Servant Leadership: Pathways

“Learning from Others on the Journey”

by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack®
1:2 – Following Biblical Patterns

Servant Leadership Pathways has primarily been a series of articles featuring Bible study topics. This article is an intentional change of pace. Following biblical patterns on your journey as a servant leader can also be explored through the insights of contemporary practicing ministers. Please notice–only four “Christian veteran travelers” are chosen in this article, and only a few of their substantive insights are reported; these publications are worthy of your careful study. Whether basic or profound, these may assist you in a rewarding, consistent practice of servant leadership.


Are you expanding your leadership perspective by taking
in the thoughts of others on the servant leadership journey? The goal
of this activity is to develop your own biblical insights and apply these
ideas to your everyday pathway of leadership.

  • Read through the material–one writer at a time. “Do I understand his concepts?”
  • Read again–“Do I agree (or disagree) with his biblical insight?”
  • Read yet again–“How can this enrich my own pathway toward servant leadership?” Record your thoughts in the space provided.
  • And still again–“How can I pass these thoughts along to others in my servant leadership journey?”

1. Strength in Servant Leadership
by Paul A. Cedar (Word Book Publishers, Waco, TX 1987)
Study Notes prepared by Lloyd Elder

Growing out of pastoral and agency leadership, Cedar provides
excellent biblical insight into servant leadership:
  • Although our talents, personalities, and gifts may vary, I believe Scripture teaches us clearly that there is one leadership “style” which is uniquely Christian. It has been given to us by the Lord of the Church. He has modeled this leadership style and commanded us to do likewise. It is the model of “servant leadership.” (p.25)
  • Servant leadership is much more than a leadership style that we learn to “act out” and master like other management styles. Servant leadership begins with the heart–with our attitude, with our motives. (p. 29)
  • Putting it all together . . . servant leadership is not natural; it requires the supernatural–the very presence and power of God. (p. 155)
Cedar’s Eight Major Principles
  • All Christians need to understand the principle of servant leadership.
  • Servant leadership begins with our attitude.
  • Love is essential for servant leadership.
  • Biblical models teach us how to be servant leaders.
  • The role of the Good Shepherd helps us to understand what it means to be a servant leader.
  • Servant leaders must know how to be servant followers.
  • Servant leaders are accountable to God.
  • Servant leaders must lead by choice. (pp. 158-61)

2. The Servant Principle: Finding Fulfillment Through Obedience to Christ
by Rick E. Ferguson (Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, TN 1999)
Study Notes prepared by Lloyd Elder
  • What is the Principle? Finding and fulfilling your God-designed destiny through obedience to Christ. (p. 25)
  • Lady Diana and Mother Teresa both demonstrated that servanthood is more than a lifestyle: it is simply a life–the life of a servant. (p. 4)
  • God’s Word says he uniquely created you in His very image with design and meaning. (p. 5)
  • Servant living = purposeful living. A sense of purpose compels you to get out of bed every morning; go to work; give your best; to volunteer; to give money to the homeless, or build a neighbor’s fence. . . . The road before you forks and you are faced with choices, challenges, and life-changing decisions. (pp. 5-6)
  • Daily tests and challenges of taking on the heart of a servant:
    • “Turn the other cheek.”
    • “Walk the extra mile.”
    • Face hardship without complaint.
    • Do not seek recognition.
    • Praise God in every situation.
    • Do the menial chores–wash feet.
    • Respond with love and mercy.
    • Follow others gladly. (pp. 22-23)
  • One of Ferguson’s most powerful points in The Servant Principle is in his understanding of Christ as one who was able to serve with sincerity because of His security in His own identity. In this way, Ferguson says, Jesus was “free to minister as a slave.” (p. 103)
  • Do you have the self-security in your leadership to serve and to follow others with grace and humility? Ferguson notes that Scripture is filled with examples of God reminding you who you are–empowering you to go forward not as a controller, but as a servant. The Bible says you are:
    • the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13)
    • the light of the world (Matt. 5:14)
    • a child of God (John 1:12)
    • a branch of the true vine (John 15:5)
    • a friend of Jesus (John 15:5)
    • chosen and appointed by Christ (John 15:16)
    • a member of Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:27)
    • God’s workmanship (Eph. 2:10)
    • a son of the light (1 Thess. 5:5)
    • a living stone of God’s spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:5)
    • born to God (1 John 5:1)
      (pp. 103-104)


3. A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders
by Reggie McNeal (Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, 2000)
Study Notes prepared by Lloyd Elder

This book goes beyond popular “how-to” tasks and styles to develop the premise that leaders must be experts in matters of the heart:


  • Spiritual leadership is a work of heart. . . . Heart-shaping is the
    term used for what some would call spiritual formation. (pp. ix, xi)
  • Leaders’ lives are great drama. They have a plot that can be separated into several story lines. These subplots reflect different arenas of the leader’s life in which God is at work. . . . Basic heart-shaping occurs in six significant arenas. These divine-human interchanges provide the six major subplots of the leader’s heart-shaping process (see pp. xii-xiii; developed in chapters throughout the book):
    • Culture: all the environmental influences that shape the leader’s life and ministry context. . . . The leader’s heart cannot be explained apart from its cultural influences. (p. xii)
    • Call: the call is the leader’s personal conviction of having received some life assignment or mission that must be completed. (p. xiii)
    • Community: leaders do not develop in isolation. They emerge within a community that plays a vital role in shaping them. (p. xiii)
    • Communion: this aspect of heart-shaping reflects the leader’s conscious cultivation of a relationship with God. . . . The communion subplot opens the door to the intimate interaction between the leader and the Leader. (p. xiii)
    • Conflict: spiritual leaders find themselves thrown into the thick of the fray. These conflicts, whether personal, inter-relational, demonic, or organizational, are not tangential developments. Rather, they are central heart-shaping events and episodes. (p. xiii)
    • The Commonplace: how the leader responds to everyday challenges and opportunities reflects a basic predisposition toward God’s work in the leader’s life. (p. xiii)


In Chapter 4, Jesus: the Heartbeat of God, pp. 51-70, McNeal set
out the true nature of Christ (fully divine, fully human) and the significant
shaping influences on His life.

4. Jesus on Leadership: Becoming a Servant Leader
by C. Gene Wilkes (LifeWay Press, Nashville, TN 1998, revised)
Study Notes prepared by Lloyd Elder


Gene Wilkes, growing out of a pastoral/congregational setting,
has written Jesus on Leadership: Becoming a Servant Leader. He seeks
to develop servant leaders following the pattern of Jesus’ ministry to train
disciples to do kingdom work (p. 4):


  • Definition: A servant leader serves the mission and
    leads by serving those on mission with him [her]. (p. 6)

  • Seven Principles of Servant Leadership–Wilkes suggest that servant leaders:
    • humble themselves and wait for God to exalt them – Luke 14:7-11. (p. 9)
    • follow Jesus rather than seek a position – Mark 10:32-40. (p. 13)
    • give up personal rights to find greatness in service to others – Mark 10:41-45. (p. 15)
    • risk serving others because they trust that God is in control of their lives – John 13:3. (p. 18)
    • take up Jesus’ towel of servanthood to meet the needs of others – John 13:4-5. (p. 19)
    • share their responsibilities and authority with others to meet a greater need – John 14:12. (p. 24)
    • multiply their leadership by empowering others
      to lead – Acts 6:1-7. (p. 25)
Reflection for the Pathway:



    • Why not write in your own words at least 3 to 5 most impelling concepts
      from these four authors?


  • These books may still be available for purchase. Could you review the
    bibliography for other sources, new or familiar to you, on elements of
    servant leadership?


  • Have you had ideas for action planning for your own pattern and practice?



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© 2006; hosted and copyrighted
by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.

For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at

Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church