Thursday, July 13, 2017

Servant Leaders, the Bible and the MBTI...

The following was written by Pastor Kris Freeman as a servant leadership research thesis for Trevecca Nazarene University.

In the hours before his trial, crucifixion and death, Jesus spoke these words to his disciples: “but among you, it will be different.” (Luke 22:26, The New Living Translation). The words of Jesus are true for any servant leader who pursues the calling placed upon a life by God. This calling signifies purpose, defines existence, and aligns lives with the will of God, the Heavenly Father. It was Jesus who knew more about his disciples than they of themselves, and explored their inner voice to be responsive to the coming of The Holy Spirit.

For this reason, every leader must examine this “voice within,” — a vocare, a word of Latin root meaning “to summon (transitive verb) or calling (active noun)” (The Latin Dictionary). I am a servant of God, and have been called by Him for the direct purpose of servant leadership, to His kingdom and to the people I get the privilege to serve. I would like to take the opportunity to explain how the passage of Jesus’ words to his disciples has shaped the calling placed upon my life, and fulfill the “five practices of exemplary leadership” as outlined by this class at Trevecca Nazarene University, and Christian Reflections on The Leadership Challenge (Kouzes, Posner). 

To better understand how Jesus shaped his words to his disciples as servant leaders, it takes a greater context of the story. Two of the 12 were James and John, the sons of Zebedee and nicknamed by Jesus the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17, NLT). Both brothers came from a prominent family whose father had friendship and connection to the high priest. Their mother, Salome (All Women of the Bible), a devout follower of Jesus, asked him for a personal favor to give her sons a seat at his right hand when Jesus “came into his Kingdom.” (Mark 10:35-40, NLT). Jesus did not deny her request, but corrected her, and thus sets the table for the conversation recorded in chapter 22 of The Gospel of Saint Luke.

Just prior to The Last Supper, a final meal with Jesus and his disciples before his death, James and John were among a group of disciples discussed who would have the prominent seat by Jesus in the coming kingdom. As he would illustrate visually by washing the disciples feet, Jesus then demonstrates the calling of the disciples and paints a vivid picture of their future with this statement:

But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves. You have stayed with me in my time of trial. And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right to eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel (Luke 22:26-30, The New Living Translation).

To this point, the disciples had been learners. As servant leaders, he was about to send them as ambassadors and define the role as apostles (MacArthur, 17). 

I am a leader, because I have been called as a servant. I am a servant, because I am submissive to the will of the Almighty God. I am submissive, because I realize that without God, I am nothing. And I am nothing, so I may serve my fellow man with humility and honor. It is this circle of servant leadership which defines my vocare and I hope to illustrate how God has shaped me as a learner and an ambassador to be his disciple and apostle.

Kouzes and Posner further explain the role of a servant leader in five practices: leaders model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act and encourage the heart (8-38). There are exemplary servant leaders in scripture who model these five practices. Joshua was commissioned by God as strong as courageous and modeled the way in the wilderness to eventually lead the Israelites into the Promised Land after the death of Moses. Nehemiah inspired a shared vision, asking the residents of the city to work on the rebuilding of the wall using the section in front of their own homes. Haggai challenged the process by encouraging the people of Israel to work on their hearts before working on their city stirring the spirit of the people. Elijah enabled others to act by passing the mantle of leadership to his apprentice, Elisha, and such did the Apostle Paul in the New Testament to Timothy. Andrew encouraged the heart by introducing many to Jesus including the first disciples and developed a reputation as one with a close connection with the Savior because of his people skills.

Joshua modeled the way for leadership, but this came with humility and respect. At the death of his mentor, Moses, God responded to the prayer of Joshua. “Be strong and courageous, for I the Lord am with you wherever that you go” (Joshua 1:9, NLT). Outside of Jesus, it is my opinion Joshua is the greatest leader of the Bible. He was a military commander, a confident and trustworthy strategist and spy, and was fair and honorable as the leader of people in crossing into the land of Canaan and dividing up the land among the 12 tribes. “As a leader the first person I should lead is me” (Kouzes, Posner 42). Joshua realized to leave a legacy of influence as an exemplary servant leader, he must know himself and exemplify these practices. Therefore, Joshua’s modeling the way leaves an impact worth following.

Nehemiah inspired a shared vision and rebuilt the wall around the city in 52 days. Kouzes and Posner further illustrate leaders envision the future and “passionately believe they can make a positive difference” (53). A servant in the court of the Persian king, Nehemiah requested leave to pray, plan and prepare a vision to rebuild the wall around the destroyed city of Jerusalem. This calculated process came full circle when the people followed the vision, stayed true to their work despite opposition, and celebrated its completion together. Through adversity, the people learned to trust a leader and work together. Nehemiah’s legacy as a builder inspires vision in others to stay the course and see God’s work to completion, and as a servant leader, he did not watch the process. He actively worked on the wall.

Similar to Nehemiah, Haggai had a difficult job of speaking to a broken-hearted people looking to rebuild God’s temple after war-torn destruction. But Haggai challenged the process in leadership, reminding the people of a spiritual problem which needed correction before the physical problem was resolved. “So the Lord sparked the enthusiasm…of the whole remnant of God’s people. They began to work on the house of their God” (Haggai 1:14, NLT). If the enemy of growth is complacency, then Haggai challenged the comfortably of the people to get the job done. Exemplary leaders have courage, and this incremental change took what seemed like a small challenge and worked a big victory. 

Elijah enabled Elisha to act. One of only two Old Testament leaders to go the presence of God without death (Elijah and Enoch), Elijah was carried away by a chariot of fire. During the process, he was followed by his apprentice Elisha, who asked for a “double portion of his spirit” to fall upon him (2 Kings 2:9, NLT). This double portion was symbolized by a mantle worn around the neck of Elijah, signifying his leadership. The result was Elisha performed double the number of miracles recorded in the Bible to that of Elijah, minus one. After his death, a man was resurrected when his body was thrown into the tomb of Elisha and touched his bones, completing the miraculous double portion of miracles (2 Kings 13:21, NLT). Elijah was not the easiest leader to follow, but Elisha’s persistence matched Elijah’s challenge and he was enabled to act.

Andrew is listed among the first four disciples, but was first a disciple of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ in the New Testament. The brother of Peter, Andrew takes prominence for encouraging others to act. He introduces Peter, James and John to Jesus as the fishermen dropped their nets and followed Christ. In John 12:20, he brings a group of Greek gentiles to Christ despite the hesitation of Philip. Most notable, it was Andrew who courageously brought a young man to Jesus in John 6:8, after the other disciples wished to send away thousands of hungry people. With encouragement and a servant heart, Andrew inspired the young man to donate five loaves and two fishes, and Jesus miraculously fed 5,000 men plus women and children. It appears by examination Andrew was a leader among the people, showed great humility, and loved to be a “right-catcher” (Kintner) and find those doing well and encourage an introduction to Jesus. The fact that Andrew is recognized less than Peter, James and John in the inner circle of the apostles says much about his ability to encourage and inspire others and take the emphasis off himself.

An interesting case study might be the evaluation of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) of the leaders in the Bible. While this instrument was not possessed in Biblical times to assess how each would handle and formulate leader opportunities, we have the ability to use their experiences and shape our own. The Myers-Briggs types parallel the gifts of the Holy Spirit as recognized in scripture. 

As a very clear E (extroversion), a moderate S (sensing), a clear T (thinking) and very clear J (judging), I find the shape of my Myers-Briggs profile lends itself to match my spiritual gifts. My top three spiritual gifts are teaching, shepherding and administration, which emphasize my leadership qualities of finding energy as an extrovert and completing tasks as a J. My shepherding heart is matched by a clear discernment of thought and spirit, and my decisions are made administratively as a thinker. The reliance upon discernment explains why I have balanced the role of a moderate S with a lean toward N (intuition) in how I process information.

Thus, becoming a servant leader means before leading and influencing others, one must know themselves. While Biblical leaders never had the opportunity to identify as a Myers-Briggs type, each understood their vocare, even if that was developed by God through discipleship over time. This shapes me, and others, as we look to our heroes and examples in the Bible for further direction in developing leadership principles.

While much of this writing has focused on Biblical characters, I also take inspiration in leadership from other people who have inspired my journey to a calling as a husband and a father, pastor of a church, a missionary to other countries, and an announcer and coach in local sports. Each of those roles contains a foundational parallel - using the voice given to me by God to inspire others with the vocare placed within my heart and soul, the voice within.

The greatest inspiration as a voice to me was legendary broadcaster Jack Buck of the St. Louis Cardinals and radio giant KMOX 1120-AM. Recently, MLB Network produced a seven-minute video documentary (Jack and The Kid) of Jack Buck secretly mentoring John O’Leary. O’Leary nearly died in 1987, in a self-induced gasoline explosion as a child and lost his fingers. As a Cardinals fan, he was surprisingly visited by Buck in the hospital while he was sedated and unable to speak. Buck used his own voice to say “Wake up kid, listen to me, you have to keep fighting.”

The nine-year-old did, and O’Leary left the hospital with skin grafts on 87 percent of his body. He learned to write again using his disabled hands when Buck promised him an autographed baseball of a Cardinals player or legend, as long as John could write a thank-you note in return. The result was over 60 baseballs delivered to his home. Thirty years later, O’Leary is now a motivational speaker, author and was even mentioned by Buck in his baseball Hall of Fame induction speech. This year, O’Leary was brought into the Cardinals clubhouse to speak and inspire the team.

Buck modeled the way, inspired a shared vision, challenged the process, enabled him to act and encouraged his heart and this left a legacy that is now being written by O’Leary — both for the safety of young people around flammable products, and to the disabled and challenged who need inspiration. This is the model for servant leadership. It is quite amazing that Buck’s humility allowed the story to be told 15 years after the announcer’s death from Parkinson’s Disease in 2002.

A servant leader lives to inspire and influence this type of legacy. I have been shaped by the experiences of others, both Biblical heroes and modern servants, to construct the reflection of how God shapes my calling within me and how I see my own abilities to fulfill this calling. My giftedness and talent are ultimately for the betterment of others and the honor of God.

A calling or vocare always involves service to others. May we all grow roots in leadership which are authentic and pure, knowing the fruit each one grows is never for the tree itself. The fruit is always for the one which needs nourishment, and therefore the disciplined working of the crop is worth every effort.

When Jesus said it would be different among you, this is the type of apostle he was calling to go to the world.


Buck, Joe, MLB Network. (Director). (2017, June 15). Jack and The Kid [Video file]. Retrieved from

Gateway, Bible (n.d.). All the Women of the Bible: Salome No. 2. Retrieved from https://

Holy Bible: New Living Translation (2013). Carol Stream, Ill, Tyndale House Publishers. 

Lewis, C. T., Andrews, E., & Freund, W. (2002). A Latin dictionary: founded on Andrews edition of Freunds Latin dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2004). Christian Reflections on The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

MacArthur, J. (2007). Twelve Ordinary Men. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc

O'Neill, D. (2017, June 17). Nine-Year-Old Burn Survivor Got Unexpected Inspiration. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved from

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