Chapter Twelve: How to Serve





            The main point Jesus made in the Matthew story is that those who would be great should be your servant and those who would be first should be your slave (Matthew 20:26-27).  When I read this story in the fall of 1973, I determined that it would be the major guideline for the operation of ICI (Global University).  Much later, I made the same decision for the ministry of Network211.  Over the years, this story set forth for us an ideal that we wanted to achieve.  How well we did it is for others to evaluate, but our desire was to serve. 

            As organizations Global University and Network211 seek to meet needs.  The ministries of Global University have to do with evangelism, discipleship, training of lay workers, and training of ministers.  As a school, it seeks to meet the needs of individual students worldwide.  Also, it seeks to meet the needs of Bible schools and to meet the needs of students in cooperation with the schools.  Similarly, in Network211 we set goals of meeting the spiritual needs of people globally through Internet evangelism and discipleship.   In addition one of Network211’s major goals is to assist churches by helping them mount targeted evangelism campaigns.  Both organizations work at home and abroad.

            My purpose in this chapter, however, is not to present the programs of Global University and Network211.  Rather, my purpose is to discuss the leadership principles that help organizations such as these function well.  These principles tell the “inside story” of what leaders do.   They tell us, in practical ways, how we can lead by serving.  We are attracted by the ideal of serving, but we have to determine what this means in practical terms. 

            A special feature of both Global University and Network211 is that we have the privilege of working closely with and through the General Council of the Assemblies of God, including Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM).  The section on “Working with the Leaders” highlights reaching your ministry goals through a large organization such as AGWM.  However, the leadership principles can be widely applied to various situations.

            We will turn now to the relevant leadership principles.  I will discuss general principles of leadership, how to work with the leaders, how to work with other organizations, how to work with staff, and some guidelines for self-discipline. 


General Principles


            First, avoid paying too much attention to either praise or blame.  It is possible that we can be unfairly praised or blamed.  We should not let this deter us from following God’s will.   When things go well, we may be praised, but should not allow this to make us full of pride.  We know that without God’s enablement, we could not accomplish His plans for us.  When things don’t go well, we may be blamed.  If we are to blame, we must improve and move on.    We can take comfort in the fact that we did our best and follow God’s leading for the future.  Keep in mind that people who are either praising or blaming you can sometimes quickly change. 

            Second, be generous when giving credit to others.  Many people feel rather unappreciated for their efforts.  Special effort should be made to commend people for the good work that they do.  It is wise to give credit to others whenever you can honestly do so.  As a leader, you will inevitably receive some credit for the progress of your organization.  Sometimes the credit actually should go to you and you can in all humility accept it.  However, you know, and should acknowledge that much credit goes to the people on your staff.  The wise leader will be careful to acknowledge their contributions to your outreach.    

            Third, keep in tune with the times.  Times change.  Although our message is based on the Bible and unchanging truths, our presentation may change with the times.  Our message is unchanging.   With regard to methods, we usually need to change with the times.  Methods move on.  You have to know what is going on around you and move with the times.  In some cases it is best that you be aligned with the times, neither ahead nor behind.  Seldom is it wise to be behind the times.  Sometimes a leader needs to be ahead of the group he leads.  This enables him to lead others toward new goals.  If a leader gets too far ahead, he may have to patiently pursue his goals while time catches up. 

            Fourth, make delay work for you.  You may be delayed by people who have authority over you, by the circumstances of life, by unforeseen obstacles, and many other factors.  When you experience delay, but still want to reach your goal, you can use the delay time to build a better outreach.  During delay time, your worthy goals may be refined, but this only will make them more worthy.  Achieving the goals will be worth the delay.  Very often, as time passes we understand better the reason for the delay. 

So it is best to keep our focus on the steps we need to take to improve what we are doing. 

            Fifth, respect everyone but do not fear anyone.  Obviously, I am talking about your colleagues, not lawless people.   Within your organization, treat everyone both above you and below you on your organization chart with respect.  Also, we must respect those with whom we work who are not in our organization.  Most people, including leaders, want to be respected but not feared.  Good leaders in the church do not want to be feared.  They know that you cannot do your best work when you are afraid.  Everyone should just be courteous to each other.    

            Sixth, sometimes you have to lose in order to win.  One of the most striking features of Christ's teaching was the paradox of “gain through loss.”  He taught, for example, that when people compel us to go one mile, we should go two.  This is true both for organizations and for individuals.  As we work with others, there will be times when we may have to “lose,” but it is amazing how many times our “loss” turns to “gain.” 

Very often we win more when we think we have lost than when we think we have won.

This approach goes a step beyond the “win-win” approach that is often advocated in leadership teaching.


Working with the Leaders


            This section, especially, has a twofold application.  Primarily, it deals with how an international ministry can work with the leaders of the Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM).  The organization of AGWM, except for international ministries, is based on geography so the leaders supervise geographical areas.  The international ministries serve in many lands.  The primary loyalty of the missionaries is to the leaders in geographical areas.  However, the geographical leaders often agree to work with the leaders of the international ministries in mutually acceptable ways. 

            There are, of course, many organizations, including institutions, churches, and companies, that do not work through another large entity such as AGWM.  Even though this section is written especially with those in mind who do, much that is said applies to organizations that do not.  The leaders in every organization, whether they work through a large organization or not, have to work with people who are their leaders.  Leaders of corporations, for example, work with others such as their Board of Directors. 

            First, study and support your leaders.  We have the privilege of working with them.  In AGWM this means working with leaders such as the Regional Directors and Area Directors.  These are the geographical leaders.  It is not hard to study them as their thoughts on many topics are quite well known.  Usually, our leaders have some projects and policies that have priority in their minds.  These priority items constitute the framework within which they work.  We can work in harmony with their framework and support them even while advancing our vision.  When these leaders “buy into” our vision, our cause will be greatly advanced.

            Second, goals trump philosophy.  It is important to know what the goals of our leaders are.  Many world missions leaders hold to the philosophy of the indigenous church, but there are variations of this.  The indigenous church philosophy is that the national churches ought to be self-governing, self-propagating, and self-supporting.  However, each situation is different and demands its own solution.  Therefore, many of the leaders in missions are quite pragmatic in what they do.  We need to know that their goals may be more important than their philosophies.  When we harmonize with their views, we can make progress toward our goals.

            Third, develop the philosophy for your organization.   In 1969 I wrote my own philosophy of missions.  This philosophy was flexible enough to allow us to work with the philosophies of the various AGWM leaders.  My philosophy assumed that the national churches wanted to work cooperatively with others.  So building on the indigenous church approach, I changed self-government, self-propagation, and self-support to cooperative-autonomy, cooperative-propagation, and cooperative-support.  This philosophy was flexible enough to work with the philosophies of the geographic leaders and to include the emphasis on people groups.

            Fourth, approach disagreement with your leaders diplomatically.  Maximize your points of agreement and think creatively about your disagreements.  Most leaders will not expect you to always agree with them.  Normally, leaders do not want you to be obsequious and may feel uncomfortable around those who are.  Even so, how you express your disagreement does make a difference.  Usually, but not always, it is best to express your differences privately.  Much depends on the nature of the disagreement, the situation in which a different opinion might be expressed, and the courtesy with which you say it.

            Fifth, you can win while being subordinate.  Normally, you cannot win much in a confrontational way.  When you are confrontational, it can call forth a like response.  A better way is to submit your plans and be willing to take "no" for an answer.  Many times, this can be a temporary result.  You can listen to the objections that may have been raised, back off for a season, give the leaders time, and come back with a better proposal.  You can bring a new proposal in a better package when you meet again.  If you have listened well, you may have overcome the objections and prepared the way for approval.      

            Sixth, build on the basis of mutual trust.  Begin by being trustworthy in all that you do.  When you are trustworthy, your capacity to be trusted will be known.  In addition, proceed on the assumption that your leaders are trustworthy.  It has been my privilege to have a relationship built on trust with many leaders.  Over time trust builds and is a major element in your working relationships.  Sometimes, something may happen that unsettles the basis of trust.  Usually, in such situations, the solution is to simply clarify what has happened.  If trust has been broken, then all parties will have some work to do in repairing the relationship. 

            Seventh, make ambiguity work for you.  AGWM is a global organization that relates to national churches, other organizations, and many ministries country-by-country.  Although administrative procedures are well-developed, the very nature of the work precludes having every detail well-defined.  Inevitably there will be some ambiguity in lines of authority, processes, and procedures.  If you are not overly concerned about this, you can make ambiguity work for you.  Most things can be worked out when colleagues are working together in trustworthy relationships.  It is important, of course, to exercise good judgment concerning what to do when there is no clear policy. 

            Eighth, an international ministry connected with AGWM marches with the armies of other men.  Many of the people who work with you have their primary loyalty with leaders over countries, regions, and territories.  Your work, as a leader of an international ministry, crosses geographical boundaries.  Although you have a staff at the home base that works directly with you, your work in other lands is with people with secondary loyalty to you and your international ministry.  Thus, you are marching with the armies of other leaders.  Fortunately, general patterns of operation develop over time that make it easy for everyone to work together. 

Working with Other Organizations

            First, find out the real interests and needs of other organizations.  We work with missionary field fellowships, missions leaders, national churches, Bible schools, various ministries, and others.  Each entity has its own special needs and interests.  When your ministry has something that meets their needs, they may well be very interested in talking with you about working together.  A lasting working relationship is always based on mutual benefit.  This does not mean that other ministries are selfish.  Each ministry wants to do its best to reach in outreach goals and are interested in resources that will help them do this. 

            Second, deal with the issues of control, credit, and cash.  Who controls the programs, who gets the credit, and who pays the bills are crucial issues.  When you are talking over plans to work together with other entities, these issues must be dealt with sooner or later.  Quite often, discussions start with other matters and gradually turn to one or more of these issues.  It is normally better to openly put these points on the agenda for discussion so that all parties will know they will be discussed.  When all parties are flexible on all three points, agreements can normally be worked out. 

            Third, share as much control as possible.  Each organization will have some things that they have to control.  This is normal.  However, when working with other organizations, each entity should carefully determine what control they can share.  Someone once said to compare the amount of sand you can hold in a tightly clinched hand versus an upturned open hand.  A more open-handed approach is generally more productive.  Unless it is necessary to control an aspect of your work, be willing to share control.      

            Fourth, make room for the brand of the other organizations.  Each organization, church, or ministry is building its own brand.  This is an important aspect of building an outreach.  For people to find you and relate to who you are, it helps to have a name that is known.  So, in working with other organizations, allow for them to make their name known.  All organizations, however, have to put their brand second to what is best for the Kingdom of God.  If it is better for the Kingdom of God for an entity to work silently, then that is what should be done.  God will justly reward each organization for its efforts.   

            Fifth, have a good understanding about who is paying the bills.  Quite often, the control of a ministry and the credit for it go with paying the bills.  This is a fairly normal expectation.  There are times, however, when an organization pays the bills without having either control of the ministry or credit for it.  We sometimes say that this is giving “without strings.”  Any arrangement is possible, but it is important to have a good understanding of what the arrangement is.  When the arrangement is made, the terms should be openly discussed and mutually accepted. 

            Sixth, when accreditation is desired, the standards of accreditation must be maintained.  To go with control, credit, and cash, we might call this certification.  All four of these issues have to be discussed.  Global University has a method of working with other schools in such a way that the other schools can benefit from its accreditation.  This is done largely through the materials and assessment tools that Global University has developed.  The schools working with Global University have to agree to administer all the programs in a suitable way.  Most schools find that the standards are reasonable and can be maintained. 

Working with Staff


            First, lead your team by example.  This is especially important in an organization that has a lot of volunteer workers and personnel who get their support somewhere else.  Most of these workers are totally committed to their work, but it is appropriate for them to expect the same commitment from you as the leader.  So, it is important that you lead by example.  There may be some workers who will be a little less committed than you are.  For example, they may get to work a bit later than you do and perhaps leave earlier.  In contrast some workers will do more.  They deserve our commendation and gratitude. 

            Second, match motivation with ministry gifts.  When enlisting new workers, find out what motivates them and what their ministry gifts are.   Try to assign them to a task that matches their motivation and ministry gifts.  If they want to perform given tasks and have the ability, much can be accomplished.  In some cases making this match is just not possible.  In such cases, you have to depend on workers doing their best at tasks that are not in harmony with their primary gifts.  Many times, fortunately, this can be a temporary assignment.  Obviously, people do their best work when their motivation and ministry gifts match their roles. 

            Third, build on the strengths of each person.  Every person has strengths and weaknesses.  Usually, these are well known to both peers and leaders.  Whenever possible, build on strengths, not the weaknesses.  We may have to build on potential strengths.  This building can begin with training for the needed role.  We may not be able to overcome some of the weaknesses that people have, but we can have them do what they are at least potentially gifted to do.  Hopefully, the strengths of each worker  will match the needed roles.  Building on strengths is a good way to maximize the efforts of the staff.

            Fourth, surround a problem person with positive action.  You may have a problem with a person on your staff.   You can overcome the problem by surrounding it with positive actions and people that make the case moot.  For example, if a person is not happy with his role, you can listen carefully to his complaint and begin to think of what role might be more suitable.  At the same time you can make sure that people around him are positive in their outlook.  It is not always possible to turn such a person around, but it is often very helpful to try.  When you are successful, you can gain the results produced by the worker. 

            Fifth, turn moments of conflict into creative sessions.  Some conflict is not only inevitable in any organization, but it is often good.  When conflict cannot be resolved, it can be harmful.  Whether it is resolved or not depends, in part, on how you approach it.  It is wise to allow everyone at the table to speak their minds of a given issue.  Assuming this is led properly, it can be done without a lot of discord and emotion.  The next step is to posit creative alternatives that everyone can accept.   Sometimes, but not always, you will be rewarded with great new ideas.  These new ideas can spur your organization on to greater deeds.


            First, know your own vision.  It is important to define your own vision and do it in a way that can be simply communicated.  Until the vision is clear, you will not gain a lot of support.  Many times people begin a new work with a vision that is not well-defined.  When this is the case, the leader with the vision must devote time and effort to refining his vision. This often takes a lot of consultation with others as well as interaction with potential followers.  The work of the visionary in defining the vision is not done until it can be simply stated in very understandable terms.  We live in an era of sound bites when concise and clear are the watchwords. 

            Second, keep your eye on the ball.  Every leader of a ministry needs to know what his vision and mission is.  Also, he needs to keep his focus and attention on the ministry he supervises.  Just keep your eye on the ball that you are supposed to hit.

Every ministry leader has opportunities to do things that are not related to the ministry’s vision and mission.  Although new things inevitably will be done, they should be done in harmony with the vision and mission.  Or, as an alternative, the vision and mission can be modified to fit the new scope of the ministry.  Everyone on the staff should know and subscribe to the vision.

            Third, mind your own business.  The temptation, when working through another organization, such as AGWM, is to be sidetracked into commenting on issues unrelated to your main tasks.  You should not spend time and energy getting involved pro and con in other issues.  You may have an opinion, but do not need to express it.  For example, because the business on the floor of the General Council does not have much to do with missionaries, they usually do not comment on the business.  On some occasions you may be called upon to express an opinion, but it is not your primary job to monitor others.         

            Fourth, always be secure.  At times leaders may suffer from a sense of insecurity.  When this happens, the entire organization suffers.  When you are secure, you can handle the problems that come your way.  The secure leader does not worry about his status, his understanding of the ministry, and his ability to do the job.  Neither is he insecure about colleagues that may test his leadership.  A sense of security comes from focusing on God and His Kingdom, not on yourself.  When you are secure, others around you feel secure.  An organization filled with secure people can accomplish much with joy in so doing.

             Fifth, be realistic, not cynical.  There will always be the temptation to be cynical about an organization and leaders you work with.  Even strong leaders can become cynical about the leaders of the larger entity with which they may work.  In any entity there will be events or actions that could call forth a cynical response.  However, the better response is just to be realistic. Most people, for example, act many times in their own interest or with mixed motivation.  It is a bonus when they go beyond their interests and engage in altruistic activity.  We should not be cynical about it. 

             Sixth, keep the faith.  Leading is a daily walk of faith.  We must move with the conviction that we are in God's will and that He will meet every need.  Even when the days seem dark, let the light of faith shine in our hearts.  Most ministry leaders face the challenge of raising the funds for their ministries.  This is always a challenging task.  In addition the walk of faith includes God's supply of personnel, people to make talented contributions to the work, the overall harmony of the people at work, and the general health of the organization.  The leader fosters a walk of faith on the part of each individual working with him.

            Seventh, make prayer and praise a vital part of your spiritual life.  We must pray always that we will know the will of God and have the courage to do it.  Obviously, we have special times set aside for prayer, but every moment of our lives can be saturated with praise and prayer. Even while we are busy at work, our attitude can be expressive of our heart for God.  Our prayers and praises are expressions of our submission to God and our dependency upon Him.  When we pray, we work together with God to accomplish His purposes.

             Eighth, make the will of God the supreme force in your life.  For example, it is more important to pray that we are in God's will than to pray for finances to do His will.  Clearly, we have to do both, but when we focus on His will, He will take care of the rest of our concerns.  Knowing the will of God for us is a major element in our leadership.  When we are convinced that we are in the will of God, great faith is born and a sense of confidence settles over us.  We know that God will enable us to do what He wants us to do.  Moreover, we will continue to grow in the image of Christ and become like Him in all our ways.

            Ninth, we must be led of the Spirit.  One of the outstanding characteristics of the leaders of the early church was that they were led of the Spirit in what they did.  For example, when Peter set out to go to the house of Cornelius with the men who came to his house, he said, “The Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings” (Acts 11:12).  When we know that the Spirit is leading, we can have the deep assurance that we are doing God’s work in God’s way.  When we have this inner assurance, we can act with confidence. Armed with this faith and confidence, we can watch God at work unfolding His purposes in the world. 



            The emphasis of this chapter is on how we can serve.  Jesus told us that we can become great through service.  The principles given above describe for us what this means inside an organization that works within the framework of a larger organization such as AGWM.  However, many of the principles discussed apply to entities that do not work through a larger organization.    

            It is amazing to me how much truth Christ taught in such concise form.  The story in Matthew 20:20-28 is a prime example.  This story raises at least the issues discussed in this book.  Many organizations are confronted with these issues and will be able to join the discussion of them.  In addition the story provide a basis for principles that make an organization run smoothly as well as how one organization can work within a larger organization on a harmonious basis. The summation of it all is that we are all at our best when we are meeting the felt and real needs of the people that we serve.  

Old Testament New Testament
Genesis Matthew
12:1-3—11 4:18-22—11
37:1-36—6 6:33—9
Exodus 10:2-4—6
2:15-22—4 16:21-23—Intro
3:2—11 17:1-7—6
3:4-5—11 17:22-23—Intro
3:10—11 19:12—5
4:10—4 19:28—2
4:12—4 20:17-19—Intro
17:12—2 20:20-28—Intro, 1(2), 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12
18:13-26—Intro, 7(2) 20:26-28—10
21:28-30—10 20:25-28—6
21:30—10 20:26-27—1, 12
 33:15—3 22:39—2
Leviticus 25:31-46—10
19:18—2 26:31—4
19:20—10 26:33—4
25:24—10 26:34—4
Numbers 26:39—3
11:17—4 26:42—3
11:25—4 27:46—5
Deuteronomy 27:55-56—2
7:8—10 28:18—7
32:1-3—4 28:19—1
Joshua 28:20—3
3:7—6 Mark
Ruth 1:19-20—11
4—10 2:27—7
2 Samuel 3:13-19—6
5:12—5 9:35—9
16:6—2 10:35-45—Intro
1 Kings 10:35—1
2:19—2 10:38-39—3
22:19—2 10:45—10(2)
1 Chronicles 15:40—2
15:2—10 16:1—2
23:13—10 16:15—1
2 Chronicles Luke
10:6-19—7 1:15-16—5
18:18—2 4:18-19—1, 10
Nehemiah 5:10—11
8:1-4—2 5:30-32—9
Psalm 6:13-16—6
32:2—8 8:1-3—10
34:12-13—8 9:1-2—11
55:21—8 9:1—7
56:12—10 9:10—11
75:4-7—5 10:9—7
119:105—11 12:49-50—3
131:1—4 20:21—8
Proverbs 20:22—8
15:22—11 20:25—8
16:9—5, 9 John
16:9—11 1:47—8
24:10—3 12:3—10
29:5—8 12:8—10
Ecclesiastes 14:12—7
8:9—7 14:16—3
Isaiah 14:22—6
6:5-8—11 15:5—1
35:10—10 15:16—5
40:29—4 15:20—3
45:13—10 19:25—2
46:9-10—5 Acts
Jeremiah 1:6-8—2
1:5—5 1:23-26—5
7:13—1 5:29—7
Micah 5:38-39—6
3:8—4 6:1-6—5
  1:1—9, 11
  12:6-8—4, 7
  12:18—6, 8
  1 Corinthians
  2 Corinthians
  5:21—3, 5
  1 Thessalonians
  1 Timothy
  2 Timothy
  1 Peter
  1 John
  3 John