10 Differences Between Servant Leaders and Self-Serving 'Kings'

What separates a servant leader from a self-serving king?
What separates a servant leader from a self-serving king? (Flickr)

As Christian leaders, we are called to serve others even as we're completely reliant on God. Too often, though, a leader who was once a servant wrongly transitions into being the king of his own kingdom. Here are some signs that a leader has become the "king":

  1. Even if he invites discussion from church leaders, he does not change his mind. The "discussion" is in name only, as his decisions are already made.
  2. He sees everyone else as expendable. If he's worried about church members leaving, you'd never know it. In fact, he can usually hyper-spiritualize the reasons that others leave.
  3. He is seldom, if ever, wrong. Kings somehow convince themselves that nobody can do things as well as they can. Everybody else still has something to learn.
  4. Staff members tend to stay for only a short time. Kings are good at recruiting strong staff members, but not so good at keeping the best of them. Kings want dependents more than co-laborers.
  5. He seldom allows others to preach. The pulpit becomes his platform, and he rarely gives up that position, even for a single Sunday. He's most unwilling to share that space with gifted speakers he might perceive as more gifted than he.   
  6. He treats others as "subjects." That is, people become a means to an end: tools to help him build his kingdom more than brothers and sisters in Christ.
  7. He demands unquestioned loyalty. Even the slightest sign of disagreement is considered rebellion.
  8. He expands his kingdom broadly, but not deeply. After all, deeply developed kingdoms require serious discipleship—and genuine disciples would recognize the problem with a king's leadership style.
  9. Often, those who know him best question his spirituality. That's not a surprise, though. Kings depend on themselves, not God.
  10. He does not consider leadership succession. He might talk about retirement at some point, but it's often just talk. Kings don't give up their position easily.

Lest we judge the "king" leader too seriously, though, all of us are susceptible to moving in this unhealthy direction. Pride is always a temptation for Christian leaders.

Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and Missions. In addition, he is global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

For the original article, visit chucklawless.com.

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