the Lord’s brother) also confirm this (1 John 3:18; Jam 1:22). Whatever truth we hold to internally needs to be translated into action externally.

Leaders need to challenge God’s people to put the truth into life action as they follow our example

8 Characteristics of a Servant Leader


In a previous post, I shared the story of Jesus washing the disciples feet as an example of servant leadership. As mentioned in that post, the idea of servant leadership has become more popular wherever leadership is discussed. However, transferring talk into action is always a challenge.

Knowing why we need to be servant leaders is answered by Jesus in John 13:12-17. But knowing how to do it—how to actually be a servant leader—is not always clear.

First of all, for pastors and leaders in churches it is fitting for us to be servant leaders because that’s how we see Jesus lead. This is reflected in what Jesus says about Himself and for His followers in Mark 10:43-45—

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

It is also the very nature of Jesus—

… and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart. (Matt 11:29)

But what if you aren’t a pastor or leader, at least not in a recognized sense?

All believers are leaders in some way in various roles in life. Wherever we have influence in people’s lives—whether among family or friends or at work—as believers, we are called to be examples and this is an important qualification for any leader.

Even within the church, whether we are recognized by others as people having influence, we are called to fulfill God’s purpose for our life within His church body (Eph 4:15-16).

Here are the first 3 of 8 characteristics of a servant leader, as seen in the leadership of Jesus in John 13:1-17.

1– Motivated by love (verse 1)

This is always our first priority. We are to be compelled by love to serve others with our leadership—not ambition, nor obligation.

We need to see people as Jesus saw them and love them as Jesus loved them. Jesus had compassion on people as “sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). Jesus was compelled by His love for the Father. It was always His number one priority. But is it ours?

When Jesus “knew His hour had come,” it says Jesus already had loved His own and would now show them the fullness of His love. Who does this include? Those who seek and follow Him near and far, then and now, even those who've ignored Him and His love.

It says He “loved them to the end.” This is expressed in the well-known declaration found in John 3:16.

His all-important mission—the purpose of Jesus being sent to earth by the Father—would be completed through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.

Are we as leaders compelled by the love we have for Jesus to serve as He served?

2– Humility based on confidence (verses 2-3)

If our confidence is based on anything else than our personal relationship with the Lord, it is a feeble confidence—empty of any spiritual authority. In fact, we need to be emptied of any confidence in ourselves so we become confident in Him alone.

Jesus had nothing to prove and nothing to lose. Jesus knew who He was, where He had come from, and why He came from heaven. Jesus willingly stripped Himself of His glory to fulfill His Father’s will.

His relationship with His Father, His mission, and His nature as a Son were His base of confidence—not His position as Messiah.

Godly confidence is relational. It can’t be gained by any other means—education, hard work, recognition, nor anything else—and no one but the Lord can confer it upon us.

Godly confidence is relational

John’s narrative in the first three verses are given as a backdrop to illustrate this simple lesson in servant leadership.

Because Jesus was the Son of God—His confidence based in His relationship with the Father—had freedom to stoop down as a servant to wash the disciples’ feet. It was intentional and relational.

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example… (John 13:14-15)

As leaders, our motivation for serving is love and our confidence to serve needs to be based on our relationship with the Lord.

3– Denial of self and giving ourselves to God first (verses 4-5)

The picture of Jesus stripping down to the role of a common servant, then stooping down to wash the disciples’ feet is an extraordinary display of servant leadership. It gives us a mental picture of the Son of God transformed into the servant of God (Phil 2:5-8).

It’s important to remember that in serving others we are not their servants but servants of God. This is the example of Jesus in John 13.

Jesus was denying Himself in this lowly act of service after submitting Himself to His Father’s will. This is something Jesus told the disciples often (John 4:34; 5:30) and later demonstrated in the Garden of Gethsemane in prayer (Matt 26:36-45).

If we claim to be followers of Jesus and leaders of His people, we need to keep in mind the most basic call of following Jesus as found in Matthew 16:24—

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

This is a basic foundation for leadership in the Kingdom of God—servant leadership.

If, we cannot look beyond ourselves—our own needs, desires, dreams—how can we hope to lead anyone beyond ourselves for or to the Lord?

Giving our self to the Lord first by denying and dying to our self prepares us to follow the example of Jesus in serving others.

When we do this, it will be seen in our relationship with others—our attitude towards others and how we treat others.

How do you treat people you interact with on a regular basis?

What is your attitude toward others when you serve them?

We’ll look at the other 5 characteristics of servant leadership in the next post. For now, pastors—what are your thoughts on these first 3 characteristics of servant leadership?

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