Here are three practical ways to help you cultivate a servant heart in any area of life.
Mark 10 v 45 is one verse in the bible that I find particularly challenging. It says that Jesus came to serve, not be served (my paraphrase). Why do I find that so challenging? Well, the honest truth is that it gives me absolutely no leg to stand on when I feel that I “should” be the one who is listened to, or appreciated more, or significant etc – the list goes on and on.
That is NOT to say that any of those things are bad, they are not. We should expect to be treated well, to be recognised for what we do and appreciated for our contribution. For those in leadership, let me encourage you to do this with the people around you who serve in your ministry and make your vision become a reality. It will really help build your team, particularly during the difficult times that we will regularly face.
However, when that doesn’t happen, or is absent in the moment, how do I respond? Well, my attitude at all times needs to be that of a servant. I need to clearly understand that I am not doing what I am doing for what I can get out of this but rather what I can put into this. How I can contribute and the difference I can make can have a massive impact for eternity. I believe that if we are serving in any capacity, we have to understand this as the core of why we do what we do, but it’s a good thing to remind ourselves regularly that this is what we believe and have that belief influence the way we behave and respond in difficult moments.
I have failed in this many many times and I am sure I will continue to fail in this, BUT I have also succeeded in serving in ministry for many years and it is my goal to continue to learn to grow in servanthood in whatever I do – I believe that I have learnt some keys from my experience that I want to pass onto you. Here are three practical ways I believe you can grow in this area, these are things that on my better days I put into practice:
1. Humility - understand you are part of a bigger picture, the world doesn’t revolve around you. I know sometimes it’s hard to see that but it’s true. We are a “cog” in a much larger wheel. It’s really important that we see that. There is a great quote on humility that states “humility isn’t thinking less about yourself, it’s just thinking about yourself less” – there is so much truth in this one phrase. I know that the starting point to being a servant is humility – that really is what Jesus modelled for us. Can we prefer others over ourselves? If we can do that, it will be a great step towards having a servant’s heart.
2. Flexibility – in many ways, this leads on from humility and is particularly important for those of us in the media. Let’s be honest we are often very set in our ways, definite about how things should be done and opinionated when things are not done how we like. This is where flexibility comes in. One of the lessons I have learned over my years of working in Christian media is how flexibility can be your friend. The ability to change direction, pivot at the last moment and go with someone else’s idea and plan really does enable you to get the best product out of every situation. I believe that success is a team sport and that we have the potential to be most successful when we choose to be flexible – and yes it IS a choice. I have often chosen to go with something that I didn’t always feel was the best way forward. Deferring to others (that’s humility) and allowing them to dictate how things get done has helped me to understand how to function as part of a team. I know that if you also choose flexibility, it will help you in the same way.
3. So, I am going to cheat a little and split this third one into 2 parts – the reason is that whilst I believe they are 2 different things, they are similar – a. is Gratitude and b. is Thankfulness.
a. Gratitude – I have had the most amazing career in Christian media and have been involved in some of the most (in my opinion) significant projects that have ever been broadcast – I am GRATEFUL for that. How does this fit and (if you are reading ahead) how does it differ from b? Well, gratitude for me is a constant source of encouragement, it’s something I know is “in me” that I need to dig into. It’s not caused by anything external happening currently but is a state of “being”. When I am in a place of gratitude for what HAS happened, it makes it totally OK for me to do anything I am asked to do, even when it’s difficult. Find the things you are grateful for that you can use as anchor points to keep you with an attitude of a servant.
b. Thankfulness – so, here is how I believe this is different to gratitude. It’s something I can “feed” by external means. I can deliberately position myself to be exposed to things that cause me to be thankful. For instance, for me, throughout my Christian media journey, one of the things I have regularly done is find and read testimonies and stories of lives that have been changed through the work and the broadcasts I have been a part of. That causes thankfulness to grow in me and enables me to stay in a place of servanthood as I see the big picture, what I am doing and how I am playing a part in impacting the world.
The last of these, thankfulness, is I believe something that we MUST feed ourselves on regularly and indeed is our responsibility. The last few months have been crazy days globally, but for you guys, involved in Christian and church media it has been really mental. You have done amazing things and I know it can be tempting to look back on all the things that perhaps didn’t go well, the things that can be improved on or be frustrated by the perceived lack of support or budget or even the lack of appreciation for what you have done – and I get it, I have been there!!
BUT, here is my encouragement for you right now, firstly reminisce on the great things that have happened that you can be grateful for and then secondly find some stories of how what you have done has impacted people and consume them. Maybe it’s simply an elderly person who couldn’t get to church but because of your hard work was able to stay connected, or maybe it’s a young mum who felt isolated, afraid and alone but your work gave them a sense of community, or maybe it’s a guy who had gone through a horrible break up, was on the verge of ending it all but found your live stream, gave his life to Jesus and now has renewed vision. I know that there will be stories out there that you can feast on and be thankful for. So, let’s feed our spirits regularly and ignite thankfulness and gratitude in our hearts as I know that this is one of the major keys to having a servant’s heart and trust me, we will need a servant’s heart even more in the future.
What are other ways we can cultivate a servant's heart? I'd love to hear your thoughts.