Thursday, January 28, 2010


[The picture to the right exemplifies my assertions, failing to focus on the most vital part of this foundational verse]

Servant Leadership is insufficient to describe how Christians are to lead in the military. Here is a brief synopsis of the theory:

The phrase “Servant Leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. In that essay, he said:

"The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling (really? natural?) that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice (or the Lord brings it about) brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature."

"The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served (here's the main fault!)."

Virtually every Christian organization refers to leadership as being servant leadership, though they may be unclear on exactly what it is that is being supported (for military ministries this may be especially true). Servant leadership is fundamentally impractical for military leaders who have the distinct duty of prioritizing the unit’s mission above their subordinate’s needs and desires (to include the requirement of those individuals to give their lives for unit/national success). After all, how is asking a person to engage in mortal battle or (the other extreme) to clean the head, ensuring that their "highest priority and desires" are being served? Furthermore, how is requiring your followers to go to sea for extended periods, away from their families, and risk their lives serving them? We have to think about what we are saying - words matter. Christian military ministries repeat the need to be servant leaders, failing to define it, leaving it to ignorant interpretation, or subjective individual adoption of the impractical and clearly unChristian model provided by Greenleaf (that's if most people even pause to consider what they believe and how it impacts the way they lead for Christ). To advocate an unaltered Servant Leadership model for military leadership causes confusion and exasperation for Christians sincerely seeking to do God’s will and glorify Him through their service. Often these ministries, while well intentioned, as equipping organizations to Christian military leaders provide insufficient practical and relevant material while advocating a less than Biblical model for how to lead where they have been called. This is not done purposefully; yet accomplished none-the-less through failing to define the terms on which so much of what they advocate is based. The faulty assumption that everybody understands what is being said leads to a multitude of methods for execution, to include the common action of inaction. Essentially, there is a gap between what we say we believe and what/how we do it. My hope is that this blog will be part of the conversation that will help to bridge that gap for many Christian leaders, thereby enabling them to establish a solid foundation based on a fully Christ-like model of leading in service to the King while wearing the uniform of their nation’s military.


  1. As a wife of a retired USAF officer, a mother of two young men aspiring to military service, and a fellow believer, I just want to say I appreciate the perspective you put forth on your blog. Your views on Christian service and leadership, specifically how it manifests itself in military service, are commendable. Your profile description says it all about your priorities! We need more Christian leaders in the military and in all walks of life.

  2. Thanks,Lisa. I appreciate the encouragement!