In February of 2005, I stepped into the role of a pastor. I was 25 years old and found myself as the house dad of a community home consisting of 20+ people located in Isla Vista.
The house was an old frat house that the church used for lots of meetings, hosting people, and other random things. When Holly and I said yes to the home we didn’t fully understand what that meant. We just loved Jesus and wanted to do life with others in Christ.
It was in these two years that God revealed the heart of leadership to me: serving others. Not as an identity, but as a role I played in the life of others to facilitate the purposes of God.
I am not sure how long someone can walk with the Lord, especially in a leadership capacity, if they’re not willing to give up their life and rights to serve others. I know when I was 25 years old and saying yes to leadership I thought I was signing up for a throne and a crown. What I ended up receiving was a towel and a basin. I say that jokingly but I think many young people, including myself, don’t understand that being a leader really means being a servant.
In the first week of living in this community house I walked into the bathroom to discover the greatest explosion I had ever seen. To spare you details, just picture a lot of water and and a lot of poop… on the floor and everywhere. The toilet had overflowed and, conveniently, whoever did it was long gone. I remember both in frustration and self-pity (woe is me I have to clean this) hearing the Spirit saying, “Welcome to being a leader Jason.”
I always say this was my introduction to being a leader. For the next hour or more I cleaned the bathroom. From the bathroom it went to constant dishes. From dishes it went to dealing with people’s messes. For over two years I woke up each day like a fireman not knowing what small fire I would need to deal with both in the spiritual and physical realm today.
After about six months of living in this home, I put up two verses in my bathroom that I read everyday. I believe God used these two scriptures to give me a right perspective toward what a leader is. Without a kingdom perspective on leadership, I might have grown resentful or fallen into deep self-pity for all that was being asked of me.
“the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
“But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.” (Luke 22:26)
It is funny to me how everyone is an expert until they actually experience what they thought they knew so much about. For me this is what living with those who you are leading was like. Before stepping into the role as a leader, I had all these ideas of how to do leadership and do it well. However, when God put my life on display and caused me to live out what I really believed a lot of things were challenged. The main being the call to serve others, and expect nothing in return.
Ambition gets tested in leadership. Sometimes you don’t know if you have selfish or holy ambition until you are placed in certain environments. For me, living as leader in community showed me clearly that I had unhealthy ambition. Ambition that was not entirely rooted in the glory of God. Ambition that wanted to get from what I gave. Ambition that, at times, wanted recognition and was not content with just serving in secret.
After a decade of pastoring and parenting I have come to realize a simple truth: more authority means more responsibility. The task of washing feet just becomes greater. The basin of water gets bigger and the towel grows larger.
I am a thankful man. I couldn’t be more grateful to serve God’s people and have the kind of access I do to so many lives. However, don’t let leadership fool you into thinking that it means anything more than serving others. No man carried more authority than Jesus, yet at the end of His ministry, the last object lesson He is teaching His boys is on leadership. He washed their feet. He sums up kingdom leadership for generations yet to be born in one sentence:
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.”
May we never graduate from foot washing, from serving those around us, considering others more important than ourselves. I can’t think of a more pivotal time in history where we need leaders to emerge who carry both the heart of a servant and the power of God to bring change to the environments around them.