Becoming Great Through Service


George M. Flattery, Ed.D.


Springfield, Missouri

Network211 Edition

Springfield, MO USA


Becoming Great  Through Service

Copyright © 2016 by George M. Flattery

All Rights Reserved. First Network211 Edition 2016

Published with the permission of George M. Flattery

Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995

by The Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission. (

ISBN:  Network211 Paperback Edition:  978-0-9851788-5-7



          In the summer of 1973 the story in Matthew 20:20-28 about becoming great by being a servant captured my attention.  I was sitting on our sofa in our apartment in Brussels, Belgium reading this story when it hit me.  Matthew’s story, it seemed to me, deals with many important leadership issues.  We had been in Brussels just over one year and were attempting to further establish and develop the worldwide ministry of International Correspondence Institute (ICI) which became ICI University and then Global University.   As president of ICI, I was at times confronted with issues such as those raised in this story. 

            When I read Matthew’s story, I was teaching a class each Sunday at Christian Center which was a newly planted international church.  So I developed ten lessons for this class based on this story.   In August and September of 1973, I taught the ten lessons at the church.  Since then, I have taught this ten-lesson series in various places around the world.  Now, these lessons have become chapters in this book along with two chapters that I have added.  All of the chapters deal with leadership issues with an emphasis on servant leadership.  The twelfth chapter is devoted to a consideration of how to serve. 

            The overarching message of the story is that service is the indispensable element in great leadership.  While making this point, Jesus addressed His remarks to whoever would be great and whoever would be first.  Paradoxically, the one who wants to be great must be the servant of all and the one who wants to be first must be the slave.  By implication, the paradox of leadership is that leaders become great through service.   Jesus does not rebuke the desire to be great or even to be first, but He shows the way.  Service rather than power has the priority. 

            Over the years, I sought to apply the leadership principles based on Matthew’s story to the organizations that I served.  We looked upon these principles as guiding ideals.  We had many opportunities to apply the message of this story to our work.   Although we did not make Matthew’s story a part of the constitutions and bylaws of these organizations, we treated it as such.  This story tells all ministries, as well as secular businesses, the best way to pursue their goals.       

            With regard to the story, Jesus and the disciples were on the way to Jerusalem.  He had already told them three times in Matthew’s gospel that He was facing death and resurrection in Jerusalem (Matthew 16:21-23, 17:22-23; and 20:17-19).  However, it is obvious that the disciples had not fully understood the implications of what He said.    

            In spite of all these warnings, the attention of the disciples was focused on their own leadership roles.  Two of the disciples, James and John, wanted positions of honor very much in the way of the world as it existed then.   They seemed to be interested in power, prestige, glory, and fame instead of the best interests of Christ’s kingdom.  They had not grasped what His kingdom was all about.  The death and resurrection of Christ would introduce a totally new order where greatness and leadership are based on service rather than power.

             Both Matthew 20:20-28 and Mark 10:35-45 present this leadership story.  This book is based on Matthew’s version with supplemental information from Mark.  The two versions are different at a couple of points that we will discuss when we deal with the relevant verses.  With this as background, here is the story as Matthew tells it:

  20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him.
   21 And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to Him, "Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left."
   22 But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" They said to Him, "We are able."
   23 He said to them, "My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father."
   24 And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers.
   25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.
   26 "It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.”
   27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;
   28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

            This story has an impact on both individuals and organizations.  Jesus addressed His remarks to “whoever wishes to become great.”  Jesus called them as individuals to be servants.   As servant leaders, they will have a huge impact on the groups they lead.  The impact of an individual is seen by Ralph Waldo Emerson when he says, “Every great institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man.  His character determines the character of the organization” (  Many churches are known as much or more by the name of the pastor as by the name of the church.  The same is true of many businesses and their leaders, especially when the leaders own the businesses.

           Organizations enter the picture because their leaders often want their organizations to be great.  In fact many entities expressly state that becoming the best in their field is their objective.  Jesus does not explicitly address organizations and their desire to be great or first.  However, the fact that true greatness lies in service is true for organizations.  Therefore, many of the principles in this book apply to organizations and institutions becoming great as well as to individuals. 

            Matthew’s story has inspired both secular and Christian leaders everywhere.  It is one of the main biblical sources of what has become known as servant leadership. Ever since Matthew and Mark wrote the story, it has been a blessing to church leaders everywhere.  Today, many secular leaders, as well as church leaders, have adopted the philosophy of leading through service.   

Preview of the Chapters

          This is a very powerful story which deals with basic leadership issues.  I will discuss the issues raised by the story.  My discussion of the issues will not be limited to an exposition of the text, but we will study the text verse-by-verse.   In each chapter we will bring in additional material from other sources. I will not read the additional material into the text, but I also will not limit my comments to what the text says.  The text raises the topics and I deal with the topics.  Here is a short description of each chapter.

          First, the title of chapter one is “What Leadership Is.”  The entire passage in Matthew 20:20-28, and especially verses 25-28, provide the background for this chapter.  In this chapter I present the need for leaders and definitions of leadership, including my own.  Then, I discuss the relationship of service and greatness with an emphasis on service as the indispensable quality of both secular and Christian servant leadership. 

            Second, verses 20-21 suggest the topic for chapter two which is "The Desire to Lead."  The mother of James and John asked Jesus to command that they sit on His right hand and His left hand in His Kingdom.  This chapter presents my comments on the desired positions and what it meant to sit in the honored seats.  Following this, I discuss the reaction and reply of Jesus, comments on when it is right and when it is wrong to want to lead, and the results of leadership through service. 

            Third, the third chapter deals with "The Price of Leadership." This issue is raised when Jesus identifies the cost he will pay as the “cup” that He will drink (verse 22a) and the “baptism” that He will experience (verse 23a KJV and Mark 10:38).  When Christ replied, He spoke about the cost that the disciples would pay.  With this as a starting point, I discuss twelve costs that leaders may face as they serve and then turn then to the topic of meeting the challenge.   

            Fourth, chapter four is a study of "The Leader's Confidence."  Verse 22b gives rise to this subject.  Here, Matthew quotes James and John as saying, “We are able.”    We will include a look at both the positive and negative aspects of the leader’s confidence and then present some thoughts on mitigating extremes.  Next, I will speak about placing our full confidence in Christ.  This will lead to some thoughts on developing confidence with Moses as an example. 

            Fifth, in chapter five we will study "The Leader's Destiny." This chapter is based on verse 23 where Jesus indicates that being seated at His right and left hands is determined by the Father.  This raises issues that have to do with destiny.  Although man’s finite mind cannot fully reconcile free will and God’s sovereignty, this chapter provides some practical action suggestions.  I present my view of controlled freedom in which man can exercise free will within God’s control.  Next, I apply this view to positions of leadership and to greatness followed by some ideas on a course of action. 

            Sixth, Mathew tells us in verse 24 that ten of the disciples became indignant with James and John.  Sooner or later, as chapter six explains, most leaders are confronted with upset co-workers.  Thus, I have titled lesson six "Indignant Colleagues."  In this chapter I write about prospective leaders, James and John and Joseph, and then write about the colleagues of James and John and the brothers of Joseph.  I include a section on pathways to leadership followed by some suggestions on action principles.

            Seventh, the subject of chapter seven is "The Leader's Authority."  This chapter keys on verse 25 which deals with the role of authority.  I describe how Jesus deals with the abuse the abuse of authority by referring to “Gentile” leadership.  Next, I discuss the necessity of authority, including a section on management using Moses in Exodus 18:13-26 as an example. The story of Moses opens up a discussion of ten aspects of management.  Next, I deal with the right use of authority. Servant leaders need to have a proper perspective concerning authority and act appropriately. 

Eighth, in chapter eight my subject is "The Hazards of Leadership."  There are many hazards to leadership, including the abuse of power (verse 25).   Listing this pitfall raises the possibility of others.  Our attention in this chapter is focused on compromise and manipulation.  Compromise is bad when ethical positions are waived, but it can be good when ethical principles are not involved.   Manipulation, in a figurative sense, is the attempt gain something by unfair means.  Leaders face many potential pitfalls and must be diligent to avoid them.

            Ninth, chapter nine deals with verses 26-27 where we come to the very heart of the Matthew story. The chapter is about "Leading Through Service."  Jesus addresses his comments to “whoever wishes to become great” and “whoever wishes to be first.”  Here, we begin by recalling from chapter one the types of leaders.  This is followed by a discussion of meeting the needs of people.  Jesus clearly came to meet needs with emphasis on the real needs. We conclude this chapter with comments on ways to lead through service.

            Tenth, the subject of chapter ten is “A Ransom for Many.”  In this chapter we emphasize that Jesus came to minister to people around Him and, while He did not come to be ministered to, the disciples on their own initiative ministered to Him.  Next, we discuss what it means that Jesus came to give His life as a “ransom” for many and
to whom, if anyone, the ransom was paid.  Finally, we write about how we should act as followers of Christ. We cannot be a ransom in the sense that Christ was, but we can pay the price of being witnesses to the entire world.

            Eleventh, the topic of chapter eleven is “The Call of God to Serve.”  Verses 21, 23, 26, and 27 are especially relevant to this subject.  The term “call of God” has broader meanings, but our concern here is our call to serve.  Therefore, I discuss the relationship between the desire to lead and the call of God to serve, consider the needs people have and His call to serve by meeting these needs, and present several Biblical examples of God calling His servants.  Then I deal with how we hear God calling.   The ways we hear God call are also ways to find the will of God.

            Twelfth, this final chapter deals with “How to Serve.”  The main point Jesus proclaimed in the Matthew story is that “whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant” (verse 26).  This brings into focus our topic for this chapter.  In the organizations that I served with over many years, our goal and ideal was to serve.  The principles presented tell us how we can lead by serving.  I discuss general principles of leadership, how to work with top leaders, how to work with other organizations, how to work with staff, and some guidelines for self-discipline.  

The Context

            Over six years before the Matthew story captured my attention, I proposed the formation of International Correspondence Institute (ICI) to the Department of Foreign Missions (FMD) of the General Council of the Assemblies of God (GCAG).  This department is now known as Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM).  Much later, in 1997, with the approval of AGWM, I founded the global Internet ministry named Network211.  A brief description of these ministries will shed light on the context in which we sought to apply leadership principles.  These ministries were an experiential workshop.  

            ICI was formed in 1967 and became known as ICI University in 1993.  In 1999 Berean University and ICI University united to become Global University (GU).  Global University is a distance education school.  It works worldwide through its network of offices in over 150 countries.  The network also includes schools of the University under local names.  Additionally, it has working agreements with many resident Bible schools.  Global University is committed to evangelism, discipleship, and training at all levels from non-credit training up through doctoral programs.  It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in the United States. 

            Network211, which started as Global Colleagues, is a global ministry of evangelism and discipleship via the Internet.  Using this means, it presents the gospel to millions of people from nearly every country in the world, including the United States.  It has hundreds of “connectors” who interact with people who write to us to help them grow in Christ.  In addition it has an online church called Global Christian Center and a social media site named Global Friend Link.  We work with a network of churches through targeted evangelism campaigns and by syndicating content to their web sites. 

            As past president of Global University, under its different names, and Network211, I worked with many of the leaders of the Assemblies of God at home and abroad.  Consequently, I had the opportunity to observe their leadership up close for several decades.  Their examples were instructive for me as I sought to follow good leadership principles.  Hopefully, some of what I learned from them is reflected in the chapters in this book.  I wish to sincerely thank all of these leaders for their leadership, their moral support of our efforts, and their strong commitment to the advancement of the Kingdom of God. 

            In addition Global University and Network211 provided me with a great opportunity to work together with hundreds of staff members on a global scale.   Many of them were outstanding leaders in their own right.  With regard to our central office, many secular and church visitors told us that they were surprised by the commitment and passion manifested by our entire staff.  With profound gratitude, I thank all of these co-workers, and our colleagues worldwide, for their wisdom and service. 

About this Book

            A few comments about this book may be helpful to you in understanding the leadership context of my remarks.  Therefore, I would call your attention to the following points:

            First, it is not my purpose to present a survey of the latest literature on leadership.  It is my desire to present information that has had a positive impact on me and my service roles over the decades.  Consequently, even though I have used some more recent sources, some of the references in this revised version are older.  The older sources are still valid and acquaint the reader with leadership approaches that form a basis of much of what is said today.  When you consider the older sources and the more recent, you can see trends clearly emerging.  For example, a strong trend is the emphasis on servant leadership. 

            Second, it is my purpose to write about leading through service.  What Jesus says lets us know that service is the indispensable factor in greatness and in great leadership.  I have used the term “indispensable” repeatedly.  There are synonyms such as absolutely necessary, essential, requisite, and required, but indispensable seems to me to be more precise.  Therefore, at the risk of being repetitive, I have used this term throughout this book. 

            Third, my point in this book is not to say that service is the only important aspect of leadership.  There are other leadership elements. For example, vision and good management are both very important in the leadership of any church or organization.  In my view we should not overlook these factors, but rather we should consider them as ways to serve.  We serve the people well when we have vision and manage well.  So we need to consider these characteristics and how they relate to service. 

             Fourth, as stated above, this book was a series of lessons that I have taught since 1973.  This revised version is in book form, but I have retained the outline so that a teacher can easily use it in a classroom setting.  In addition, it can easily be adapted with some instructional design to distance education.  Interaction exercises can be added to each of the chapters.  The requisite instructional objectives can readily be derived from the outline.       

            Fifth, unless otherwise stated, all the Scriptures in this book are quoted from the New American Standard Bible95 version.  Other versions cited are the New International Version, the King James Version, the New English Bible, and the version by George M. Lamsa.        


             Many thanks to our sons, George and Mark, who have interacted with me for many years regarding leadership principles.  George and Debbie Flattery were missionaries to France and planted a church in Paris.  After this, they served as lead pastors in the United States for 27 years.   Now, they are returning to France to plant an English speaking international church.  Mark Flattery has served as a missionary for twenty-five years.  He served in Tanzania, East Africa, then as Area Director for AGWM in Pacific Oceania.  An AGWM Area Director is the lead person in a given geographical area.   Currently he is serving as president of Network211.      

            Finally, I wish to thank my wife, Esther, who worked with me throughout our ministry. She has by nature promoted good will and inspiration among all of our team members.    Her understanding of people and rapport with them has been a major positive element in our work.  Also, her companionship with me personally has been a huge blessing. 

George M. Flattery, Ed.D.
Chancellor, Global University
Founder, Network211