On my first day at Heartland, I was praying and asked God, “Show me ways to be obedient and give me joy in it.” And he said to me, “Serve and respect my people.” I want you to know that is my heart. I want to serve you well. Even without knowing your stories, your passions, or your gifting, I respect you. After only a few weeks, I’ve come to love this church! I had the opportunity to pray for two women at the Ramada in downtown Waterloo yesterday who had sore backs. One had back pain so severe that it had made her leg numb (a little prayer made the pain go down from an 8 to a 5 and feeling returned to her leg). After what God did for her, they were curious to know which church I was part of. It was so easy to “brag” on you guys! “I love it there. The people are awesome! The leadership is amazing.” More important than that, I added, “It’s a place where God shows up….not only does he show up, he’s invited.” I don’t know whether or not those two women will join us at Heartland, but those are the reasons I moved from Michigan to Iowa. I’m absolutely thrilled to partner with you in what God is doing here!
I want to go back to what God said to me on that first day, “serve and respect my people.” What an essential ingredient in leadership! Jesus said the same to his disciples when he was teaching them about how to lead people in Matthew 20. “The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The context of this teaching is a power grab from James and John. They had just asked Jesus for positions of authority in the Kingdom. Jesus response: to be first in my Kingdom, you must learn to serve. The power dynamics in this Kingdom are upside down from the world’s.
Have you ever seen The Lion King? This dynamic is illustrated in the difference between Mufasa and Scar. When Mufasa sits Simba down to tell him that someday he will be king, he says “Everything the light touches is our Kingdom.” Simba asks, “But what about that shadowy place?” Mufasa tells him that Simba must never go there. Confused, Simba asks, “But I thought a king can do whatever he wants.” Mufasa answers, “There’s more to being a king than getting your way all the time…everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.” After Scar murders Mufasa, the Kingdom goes downhill fast. In fact, when we return to the Pride Lands everything is dim and dark, almost black and white. Food is scarce. Why? Because the herds had been over hunted and moved on. Scar saw power as a way to exploit and dominate. Mufasa saw his position as King as one of service to all, and so there was abundance and light. In fact, just like Jesus, his ultimate act of service was when he laid down his life to save Simba (but that’s another point for another time).
We all lead in one realm or another. Whether it be a friend, a sibling, a family, a ministry, a church, or a business. Who better to model leadership to us than Jesus? I’ve seen the desire to serve first hand in the heart of Dan and the other leaders at Heartland. As leaders in this church, we want to fuel what God is doing. We pray that ministry will bubble up organically more than it does programmatically. So, please, let us know how we can help you translate your passion into action. Help us know how to fuel what God is already doing!