Story Magazine - Winter, 2011
Servant leadership: The way God is transforming the world
by Richard H. Bliese, President, Luther Seminary
Luther Seminary's mission is to educate leaders for all sorts of congregations, church agencies and offices, as well as ministry contexts. Our ministry to these communities, however, is not merely to educate leaders but to educate a certain quality of leader for them; namely, a servant leader. Servant leadership is the work done by an evangelical public leader who is prepared to lead the church in apostolic mission. That's our goal. It's a big vision! But what does this kind of leadership really mean for everyday ministry?
I have found that people are often confused by the term servant leadership. Initially, they like the sound of the phrase. "I don't want to have the kind of pastor who needs to control everything," they affirm. But then they find it hard to constructively picture a servant leader. Does having a servant as a leader mean that these people are at the beck and call of all their congregational members, doing whatever anyone wants at any hour of the day or night, 24/7 and during the holidays? Is a servant leader strong, charismatic, passive, empowering, entrepreneurial, gentle, authoritative and a visionary, a risk-taker or a pastoral counselor type? What image does servant leadership invoke for you? Is your pastor a servant leader? Why or why not?
Our understanding of servant leadership at Luther Seminary involves a missionary engagement with the world. It's a quality of leadership that commits to be a servant of evangelical renewal, a herald of hope and a catalyst for change and mission, especially in tough times. Whereas leaders can often err either by abusing power or by abdicating authority, a servant leader represents leadership that transforms communities for service and mission. Servant leadership, at its core, is rooted in a vision for leadership that is deeply biblical, missional and confessional.
To be a servant leader holds great promise for communities in mission. These pages of Story magazine are filled with examples of servant leadership; and thus, they are filled with expectation and hope for the future. These servant leaders should inspire us to discover or re-discover—in our own lives—what this quality of leadership means for us today. I hope you are just as inspired by their witness as I have been.