Servant Leadership

Posted on March 8, 2018

by John E. Thomas

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:45

One of the most precious encounters I have had happened almost 15 years ago. I was sitting in prayer and suddenly I found myself in what I knew was a room in heaven. In this vision, I was standing in this room and I noticed that the angels there were setting up tables and chairs, as if for a meeting. I didn’t even think about it, I just started helping them set up. Not a word was spoken. When the room was set up they all left but one. He turned and looked at me and said, “Around here you are known as a servant.”

Heaven knew me (and I pray still knows me) as a servant. Like many encounters, one often knows unsaid background information, and in this one I knew that was the best compliment one could receive from heaven. Heaven had noticed the life of the Son of Man in my life! (Galatians 2:20)

I was not always a servant. Before I met Jesus I lived for myself—for my pleasure, for my ego, for my plan. It was pretty ugly. I did the best I could with my life and was left utterly unimpressed as were those that knew me. I failed miserably at life. When Jesus turned everything around and gave me a new heart and a new spirit everything changed. I automatically wanted to serve God and help people.

At the church I was at I started to serve and people noticed and began giving me responsibility to go with the things I was doing. I loved people and invited them to our home to worship, pray, and eat so I was asked to lead a home group. I prayed regularly at the altar for anyone that came and was eventually asked to lead the ministry teams and train them. I shared the nuggets that I learned from study and meditation and was asked to teach. I shared my faith on the streets and was asked to intern with the pastor that oversaw evangelism and assimilation.

In 2004 Dawna and I left everything and moved up to New Hampshire to be closer to John Paul Jackson and Streams Ministries. We had not thought that we would be on staff, we just wanted to learn and be equipped to minister to people. As soon as we got there we started to serve. Soon we were asked to be on the prophetic teams, then lead a team. After a couple months Dawna was asked to come on staff and help with customer service.

A few months after that I was asked if I would be the Partner’s Pastor. Four or five months later John Paul asked if I would start traveling with him to every meeting I could get to—he wanted to mentor me as a leader and pastor. Then, he asked if Dawna and I would take over the leadership of The BRiDGE Metrowest that he had planted and pastored for the previous two years.

Shortly afterwards Streams invited me to run a Streams training center that would oversee and train up Streams’ teachers. As opportunities to minister increased, after five years Dawna and I moved down to Dallas so that we could continue to travel and serve the various churches we had developed relationship with. I remember having a conversation with John Paul when we told him about the move. He let me know that he did not have a position for me at Streams. He did not want us to move thinking that Streams was going to provide for us.

We knew God had invited us to move so we did. Once we got here I would come into the office and volunteer. “Is there anything that you need me to do? How can I help?” I had no agenda or hope, I just knew God had called us to serve and that if I served God and did what He said everything would work out right. Six months later Streams hired me again to help develop new resources and help with communication as the traveling ministry continued to increase.

I share all of this, not because I want you to be impressed with the journey we have been on or the opportunities we have been given. I share all of these stories because there is one common theme—service. I have never asked for any position of leadership that I have had. Every time I have been given leadership someone else noticed that I was serving and doing the job (or operating in the skills necessary) already and they recognized what God was doing in and through us.

Never get yourself into a position of leadership by your own power, if you put yourself there then you have to keep yourself there. If God puts you there then He has to keep you there. That does not mean that you do not knock on doors, put in applications, etc. There are times God may call you to do that. For me, I have never done that in the ministry arena.

I am stepping into a new level of leadership. It is not a position I asked for, applied for, or even looked for. It took me by surprise, though I can look back now and see how God was preparing me and speaking to me about it. Again, someone recognized that I was serving and God put it in their heart to give me more responsibility so I can serve more people. That is true leadership.

Some of you have promises of positions or authority that you will walk into. If it is God you can trust it will happen. Heaven has a protocol, a pathway, to get you there:

“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be a slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:42–45

Serve where you are. Start doing the work of ministry without any recognition, without seeking recognition from man, and heaven will recognize it. Use what you have to help the one in front of you. Don’t ask for a title, just serve. Don’t advertise your gifts, walk in love. And when they treat you unjustly and look over you to choose someone that is more vocal or more political in how they position themselves, stay silent. Turn your heart to heaven and look for heaven’s approval. When you have it from heaven, sometimes earth will give it as well. But if you live for earth’s approval you may get it, but you’ll most likely miss heavens.