Leadership or servanthood… which is the way of Jesus?
Langham recently published Leadership or Servanthood? Walking in the Steps of Jesus by Hwa Yung, bishop emeritus of the Methodist Church in Malaysia. Here he explains the story behind his new book.
“Growing up with a strict father who had been a senior military officer in China during the pre-Communist era meant that academic success and driving ambition were instilled into me from a young age. At university there was only one goal, that of becoming a successful research scientist. But God had other plans.
It was at university when my Christian faith began to deepen. For the first time in my life I understood clearly the meaning of the call to follow Jesus, to self-denial and dying to one’s ambitions and dreams (Mark 8:34; John 12:24–26). That was the beginning of a long spiritual battle against ambition and pride in my life, a battle that does not end even when a person surrenders to God’s call to full-time vocational ministry.
This is particularly true when we are called into positions of prominence and leadership in the church or some Christian organisation. Our unsanctified ambitions will assert themselves in various ugly ways, especially when the rules of the game are often defined by competition and public success.
The ever-present temptation to “steal God’s glory” lurks somewhere. And often our supporters are among our worst enemies – because they flatter us and thereby effectively encourage us to develop messianic complexes about ourselves
How do we counter these pressures? First, we need to resolve from the very beginning to fight pride and personal ambition through dying to self and seeking constantly the path of humility. Second, setting aside time to cultivate a life of prayer is integral.
Third, stop thinking of yourself as the leader without whom nothing moves, for that is a sure recipe for megalomania! It is good to remind ourselves of Jesus’s parable about the “Unworthy Servant.” When we have done everything that our position requires of us, even if we are highly successful, we are still unworthy servants who “have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:10).
So “Why this book?” It all began with my own pilgrimage as a Christian and my struggles to set aside personal ambition in response to Christ’s call to ministry. Much of the book is based not on my successes but on my struggles and failures. But what troubled me deeply along the way was that so many were striving to be leaders and to be known as leaders.
However, how many true servants do we find at the top of the pile? These leaders are being cheered on by the thousands of Christian publications and seminars on how to become successful leaders, even though the Bible’s constant emphasis is on being faithful and obedient servants.
Are we are reading the same Bible?
Serious leadership crisis
In recent years we have witnessed the flood of revelations concerning leadership failures throughout the global church. With the constant drumbeat about leadership in the modern church patterned on secular models, are we largely blinded to the serious leadership crisis facing the church today? If there is one central focus in my book, it is the call to return to servanthood (not servant leadership) as the heart of Christian ministry.
Finally, my concern is also missiological. Despite the amazing growth of the churches in the Majority World in the past century, discipleship and leadership are major challenges confronting us. This is a challenge facing the whole global church today, but especially the younger churches in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa region.
The shift of the centre of gravity of the global church into the Majority World confers a greater degree of responsibility upon these churches. And only if those of us in these churches adequately address the challenges of discipleship, and recover the spirit of true servanthood, can our churches fully mature into what God intends them to be. Only then will we be able to embrace fully our God-given responsibilities for this generation.”
Challenging a culture of hubris, ambition, and self-seeking, bishop Hwa reminds us in this book that ministry is not a call to position and power but to service and obedience. He draws us back to the example of Christ, who came as a servant of God and of His kingdom, who lived in submission to the Father, and who rooted himself in his identity as the incarnate Son of God. Linking spiritual authority to these three characteristics, Hwa Yung offers examples from both Scripture and church history to demonstrate that it is in fact the faithful practice of servanthood that leads to leadership impact.
You can buy this book from Langham Publishing online.
Join us in prayer…
As we begin a new financial year, and another year implementing our Strategic Plan, pray for our Directors around the world as they lead their continental teams. Our indigenous teams continue to develop, taking on new roles and training new leaders. Pray for wisdom and strength for all who work in Langham Preaching.
Thank you for praying for these upcoming Preaching training events and meetings (where a country is sensitive, the region is given):Pray for planning meetings for the South Pacific (including Australia) Preaching program, which are happening in Melbourne on 11-13 May.
- 10–16 July — SE Asia, Central Africa, Thailand
- 17–23 July — Philippines, South Asia gathering, Central Africa, Sierra Leone
- 31 July–6 August — Asia & South Pacific Leaders meeting, Croatia, Cambodia
- 7–13 August — SE Asia
The demand and opportunities for partnering with good evangelical publishers and writers in the Majority World are huge. Pray that by working with and advising them, we have the opportunity to significantly increase the number and volume of heart language titles for the church in many different contexts.
- Please pray for Joseph Byamukama from Uganda who is planning to come to Melbourne soon for a study visit. Pray for his travel needs and his research.
- Pray for George Bishai in Egypt as he works hard to finish his PhD by the end of August.
- LPA has recently committed to sponsoring an additional Scholar from an Asian country studying here in Australia. Pray that God will move His people to provide the financial support needed.
Please be in touch with us if you can help with this need!
Gillean Smiley writes…
For the first time in years, we are about to be blessed by having two scholars studying at Australian institutions at the same time. Joseph Byamukama is splitting his studies between his home in Uganda and Ridley in Melbourne, while Crystal will be looking at translation from Hebrew into a contemporary Asian language, based at Sydney University.
As those of you who have had the pleasure of meeting one of our past scholars will know, each scholar is an extraordinary, gifted individual, with an enormous amount to offer during their time in Australia, as well as in the leadership roles they take up on return to their home context.
While there are additional financial challenges in supporting two scholars at once, the benefits to us of having these wise, godly and inspirational leaders in our midst is enormous. I pray for opportunities for as many as possible to meet and engage with Joseph and Crystal in coming months and years.