SUNDAY, JANUARY 19, 2014.
JOHN THE BAPTIST: AN ARCHETYPAL OF SERVANT LEADERSHIP
‘And he preached, saying, after me comes He who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptised you with water, but He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’ Mark 1v7-8
THE gospels carried the story that John was a messenger sent ahead to prepare the way for Jesus: Matt. 3: 1v12, Mark 1v1-13, Lk 3:1v17, Jn. 1:9v28. As a messenger, he did not steal the show or take the place of the person he was announcing His coming.
Indeed, John was a big time preacher of all times, a crowd puller and fire spiting too. In Mark 1v5, we read: ‘and all the country of Judea and Jerusalem was going out to him and were being baptised by him in the river Jordan confessing their sins, Mark 1v5. I think in our own time, with this type of flourishing ministry, people may be booking to have access to him. Yet, he was simple, rugged and down to earth. Principally, he was conscious that he was only a messenger and that revealed much of his humility – after me comes He who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie… He said elsewhere, I must decrease that He may increase. He was not a competitor.
Part of the danger of today’s ministry is that those who are called to serve the Lord humbly, sometimes engage in competition to outdo one another. When God called us, He had a specific purpose and programme for us. We don’t need to engage in competition. Saint Paul will say: ‘What then is Apollos? and what is Paul? Ministers through whom ye believed; and each as the Lord gave to him. I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: but each shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow-workers: ye are God’s husbandry, God’s building, I Cor. 3v5-9.
Jesus observed: ‘that the greatest among you shall be your servant,’ Matt. 23v11. It is expected that from time to time we re-examine ourselves in order to ensure that we are in line with this requirement. Servants, not masters, but those who should in all humility serve the flock. We are not to lord things over the flock (intimidation, boasting of our background, achievements, etc). Rather, we are to take a cue from our master Jesus, the Holy writ says: ‘Then he poureth water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded,’ John 13v5. Those who serve should note that humility causes nothing, but wins a lot.
Referring to Moses, the Bible recorded that he was a humble and great servant of the Lord. ‘Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men that were upon the face of the earth,’ Num. 12v3. No wonder when he died, Israel mourned him for 30 days. Deut. 34v8.
But today, how humble are our leaders both in the Church and in the government? For those of us in the ministry, if our members hear that we are going on transfer, do they rejoice or do they weep? I think we can better assess ourselves; whether we qualify as humble servants of God.
But John the Baptist was and he could say: ‘after me comes He who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.’ We need to ask God to deal with the spirit of pride, arrogance and selfishness as its being noticed in the ministry of today. In fact, we need to underline the fact that the ministry of today is not for show, but for men and women who are humble enough to stoop low and serve the Lord in His Church. We earnestly pray that the Holy Spirit may help us in this New Year and in the years ahead to remember that the greatest in the service of God is one that serves humbly.Ven. Ernest Onuoha Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.