From Platforms to Altars: Rediscovering Servant Leadership

Posted by on Apr 24, 2022 in Blog | 6 comments

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You know as well as I do that the list of fallen Christian leaders is growing at an alarming rate. Many have been high fliers, leaders who were widely lauded and greatly respected until – well until it all came out. It has been more than a little depressing. I heard one pastor call it “deeply disillusioning” – that’s a fair summary. Something is amiss.

A recent podcast I listened to warned leaders that it is possible to grow your platform more quickly than your character, and that leadership compromise is almost inevitable when your fame is larger than your character. While I agree with this sentiment, I wonder if the language used isn’t part of the problem.

When leaders talk about the size of their platform they are usually referring to the size of their following – how many attend their church, how many follow them on social media, how many times their blog posts are forwarded, and which best sellers lists their books appear on. Some are able to cite dizzyingly high figures and the conclusion is logical and indisputable, they have a (very) large platform that they operate from.

But platforms are for grandstanding. Platforms are about noticing who occupies them. Platforms are leader centric.

Would leadership change if we stopped thinking of the platform we occupy but spoke rather of the altar on which we serve?

Romans 12:1 instructs us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. It’s a living sacrifice that is required, so the implication is that our life should be lived on an altar of service and sacrifice. Altars are a lot less glamorous than platforms and people aren’t usually in a hurry to occupy them. But biblical leadership is about service and being a servant to those who follow. Graham Hill has insightfully reminded us that the Bible talks a lot more about servantship than it does about leadership. And to state the obvious, that’s what Jesus says as well: Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant (Matt 20:26).

The next time you stand in awe at the size of some leaders following, remember, that’s a lot of people they have to serve – for leadership is not about fame and fortune, but about putting the needs of followers above the whims of leaders. There is only one kind of leadership the Bible is interested in, and that’s servant leadership. And ultimately there is only one leader we are called to follow – and that’s not the leader on the platform, but the leader who served us by dying on Calvary’s Cross.

As always, nice chatting…

Feel free to reproduce this with acknowledgement or forward it to any who might find it helpful.

6 Comments

  1. Poignant insight, as usual Brian. Thank you.

    • Thanks Geff.

  2. Interesting and much needed today

    • Thanks Andrea.

  3. Comment *Thanks Brian for once again sharing your poignant insights. It’s 20 yrs since we could regularly enjoy your sharing in person. My wife whom you know well is currently principal of a Bible college. The person who usually teaches leadership is stuck overseas, and so she got to teach it. Very quickly, as she prepared her lessons, she came to appreciate that she needed to lead her students to realise that it is not for Christians to aspire to leadership but rather to faithful service according to God’s calling. Rom 12:1ff. Blessings

    • Wonderful to hear from you after all these years John. So glad that Bev is leading the Bible College so well.

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