Godly Wisdom: Lesson 14 – Servant Leadership

Key Scriptures: 2 Samuel 6:14-22, 1 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 28, Ecclesiastes, 1 Kings 9:1-28, Deuteronomy 17:15-19, 1 Kings 11:4-13, 2 Chronicles 7:11, 2 Chronicles 8:8, 1 Kings 9:21, 1 Kings 3:3, 1 Kings 12 & 14:21-31, 2 Chronicles 10-12, Titus 1:7-14, 1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 4:12, John 13:13-17, Mark 10:42-45, Matthew 7:12, Titus 2:1-15, Philippians 2:3, 1 Timothy 3:5, Galatians 5:22-23, Luke 10:1-23

Guiding Question: What leadership qualities does God want Christians to display?

Optional Introductory Activity: Bring in a variety of quotes from coaches and from dictators. As you read each quote, have students guess if it is from a coach or a dictator. After several quotes from each, ask students if they can give some characteristics of a coach and of a dictator. Save their responses to use as part of the Skills Activity.

Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) Whether you become a leader in your congregation, your career, an activity, of your friend group or by leading other people to Christ, God’s idea of a great leader is very different from the world’s idea in many ways. One of the easiest ways to see that is by examining some of the famous leaders in the Bible.

The Israelites were considered a nation probably as soon as they departed Egypt and definitely once they reached the Promised Land. Their first national leaders weren’t perfect, but Moses and Joshua would be generally considered great, godly leaders of the Israelites.

After the death of Joshua, leadership fell apart. During the several hundred years covered by the book of Judges, Israel was largely without leadership. God periodically appointed a leader to help the people escape a nation that was oppressing them. Some leaders, like Deborah, seemed excellent, while others had some extreme highs and lows.

Finally, the people demanded God give them a King like those around them. Samuel warned the people a king would cause them heartache, but when the people persisted, God relented and gave them Saul to be their first King.

It’s important to note that God had predicted this would happen back in Deuteronomy. In fact, He actually gave instructions for any future kings in Deuteronomy 17:15-19. What instructions did God have for future kings? Notice the instruction to actually write (actually copy) for himself a copy of the Law. That would have been a lot of hard work. Why would God want future kings to copy down the law for themselves when they had copies the priests could read or loan to them? Did you know if you want to remember something one of the best things you can do is to write it down by hand? Not only did God want kings to have that memory aide, but also having their own copy with them would mean they could look up scriptures on their own rather than wait for a priest to come read it to them. (The average person in these times did not own a copy of the scriptures.)

Interestingly, we don’t know for sure if any kings obeyed this law. What we do know is from the very beginning of kings in the Bible, they had problems consistently obeying God and encouraging the people they led to do the same.

We have already spent a lot of time talking about the spiritual mistakes King Saul made. Of all of the kings who ruled over Israel, David was the only one known as a man after God’s own heart. Even David, though, had some spiritual highs and lows during his reign.

It’s important to note that David spent time preparing to lead Israel when he was a young man. He battled Goliath and the Philistines. He even lived in the Palace for a time, soothing King Saul with his lyre playing. Living in the Palace allowed David to see what his life might be like as king. It also allowed him to see the things that King Saul did well and the ways in which he failed. Today we might even call it an apprenticeship!

Perhaps one of the most famous examples of David rejoicing in his connection to God is found in 2 Samuel 6:14-22. How does David show his devotion to God in this story? David was so excited about the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Israel that he actually danced for joy! Can you imagine being that excited about something that happens in your relationship with God?!

David definitely sinned against God. In fact, his sins were pretty obvious by our standards…adultery and arranging for someone’s murder amongst other things. Yet, read what happened once he recognized his sin. Read 2 Samuel 12 and Psalm 51 or 32. Why is repentance an important quality for a king or any leader?

David also displayed perseverance in his relationship with God. He continued to worship and obey God even during those tough years when he was running for his life from King Saul. In fact, his respect for god was so great, he even refused to kill Saul when he had the chance. (1 Samuel 24) Why is it important for a leader to worship and obey God in any and every circumstance in his or her life?

The other positive leadership quality David displayed is found in 1 Chronicles 28. Although, God would not allow David to build the Temple, David spent a lot of time preparing his son, Solomon, to build it. Great leaders prepare their successors to carry on their legacy. Why is preparing the next generation of leaders important?

King Solomon seemed to start out well as king. When offered to choose a blessing he wanted from God, Solomon chose wisdom instead of riches or other things commonly sought by rulers. In 1 Kings 9:1-28. God even takes the time to remind Solomon of His expectations of kings. What are some of the things God mentioned? What are the things in this passage that are some of the mistakes he made…things that God specifically told future kings back in Deuteronomy they shouldn’t do? Why would these things cause problems for Solomon? What would be similar choices any leader today could make? Why would those choices cause problems for leaders now?

Read 1 Kings 3:3. What does this verse tell us Solomon did well and what did he do that was a sign of future problems? Solomon made the mistake many people still make today…he thought he could pick and choose which of God’s commands he would obey. Disobeying any of God’s commands carries consequences…some immediately, some later in life and some possibly eternally.

The highlight of Solomon’s leadership in God’s eyes was probably what happened in 2 Chronicles 7:11. What did Solomon complete? Why would this be pleasing to God? Every Christian leader is not expected to build a temple or church building for God, but what might God expect of Christians who are leaders?

Solomon wasn’t exactly loving, kind and generous to his subjects. Read 2 Chronicles 8:8 and 1 Kings 9:21. How did Solomon treat these people? We also know that Solomon put heavy labor and tax burdens on his people, causing what sorts of problems? While hopefully no Christian today would keep slaves and probably couldn’t tax people, what are ways Christian leaders can treat people that might upset God?

Although we learn in Ecclesiastes that Solomon probably realized he had made some major mistakes, it doesn’t seem he made steps to correct them all before he died. (You may want to share a few verses from Ecclesiastes to read.) In fact, the story of the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam starts with trouble that splits the kingdom just as God had said would happen.

Read 1 Kings 12. The people were hoping that Rehoboam would lighten the heavy load Solomon had placed on them. What was the advice Rehoboam was given by the elders and by his peers? Which did he take? How did taking the wrong advice cause problems? What types of advisors does God want Christian leaders to have? How can you know which advice to take when you get differing opinions on what you should do?

In the New Testament, the Jewish people were under the secular rule of the Roman Empire. Yet, God continues to expect His people to lead others in ways that are different from many of the leadership techniques used by Roman Emperors and others.

God created Elders to oversee each congregation of the church. Although He gave these specific leadership requirements for elders, they are also good characteristics for any Christian who leads others to have. Read Titus 1:7-14 and 1 Timothy 3:2. What are the qualities of an elder that would be good for any leader to possess? Why?

Paul also writes Timothy, Titus and the Philippians of some other qualities he expects certain Christians to have, but once again, many of these qualities would be good for any Christian in a leadership position to possess. Read 1 Timothy 4:12, Titus 2:1-15, 1 Timothy 3:5, Galatians 5:22-23 and Philippians 2:3. What qualities are mentioned in these verses that would be helpful for any Christian in a leadership position to possess? Why?

Skills Activity: Review the leadership skills discussed in the lesson. How are they different than the qualities of many secular leaders?

Jesus is obviously the best example of how a leader on Earth should operate. Read John 13:13-17 and Mark 10:42-45. What is one quality that Jesus wants all Christians who are leaders to possess? Why is it unusual to ask leaders to be servants first? Why would secular leaders think this is bad advice? Why is it actually the best advice for those hoping to lead others?

It could be argued that Jesus modeled an apprenticeship model of leadership. He taught and led by example, answered their questions and then read what step he took next to help prepare them for leading others to become Christians in the future. Read Luke 10:1-23. What did Jesus do in this passage? Why can it be helpful to try baby steps in leadership and then go back to a mentor after having that small experience?

We have covered a lot of leadership information thus far. Let’s make a list of all of the qualities we have learned godly Christian leaders should possess…whether they are leading a ministry, a business, a club or leading other people to Christ.

The following characteristics should be included on the final list. Student needs will dictate how you give skills practice. You may want to choose one or more qualities with which you think your students most struggle and do an activity that will help them learn how to have that quality or how to use it in common leadership situations. Or you may choose to have students shadow various people in the church and then discuss what leadership skills they saw and what they learned from the experience. You can also have a panel of Christians who are leaders in various capacities in the church and in the secular world.

  • Love
  • Humility
  • Spiritual growth (don’t become stagnant spiritually, but continue to grow)
  • Motivated by loving and serving others, not by power, money or controlling others
  • Willing to teach others and have difficult spiritual conversations
  • Willing to speak the truth in love and hold others accountable
  • Integrity – both honesty and living a life that matches who they claim to be
  • Obedient to God
  • Counter cultural while still serving and sharing their faith with those in the world
  • Servant heart
  • Peacemaker
  • Seeks God’s guidance
  • Has godly advisors who hold him or her accountable
  • Kind
  • Transparent
  • Accessible
  • Slow to anger
  • Good listener

Application Challenge: Review the principles from the lesson. How did Jesus exhibit the characteristics we discussed? Which qualities of a godly leader come easily to you? Which ones are difficult for you? Choose one quality with which you struggle. Make a plan for ways to improve in that area.

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