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Witness the Suffering Servant

20 November 2022

By Ron Harmon, president of Council of Twelve Apostles

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

Luke 23:33

In our scripture passage today, we encounter a situation that has repeated itself many times over. Religious leaders either misunderstand or, worse, take advantage of their positions of power. The result is leadership that serves more the interest of the leader or a privileged few than the common good of the people.

I discovered this in my first opportunity to serve as pastor of a congregation in Louisville, Kentucky. I had become very invested in a direction that I felt would be beneficial for the congregation. I remember becoming frustrated at the lack of response to this direction. After a leadership team meeting one evening, a wise counselor pulled me aside and reminded me why I was engaged in leadership. I have never forgotten his wise words, “Love the people and other things will fall into place.”

He was not suggesting I abandon the direction we had worked on together as a leadership team. He was suggesting I embody Christ’s love as my priority. He was suggesting I lead with relationships and not permit my ambition to obscure the deeper needs of those I was called to serve. He understood leadership not as something we do to people but a journey with people amid their questions and struggles.

Henri Nouwen reminds us, “The way of the Christian leader is not the way of upward mobility in which our world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross.” Over the years I have come to value most those opportunities to be in service to others. Some of my most significant leadership moments have been washing dishes or mopping the floor with someone who simply needed a safe place to share.

It is in moments when we truly connect with each other on a deeper level that we discover our mutual brokenness. Our genuine vulnerability as leaders opens welcoming space for others to share and risk new possibilities in their growth as disciples. I am so grateful that welcoming space was created for me to grow as a young leader.

Prayer Phrase

God who is with us and ahead of us, help us feel the gentle nudge of your Spirit as we move toward the future. Guide us along the way as we seek justice and peace for your creation.

Spiritual Practice

Praying for Leadership of the Church

An important spiritual practice for disciples is praying for members of the body of Christ, especially those who carry leadership responsibilities. Ask God to guide your awareness of people who lead the community of faith in congregations, mission centers, and the World Church. Pray for God’s outpouring of grace on each servant leader who comes to mind.

Today’s Prayer for Peace

Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.

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