The world is obsessed with leaders: identifying them, training them, becoming them. Even in the church, this preoccupation is all-too apparent. Jesus, however, is not interested in developing leaders. Rather, he is interested in the formation of servants.
In this powerful reflection on leadership and servanthood, Dr. Hwa Yung addresses the overemphasis on leadership development within the church. Challenging a culture of hubris, ambition, and self-seeking, he reminds us that ministry is not a call to position and power but to service and obedience. He draws us back to the example of Christ, who came as a servant of God and of his kingdom, who lived in submission to the Father, and who rooted himself in his identity as the incarnate Son of God. Linking spiritual authority to these three characteristics, Hwa Yung offers examples from both Scripture and church history to demonstrate that it is in fact the faithful practice of servanthood that leads to leadership impact.
Author: Hwa Yung is Bishop Emeritus of the Methodist Church in Malaysia. Among his many roles, he has served as a pastor and bishop within the Methodist Church, and as principal of Malaysia Theological Seminary. He has also been involved with various international ministries, including as chair for the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies’ council of trustees and a member of the International Board of the Lausanne Movement.
In recent years the world of Christian publishing has been awash with books on leadership development, many offering principles and models gleaned from the business world, often promoting charisma and celebrity status above character. This book, from a seasoned leader in the Majority World, including reflections from a lifetime of experience, cuts right across that emphasis, calling us to recognize afresh the need to follow the model of Jesus Christ – a model of servanthood, submission to his Father, with a clear sense of identity, in our case, as children of God, which is diametrically opposed to the leadership paradigm taught in many circles today. In essence, to follow Jesus means to be a servant, just like him. It is a simple but revolutionary, and even prophetic challenge which if followed, could lead to renewal of the Christian church, the reframing of our leadership development programs, and the reorientation in the thinking and leadership styles of many leaders.
Former General Secretary, IFES,
Former International Director, Lausanne Movement
The greatest compliment I can pay this little volume is that I dearly wish I had read it and been changed by it at the beginning of my ministry rather than at the end. The fact is that this volume is a dollop of dynamite that will explode many Christian leaders out of self-importance into servanthood, thereby transforming their ministries. For Hwa Yung stands the contemporary paradigm of Christian leadership and CEO training on its head by affirming that God’s way up is down. Thus ministry aspirants, even with a gift of leadership, must be trained not to lead but to submit, not to be served but to serve. The key here is character training bringing ministry aspirants into a deeply internalized spirit of servanthood, holiness of life, and dependence on the Holy Spirit. This is the great rescue operation for the modern church out of the perilous “quagmire of ambition and self-seeking.” Here, dear reader, is a key also to unlock a whole new day in your own life and ministry.
Founder of African Enterprise,
Honorary Co-Chair, Lausanne Movement
Hwa Yung has presented us with an invaluable reflection on a very relevant issue. In my years of work in mission, in Latin America, Central Asia, and other contexts, I have observed exactly what he so clearly describes in this book. The church and the Christian community in general are preoccupied with leadership abilities, positions of authority, and an ever-growing number of leadership training programs. His challenge to us to take a serious look at the biblical view of leadership, instead of the business models so widely offered, is so critical. Jesus Christ modeled servanthood for his disciples as
the highest path to serving God and others. This is fundamentally important for the whole church. As the author rightly argues: leadership in the cause of Christ does not come from our striving to be leaders but is the by-product of a life of humble service to him and others . . . wherever we are and in whatever position we are called to by Christ and his body, the church. Thank you for this gift, brother and friend.
Decio de Carvalho
Executive Director, COMIBAM International,
Vice-Chair of the Executive Committee, World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission
My friend Hwa Yung, with whom I served for many years in the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, has written an excellent book about what I consider some of the paradoxes of our work. In our effort to announce the gospel in universities we placed special attention in the training of leaders. The problem with this is that the aspect of servanthood among leaders was sometimes lost or misunderstood. Hwa Yung’s book is an excellent reminder that the biblical concept of leadership includes an understanding of service as an important dimension of this ministry, and is a valuable resource to enrich our perception of the biblical concept of leadership and service.
J. Samuel Escobar, PhD
Latin American Missiologist,
Emeritus Professor of Missiology, Palmer Theological Seminary, St. Davids, Pennsylvania, USA
Hwa Yung shows from Scriptures that servanthood is the genuine pathway to spiritual authority, an authority given by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. He further argues that real servanthood is only possible when we live in obedience to Christ and are completely secure in our identity and personhood as a child of God in the Father’s love. This book is highly word-centered, supported by many wonderful contemporary stories from different cultural contexts, and filled with a compassionate spirit throughout. It has a delightful combination of serious biblical analysis, critical evaluation of current trends, and pastoral exhortation on Christian servanthood, rather than leadership. I found this book deeply moving and pray that God will use it to bless many.
Rev. Dr. Patrick Fung
General Director, OMF International,
Member of the Board of Directors, Lausanne Movement
“Oh, not another book on leadership” was the thought that came to mind when I read the manuscript title of this work. I am convinced now that we really need this book! Unfortunately, character formation has not been given its due significance and as a result Christian leadership globally has been facing one crisis after another. Hwa Yung profoundly approaches the issue of servanthood from a Trinitarian perspective. A special feature of this book is the in-depth interaction with scholarly works on theology and leadership. In doing so the author does not offer abstract theological concepts and leadership
ideals but provides down to earth practical applications from his vast ministry experience. This book is not to be read but to be lived out by all who are in leadership roles.
Rev. Riad Kassis, PhD
International Director, Langham Scholars, Langham Partnership
This is one of the best books on servanthood and leadership that I have ever read! It challenges so much of conventional corporate thinking on leadership that has crept into churches, seminaries, and organizations. In an era of personality cult and the slick CEO kind of leader, this book recalls us to the teaching of Jesus and the apostles to be first and foremost disciples and servants. I loved the themes of the book, and it also challenged me to take a hard look at myself and how I lead. There is a depth about this book that is deeply rooted in Scripture and a richness that will benefit the global church. Every follower of Jesus, theological student, and Christian worker should read it!
Associate International Director, OM International,
Senior Advisor, Movement for African National Initiatives
This significant book written by a senior Christian leader from Asia is urgently important for Christians everywhere but especially for Western Christians. So much of Western Christianity (and increasingly also elsewhere too) looks to secular models of leadership from the worlds of business and the Academy for the vision of what Christian leadership should be. The effect has been to encourage self-seeking and ambition in many Christian leaders. Hwa Yung shows convincingly that that is not what the Bible tells us to do. Servanthood, the Bible says, is both the path to genuine leadership and also the way it is exercised. Everywhere today in Christian circles there are programs on training Christians for leadership. But the New Testament never talks about how to train Christian leaders. Rather everywhere, it talks about servanthood as the fundamental characteristic of genuine Christian leadership. Hwa Yung is right that great Christian leadership is not attained by seeking it in itself. Rather it is the fruit of true servanthood modelled after Jesus Christ. The global church desperately needs to hear this message.
Ronald J. Sider, PhD
Professor Emeritus of Theology, Holistic Ministry, and Public Policy, Palmer Seminary at Eastern University, Pennsylvania, USA,
President Emeritus, Evangelicals for Social Action