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Developing Christian Servant Leadership provides a Christian faith-based perspective on servant leader character development in the workplace and argues that leadership requires passionate and authentic biblical integration.



Chapter 1. The Definition of Christian Servant Leader Character

This book is dedicated to assisting Christian leaders and managers to assume the mantle of servant leadership, the God-directed and God-endorsed means for achieving the foundational mission requirements of Christianity, the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Servant leadership is the approach to leadership promoted by Scripture, and it provides the greatest opportunity to honor God and bless our employers. There are many approaches to leadership, but only servant leadership emphasizes the necessary balance between morality, mission achievement, and promoting the best interests of the key stakeholders (employees, clients, customers, and the community). The dual foundation of servant leadership is stewardship (which is achieving the mission by using moral motives, means, and ends) and servanthood (which is promoting the best interests and needs of the key stakeholders). Servant leadership manifests both religious and secular roots. There is a burgeoning body of literature that demonstrates the positive influence of servant leadership on a host of attitudinal, behavioral, and performance outcomes. One key element of the discussion is to rebut the varied and conflictual stereotypes and misinformation regarding servant leadership. Two of the most common are that servant leadership is “soft” management or that servant leaders possess a martyr complex.
Gary E. Roberts

Chapter 2. Servant Followership

Improving our leadership skills is a lifelong pursuit. From a Christian worldview perspective, when we seek leadership skills first, we are placing the proverbial “cart before the horse.” Jesus was an effective leader because he practiced servanthood first! Jesus set the standards for both leadership and followership by his complete obedience to the will of the Father. He spent the first thirty years of his life obeying his parents, being an excellent carpenter, and serving the Lord in a humble fashion. From conception to ascension, in his every word and action, Jesus promoted the mission that the Father anointed him to complete: the redemptive work of the Cross.
Gary E. Roberts

Chapter 3. Building Servant Leader Character

One of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith is that the foundational principles are simple to grasp and communicate, but extremely challenging to practice. Salvation is freely given to all those who confess Jesus as Lord, but confession is an insufficient though necessary condition for achieving the fruits of the Holy Spirit and “working out our salvation with fear and trembling.” It is relatively easy to become a Christian but immensely challenging to live as one. We must struggle against three powerful enemies: the inherently self-centered motives of the flesh, the temptations produced by the worldly idols of success and affirmation, and the presence of spiritual evil.
Gary E. Roberts

Chapter 4. Spiritual Disciplines

As servant leaders, we are faced with many challenges in promoting a work/life balance. However, there is a hidden challenge in the well-meaning literature and research that emphasizes this often elusive concept, and that is in the inherent complexity and unpredictability of life. Balance is best achieved in systems that are relatively stable and predictable, and the demands on our lives are seldom neatly organized and compartmentalized. Another important question relates to whether or not the notion is biblical. As Pastor John Ortberg noted in his outstanding book The Life you Have Always Wanted (2002), the goal is not balance, but harmony based upon seasons. If you examine the leadership ministries of Jesus and the apostles, you see a commitment first to obeying the Lord’s direction in the forms of seasons of life. The apostle Paul endured long periods of work, imprisonment, sleepless nights, hunger, and cold. Jesus devoted whole nights to prayer and service and even worked on the Sabbath at times. What am I recommending? There are levels of balance within the various life domains that define the seasons of our lives. Hence, it is important to commit to the following practices.
Gary E. Roberts

Chapter 5. Faith

One of the great scenes in all of Scripture is the conversation between Jesus and Peter in John 21. Pastor Mike Bickle in a powerful sermon (2014) presented a compelling interpretation of this encounter. To set the background, Peter was despondent and humiliated after he denied knowing Jesus three times, even though he had adamantly declared just a few hours earlier that he would be loyal to the end and die with Jesus. To that heartfelt but foolish demonstration of bravado, Jesus calmly and lovingly predicted Peter’s denial, and demonstrated a foundational servant leader love-based principle: that life is not a sprint but a marathon of peaks and valleys. Jesus embraced the long-term developmental perspective. In Luke 21:31–34, Jesus informs Peter that the crucifixion is the crucible of a transformational life experience test. Satan’s plan was to use Peter’s denial as the powerful sifting device to destroy Peter’s faith by using fear, shame, and regret, and thereby destroying his leadership confidence and credibility. Jesus responded with the love of a shepherd and stated that he was praying that Peter’s faith would not fail and Peter would respond to the failure by learning from the situation and growing in servant leader character, humility, and faith. In essence, what Jesus stated was that Peter’s leadership calling was irrevocable, and that he viewed those distressing events as tests that were necessary life experiences to prepare Peter for effective service and leadership.
Gary E. Roberts

Chapter 6. Spiritual Virtues

One of the great temptations in leadership is the desire to be worshipped. Not, of course, in a formal religious fashion, but on a practical level. The power associated with leadership roles is a great temptation to our pride, ego, and insecurities. Servant leaders are to be respected, but not feared or made into idols. Perfection as a leader is, of course, impossible, but our hearts strive for this goal anyway given a variety of motives, from pride to the underlying fear of failure at the heart of perfectionism. Perfectionists define their identity and worth relative to their performance—an enslaving mindset. Perfectionism is a cruel taskmaster. The perfectionist has no peace in his heart as he is serving a cruel idol. If the root of perfectionism is insecurity, every sign of weakness must be repressed vigorously. The primal fear that never leaves is the perpetual gnawing of the conscience of perfectionists that they are living a lie. The conscience whispers accusing, tormenting, and condemning thoughts, relative to their true state of weakness, insecurity, and the frauds that they are. For the narcissist, the inner voice praises one’s great ability and the relative weakness and unworthiness of others. However, as we all know, no matter how effective or competent we are as leaders, we are imperfect, make mistakes, and possess weaknesses; hence, we are flawed.
Gary E. Roberts

Chapter 7. God’s Definition of Success

One of the most important leadership dimensions relates to the judgment process. Servant leaders are called upon to make important decisions in such areas as performance management, selection and promotion, discipline, and the cultivation of organizational ethics and morality, among other key areas. By judgment, we are referring to the process of determining the level of individual or group accountability and responsibility for decisions and behavior. As with almost all servant leader principles, these types of decisions entail balancing competing values and principles, and hence they are nuanced, thus requiring the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Servant leaders are responsible for the overall promotion of order, peace, stability, organizational wellbeing, and mission achievement. Therefore, there will be difficult decisions related to human conduct that manifest profound implications for the welfare of organizational members and their families. A good place to begin relates to a biblical view of judgment. What are the key principles?
Gary E. Roberts

Chapter 8. Building Workplaces of Integrity

Servant leaders are called to make difficult decisions regarding staffing and other human resource system issues. One of the key biblical principles relates to God’s concern for the individual. In Matthew 18 and Luke 15, the shepherd cares deeply and passionately for each sheep. There is no question of viewing employees as resources and costs to be minimized, rationalizing the flippant sacrifice of the individual or the few for the greater good, thereby reducing human beings to cogs in a machine. God numbers the hairs on the head of each of the six billion plus human beings; hence, he knows each of his sheep intimately. We as servant leaders are called to embrace that same spirit. What does this mean for the servant leader?
Gary E. Roberts

Chapter 9. Overcoming Life Obstacles

Have you ever felt like your life as a servant leader is like a small ship being tossed to and fro by the wind and waves? When we are circumstance-focused as a Christian, the inevitable result is a “sea sickness” of mind, body, and spirit. A major element of our growth in Christ is keeping our mind and heart focused on Jesus in the midst of the trials, tribulations, and storms of life. As human beings in the flesh, we are all naturally circumstance driven. In other words, we evaluate our situation based upon our reasoning and the evidence of our senses. This “walking by sight” isolates us from God’s power. Many Christians say to God, “First change my circumstances and calm the storm, and then I will believe or obey.”
Gary E. Roberts

Chapter 10. Pride

One of the great classics of English literature that speaks volumes on key spiritual issues is John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. The central figure is Satan and Milton’s artful poetic prose develops key aspects of Satan’s character. One classic line captures the essence of the spirit of rebellion that is the foundation of the original sin of pride. Satan states that it is “better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven.” As an ex-atheist and agnostic who tasted the intoxicating but ultimately bitter wine of rebellion against God, I understand this spirit well. Whatever the source of our wanderings from God, the spirit of the anti-Christ usurps God’s rightful place and replaces godly standards of accountability and purpose with our own. In essence, Satan is saying that we can do a better job than God of ruling our own life, and by extension, running the universe; when we embrace other worldview masters, we endorse this. I hear many atheists complain that there cannot be a God, as no rational or loving God would make a world so rife with contradictions and pain. My reply to this line of reasoning is to thank God that we are not controlling the universe, as our standards would result in an even greater level of insanity and evil than the present world order. Evil and suffering were never part of God’s plan, as he voluntary limited himself and delegated to us the freedom to choose good or evil in charting our own course and destiny.
Gary E. Roberts

Chapter 11. Overcoming Strongholds

What do you say to a friend who is in the grip of a desert experience and gripped by an overwhelming sense of failure and condemnation? What do you say to yourself when you are in the midst of the storm? Below is a letter that expresses important scriptural truths:
Hello My Friend
As I was praying today, the Lord prompted me to search for Bible passages to reassure you. We all fail, we all sin, and we all fall short of the glory of God. However, it is in the great depths of despair and darkness that we die to the self, surrender more completely, bare our souls more genuinely, and cast upon the Lord the many heavy burdens that weigh down our spirits. These times in the valley are the beginning of a new dawn of transformation, healing, and the shedding of layers of self-deception that hide and disguise the truth. I know that this weapon formed against you will not prosper and like Joseph, this time in prison will be for God’s greater glory! We only fail when we permanently embrace worldly sorrow and agree with the lie of Satan that there is no hope and God has abandoned us. Mistakes and failures are necessary character- and faith-builders precisely because they are painful and demand our undivided and complete attention. Failure strips our internal defenses and we learn the folly of self-reliance. Yes, the Lord is chastising, but rest assured and receive comfort in the knowledge that his discipline is always for our betterment and produces a pleasant fruit, as is noted in Proverbs 3:11 below.
Gary E. Roberts

Chapter 12. Courage and Overcoming Fear

A great lie of the devil is that in order to be brave you must be fearless. If that were the case, most of the heroes of history would fail to pass this test. When God states, “let not your heart be troubled (John 14:1),” he is communicating a powerful truth. We must make a free-will decision to agree with God’s promises of victory and protection. We consent in a very simple fashion, by trusting God. How can we guard our heart from control by fear? We avoid slavery by praying, surrendering control, calling upon him, worshiping God, repenting, meditating on his promises, and giving thanks. Any one of these actions indicates harmony with God’s will. God tells us to “fear not,” but there is a subtle distinction. God created us with the fear response to protect us against danger. God’s main goal is to reassure you of his protection so you will choose not to act on fear and avoid self-condemnation for experiencing physical fear. Fear is a necessary emotion in the temporal world, but it is a weapon of destruction in the spiritual. The origin of fear is separation from God; hence it is a foretaste of hell: the complete absence of God’s presence.
Gary E. Roberts

Chapter 13. Workplace Apologetics

As Christian servant leaders, God blesses us with unconditional love, grace, and mercy. God meets us where we are, whether it is at the height of heaven, the pit of hell, or somewhere in between. This is a wonderful and comforting Kingdom principle, given our physical, spiritual, and emotional wanderings. Wherever and whenever we call upon the name of the Lord and draw close to him, in agony, in ecstasy, in the midst of the mundane, to soothe our scars, or to celebrate our “crown” moments, Jesus draws close to us. In the spiritual realm, God is never far from us. He surrounds us with his angels, and fills us with his Holy Spirit. The tangible recognition and experience of God’s presence is conditional, however, on a whole host of factors including our obedience, our willingness to forgive, and our transparency. When we hide our weaknesses, sins, doubts and insecurities, we are prisoners of our conscience and the internal condemnatory dialogue.
Gary E. Roberts

Chapter 14. Prayers: Overcoming Doubts

Dear Lord, help me to understand that both belief and doubt are verbs and we can have intellectual doubts and intellectual unbelief, but still retain our faith. True belief and faith require us to be a hearer and doer. To truly doubt and disbelieve, we must have both thought and action. Lord, do not let the enemy steal our victory. Praise the Lord and help me to stay in faith by rebutting and replacing the negative thoughts. Lord, I thank you for Mark 9:24, which reinforced that heart-based belief triumphs over intellectual unbelief in spite of our thoughts. Lord, I remain in faith when I move forward in doubt and fear like the disciples. True doubt is taking action on our thoughts. Thank you, Jesus, for breaking through my doors of doubt and unbelief. Jesus was tempted in all ways as we were, with unbelief and doubt. Praise the Lord that you are active and present in our lives, even when we cannot see you, even when we were sinners and rejected you, and even when we didn’t believe him. Lord, when we are tempted with condemnation, help us to rest in your grace. Lord, help me to be patient and understand that faith requires a season to grow. Lord, help us to cast out our impatience.
Gary E. Roberts

Chapter 15. Prayers: Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

Praise God, I pray for the strength to be thankful for today and the moment, to enjoy the now in the midst of challenges, and to thank God for his favor and grace. Lord, help me to focus on what the Holy Spirit is doing in my life and starve the flesh. Praise God, I am not alone in my fight against fear; I have the Holy Spirit and the angels. The Holy Spirit and the angels are standing with me and in me. Thank you, Lord, for the “one-step victories” in my life, not perfect obedience, not perfect performance, not human perfect peace, not my righteousness, but the righteousness by faith in Jesus and his grace. I thank you, Jesus, that you make allowance for my weaknesses failures, sins, doubts, unbelief, and when fear controls my thoughts and actions. Help me to reject arguing or debating with the devil, my flesh, and my guilty conscience and fall upon the love, grace, mercy, peace, and the righteousness of Jesus who is our shield and redeemer. Thank you, Lord, for helping me overcome and deliver me from my fear of (enter in the areas of your struggle). Help me to respect my enemies and be as wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.
Gary E. Roberts

Chapter 16. Prayers: Overcoming Adversity

Jesus, please help me to find peace in your presence irrespective of the buffeting of my mind, body, and spirit by the waves. I believe that Jesus will get me safely to the other side of the lake. My heart is like the boat that the disciples used to cross the Sea of Galilee. Help me in the middle of this ocean storm to invite you into my boat. Please forgive me for trying to get to the other side on my own strength, skill, and perseverance. If I could navigate the storm-tossed waters on my own, it would not be faith and I would have already made the journey. With God’s Holy Spirit, I am already on the other side, and God will help me endure and grow through the storm, and end the journey on his timing and terms. It matters not whether I arrive with an intact boat, or on a piece of it, or by walking on the water. God will not permit me to be tested or tempted beyond my ability to bear. Thank the Lord that I am exactly where I need to be! Amen.
Gary E. Roberts

Chapter 17. Reflections on Servant Leader Character: Moving into the Future

In this concluding chapter, I would like to provide a final framework for cultivating ongoing growth as a servant leader. The first element is to renew our commitment to God every day. The key is to recognize that the only means for long-term change and growth is to receive a never-ending supply of God’s saving, healing, and empowering grace. When our focus centers on “my” effort, “my” work, “my” accomplishments, we fail to recognize the Holy Spirit is the source of the power, strength, and energy to make lasting change in others and ourselves. As servant leaders, our first commitment is to maintain the vertical relationship with God so we have the strength and power to serve and love others around us. From a practical standpoint, this entails an intentionality of mind, body, and spirit that recognizes the source and nature of our strengths and weaknesses. Hence, we commit every day a tithe of time, or ten percent of our waking hours, to activities explicitly devoted to cultivating our relationship to God. This would include Bible reading, prayer, meditation, or simple quiet time. The principle is not a legalistic ritual, but a dynamic expression of our love and dependence on God. We also should strive to dedicate the “best” times of our day according to our unique biological clock. During this time, seek the Lord’s guidance on how to prioritize our time. Always remember that when we embrace God’s plan and agenda, we tap into the supernatural realm of power exponentially increasing our efficiency and effectiveness.
Gary E. Roberts


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