James and John come to Jesus with a proposition: “Jesus we have a business proposition for you. We see a lot of opportunity here. I know your kingdom is small right now, but we think we have a lot to offer and we would like you to promote us to upper management. We want to be on the ground floor, to assist you in managing the affairs of your new kingdom here on earth. You know we’re qualified. You picked us, and you are familiar with our backgrounds and leadership skills. It’s a huge undertaking, but it is the kingdom were talking about Jesus, right? I can’t think of anything else as big or as important as this undertaking. We are ready and willing to take on the new responsibilities. Just say the word. So what do you think?
Have you ever noticed when Jesus is asked questions that are totally alien to what he is talking, he doesn’t lose his cool. He answer’s questions with questions? He says to James and John: “Are you two able to drink from the cup that I am able to drink from? Are you willing and are you able to drink from the cup?” Jesus is talking about his own death. They respond: “Yes Jesus we are able”. Jesus says, “Yes you are able, and you will drink from this cup”. We know from history that James and John will both die for their faith. “But, to sit on my right and my left hand, to move up into some realm of executive management is not mine to give. That’s up to the CEO of the kingdom. I leave that up to my Father.
Now back to the other 10 apostles watching this discussion going on in front of them. We are told that they are a little bit unhappy, bent out of shape. What do you think they are thinking about? Are they pleased with this proposition that James and John are making? We can just imagine their conversation: “What’s up with these two guys? They are blindsiding us. They are trying to go in front of us.
So Jesus calls them all together and says: Let me tell you, the way that I lead is not the way the world likes to govern or lead. The principle of the kingdom of God is servant ministry. I am going to serve you. I am going to empower you. I am going to assist you to become the best leaders you can possibly be. That’s the model of servant leadership.
We had two student candidates (interns) for ordination from the School for Ministry in Ocean Beach that worked under my leadership last year. We had two tracks prepared for them to work with. The first track was the Welcome Church Ministry and the other was working with Refugees and newcomers to our community and to our church. In collaboration with the Field Placement Dean, the students and myself we established three objectives we to work on, and methods to measure our success over a six month period.
Our first ministry objective that is essential for all ministry, especially candidates in training for ordination, was taken from Jesus words: “For the Son of Man did not come to served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45) To help others become what God wants them to be. The leadership principle here is that in serving others you will discover your ministry, and that ministry can be defined as modeling servant leadership, serving others. That’s the principle of servant leadership. It’s a ministry of modeling, showing others so they in turn can follow your leadership your style.
The second ministry objective is training others to do the work of the ministry, not just clergy and other recognized leaders. It is our job as leaders to welcome, appreciate, recognize, and equip others for the work of the ministry. Ministry needs to be identified, recognized and encouraged to grow. “It’s a grass-roots recognition from the bottom up, not the top-down.” We must look for ministry in all areas of the congregation, not just places where it most often turns up. Please allow me to repeat this because I think it’s important. We must look for ministry in all areas of the congregation, not just places where it most often turns up. Leaders must be welcoming and encouraging, allowing a safe place for everyone grow and learn. That’s a healthy church!
The third objective that ties in with servant leadership and training for all is team ministry. Not only must we recognize ministry at the grass roots level, but we are also identified in the Bible as the Body of Christ. We are created by Christ to work in tandem with each other, and working in agreement like on a track team. You might be a pole vaulter on this team. Someone else might be a shot-put or javelin thrower, sprinter, long distance runner, broad jumper, high jumper, hurdler, or maybe a trainer. Maybe you are good at handling the stop watch. Others are gifted at pastoral care, patching up the members of the team that are hurt. Some are listeners, encouraging those that didn’t do as well as they thought they should or that others thought they should do. The church is all about team ministry. We are called to work together and to care for one another. That’s why Jesus invented the church, and we are all members of this glorious church.
What we are talking about is fearless love, living and working among people that are commissioned to live as servant-leaders, learning and assisting others to recognize and grow in their ministry, and to work together in teams, in an environment that is safe and healthy, a vital and growing church to reach our community and our world with the wonderful good news that Jesus Christ has come, is with us and will come again for His glorious Church without spot or wrinkle.
‘For the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”. (Mark 10:45)
Year B 21st Sunday After Pentecost
October 18, 2015
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church
490 Farragut Circle, El Cajon, CA 92020
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen