Last month, my friend, Troy Cady, came from Chicago to share with our Diakonos Community Simple Church Gathering. Before he left on his trip to Indy, he posted some thoughts on his upcoming trip in light of some of the discussion going on that week about leadership and the Global Leadership Summit at Willow Creek Church the same weekend. At first, I was a little embarrassed at what he said and was hesitant to share what it with others. When you are the subject of someone else’s affirmation, it’s easy to feel like they are going overboard and that you could never measure up to their words of praise. The truth is we probably know ourselves better than most people and we probably never measure up in our own eyes to what others are saying about us. Still, we should graciously receive what is being said in order to help us see our lives through other’s eyes.
This last weekend I was at a forum with cohorts from three organizations discussing how to be holistic leaders others can trust. In our conversations, I thought again of Troy’s post and what was said beyond the affirmation of me and Diakonos Community. Even if I may be a little embarrassed by the personal affirmations, there are some good thoughts here on what it means to be a servant leader (regardless of who that leader is). So, with Troy’s permission, I am sharing his post here as he wrote it that day, not as a way of patting myself on the back but as a way to encourage others to glean what they can to challenge themselves on how they can be better servant leaders.
“I am among you as one who serves.” -Jesus (Luke 22:27b)
As evangelical Christians continue to reel about the charges of sexual misconduct leveled against Bill Hybels, former pastor of one of the largest churches in America, many Christian leaders are (rightly) beginning to question the leadership premises on which many churches are built.
In the midst of this questioning, I want to commend to you someone I feel models what healthy leadership looks like. Most of you have never heard of him. To my knowledge, he’s never published a book through formal channels, and he’s not someone you would find in a lineup of celebrity preachers at a popular conference.
His name is Leon Longard and he leads a small faith community in Indianapolis called Diakonos (which means, Servant). Diakonos is appropriately named because they spend most of their time serving folks who live on society’s margins. Diakonos community ministers with beloved souls who have no home or are at risk of being homeless. What’s more, Leon and Diakonos partner with other ministries to better bless their friends without homes. Leon understands that ministry is not about who gets credit. He has a generous, humble spirit. He and his community embody what it means to lead by serving.
Leon, to me, is an example of what God’s “hesed” can do in a person’s life and in the life of a community. That word (hesed) is a Hebrew word that is the primary way the Israelites have referred to God since the days of Abraham. It can’t really be translated precisely into English, but it means something like “faithful love and mercy.” When the Bible says that God’s “mercies are new every morning,” it is speaking of God’s “hesed.”
“Faithful love and mercy.” I love that image and pray that we see more and more of it in communities of faith and in the world-at-large. It is a noble aspiration, is it not? To live faithfully in love and mercy…day by day, whether we get noticed or not.
Leon is someone to me who does that well. He’s not perfect, but generally speaking, he is someone I think of when I think of both “faithfulness” and “mercy.”
I am thinking of Leon today because I was just reflecting this morning that I have the privilege of traveling to Indianapolis today to be with the Diakonos community for a PlayDate I’ll be facilitating. The group will be comprised of people of all ages and a diversity of backgrounds.
I’ll tell one of the “stories” I have created about how God is in the habit of taking the “lowly” of this world to sing his story of hesed. When a seed falls to the ground and dies by “breaking”, beauty emerges, life that begets life that begets life. And when Jesus “broke” the bread, it multiplied and is still multiplying today, to nourish the hungry souls of those we often regard as “broken.” They’re not “broken,” though—because God makes them whole in the brokenness—God even uses our brokenness, our sorrows and struggles, to create joy.
Pray that God will speak to me today as I have the privilege of being with this lovely community. Pray that God will speak to them, too…encouraging words of hesed, servanthood, redemption.