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Midrand Chapel Baptist Church
Sermon Resources

Servant Leaders


Main Scriptures
Book: Philippians
Scripture References



5 characteristics of an effective servant:

  1. Focus

  2. humility

  3. unity

  4. holiness

  5. thankfulness

If we are to serve with joy and serve in a way that builds up the church and gives God glory, then we should be striving to ensure that these 5 things characterize our service. 


This morning we are inducting our new elders and deacons, 6 new elders and 4 New deacons.

It’s been many years since we’ve seen such a strong leadership team come to the fore. On average we lose one elder or deacon every year, so we wanted to grow the number of leaders so that we could have greater continuity and stability at the leadership level. We can thank God that He has graciously provided these men for our church. I’m deeply grateful, and excited about what God is doing, and you should be too.


These new leaders are being appointed to help us all serve the Lord better together. The church is the people and the church is built up by the people and is only as faithful and fruitful as the people God gives to the church and how we are able to use these people. They are supposed to see that our service is done in a biblical way and co-ordinate that service and encourage us in it, so that we can serve with joy and God can get the glory.

So this morning I want to consider what a servant is and does in the church, particularly in connection with how we can benefit from having these new elders and deacons. What they do for us and what we do for them as a church.

So this morning I want to look at Philippians. 5 characteristics of an effective servant

Focus, humility, unity, holiness,  and thankfulness

If we are to serve with joy and serve in a way that builds up the church and gives God glory, then we should be striving to ensure that these 5 things characterize our service.

1: focus (Phil 1:1)

A clear focus in terms of who we are serving and how we are serving.

a: who we are serving

Note how Paul describes himself and Timothy = “servants of Christ Jesus.”

Service or servanthood in the first century was not a virtue and in many circles today it is equally frowned upon. The idea in the world is to get ahead, to progress up the social, economic ladder so that you can get others to do your dirty work.

Yes, sometimes people will do acts of service, when it suites them and their budget and their schedule, when it makes them feel better about themselves and makes their life seem more meaningful. They serve others out of self interest.

But this is not what Paul is talking about here. He’s talking about a designation, an office, a position. The Greek word here is “doulos” = slave or bondslave and it was Paul’s favourite title for himself.

·      Not Mr, or Rabbi, or Doctor, or sir….slave.

·      A slave doesn’t serve at his own leisure. A slave doesn’t serve when it’s convenient, when and where he would like to serve. A slave has no rights.

·      What makes that title so honourable is firstly who we are serving, “slave of Christ Jesus.” Jesus is so great, so worthy, that the lowest position in the service of this king is the greatest honour.

·      Secondly, what makes this title so honourable is that it makes us so much like Christ. Christ was and is the greatest servant the world has seen. Jesus elevated the status of servant to the highest level by becoming a servant for us….and now it’s our privilege to serve Him.

We are servants, not of self and not even of others. We are first and foremost servants of Christ Jesus.

Others might not recognize our service or appreciate our service, others might even hate us for the service we render – but we are doing it for Christ primarily, rather than for men.

b: how we are serving

Then Paul addresses the church as a whole and these two groups of leaders = elders and deacons

The office of elder and deacon is just that, it’s an office, it’s a recognized position you hold in the church. It’s a position of leadership, authority and responsibility.

·      We see the same two categories in 1 Tim 3 which gives us guidelines as to what qualifications a person must meet in order to serve in these positions.

·      The term “overseer” here, is used interchangeably in the N.T. with the English Word “elder” as in 1 Tim 5:19 or 1 Pet 5:1, or shepherd, or pastor-teacher as in Eph 4.

·      If you put the terms together you get an idea of the responsibilities of an elder. An elder is to shepherd God’s flock by teaching. To guide, direct, lead, organize, to protect, to equip the saints to serve God more effectively in the world.

·      The term “deacon” means literally servant, someone who waits on tables. The N.T. doesn’t define exactly how a deacons serves the church presumably because a deacon is just that – a servant of the church and will serve the church in whatever way the church needs serving.

I think it’s helpful to consider these two offices in relation to each other


·      Both are offices, both are positions of recognized leadership. In the church we don’t appoint people in order to elevate them above others, or to reward them for faithful service – but to give them recognized responsibility.

·       We recognize specific people in order to ensure that they meet the character qualifications and that they have the resources at their disposal in order to fulfil the responsibilities we are giving them.

·      To hold an office in the church is not to hold a position of honour. It doesn’t make you better than anybody else. It’s a position of responsibility so you can better serve.

·      The elders primarily take care of the spiritual needs of the church and the deacons primarily take care of the practical, physical needs of the church.

·      Both are important to the health and growth of the church as we see in Acts 6:1-4.

2 Kind’s of service

These two offices help us understand the two major kinds of service in the church. One is oriented toward practical needs, the other toward spiritual needs. One involves teaching and counselling using the Scriptures and the other involves more hands-one, practical assistance.

This is the major division of labour within the church as it were. People have bodies and souls, we are material and immaterial and these two come together holistically in order to make a healthy person. So ministry in the church must focus on these two major components of our makeup.

There’s obviously much overlap, but as you think about your service in the church, how has God wired you?

·      Are you serving others in the church, or always looking for others to serve you?

·      Do you like Word based ministry or more hands-on practical forms of service?

·      It’s all important, its all service, but where do you fit in?

·      It’s all important, but we will serve better if we are complementing one another and the 2 major different kinds of ministry in the church – is word based, spiritual care and practically orientated physical care.


I am primarily focussed on teaching God’s Word. I have spend much of my time studying it and thinking about how best to explain it. But in order for my teaching gift to have maximum effectiveness, a number of practical needs also need to be taken care of: We need a sound system to be set up and arranged, facilities need to be cleaned and laid out, we need worship to help prepare our hearts and express our response to God’s Word, we need people produce bulletins, send out prayer requests, prepare tea and eats to encourage fellowship. If I had to organize all these other things, I wouldn’t have time to properly study God’s Word and prepare to teach it, but if we ignored these things then what I have studied and prepared would not be as effective. If we were all standing outside because we had no chairs, and the grass was wet so we couldn’t sit on the floor and we couldn’t hear properly – then obviously the ministry of the word is not going to be as effective.

·      It’s a good paradigm to help us think through how we can best help build up the church.

·      The person who is able to teach Sunday school kids effectively is not necessarily good at making crafts and printing curriculum and leading worship and doing many of the things we often ask our Sunday school teachers to do.

·      You could be serving in Sunday school ministry and not do any teaching of children, because you are taking care of all the other practical needs that are also needed when ministering to children.

We are going to serve better when we serve together and complement one another’s efforts.

So – firstly focussed. An effective servant is focussed on who he or she is serving – primarily Christ and how he or she is serving – primarily practical or spiritual needs.

2: Humility (2:1-10)

1-5 You have received much from God as Christians, comfort, love, sympathy, God’s own Spirit. Therefore, having received much, have the same mindset as Christ, which was to give much.

5: In vs 5 and following He explains this mindset, this attitude, this perspective which was in Christ, which the Philippians believers were to emulate.

5-10: Christ, realizing that He had much, knowing that He was by very nature God and had all the resources of deity, didn’t consider this as something for His own advantage alone but instead He used them for the benefit of others. In fact He poured Himself out and used every bit of His righteousness and power and goodness to become the perfect sacrifice for our sin to meet our need for redemption.

The mindset Paul is putting before them is the mindset that motivated Christ in the incarnation. Christ who had everything made Himself nothing….

That is, a humble mindset: Humility is the perspective that we have been given much and so we have much to give. It is the willingness to give up personal rights and privileges in order to serve others for the glory of God.


It starts with understanding that we are rich. We have been given much.  Look at vs 1 at all that we have been freely given in Christ. That’s where Paul starts with his exhortation.

If we always feel empty, if we are always looking at what we don’t have and can’t do and what others have – we will never be able to serve in the way Christ wants.

Then we have to see that the much we have – has been graciously given to us, freely given to us – not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others.

Humility is the hallmark of a servant of Christ. Without it, we may engage in many activities in the church, doing many useful things – but we will not be a servant. Without humility we will serve for self, to benefit and build up self, rather than to benefit and build up others. We will decide when and how we will serve rather than serving whoever, however, and whenever is needed.

3: UNITY (2-4)

Look at the emphasis of vs 3, same love, same mind, being in full accord and of one mind.

Service is always done for others, with others.

We serve together, we have been given different gifts so that we can complement one another. One day you will serve my need and another day I will serve your need. There is nobody in the church who does all the serving, all the shepherding, who has all the resources to meet every need.

When the body is unified, it builds itself up by speaking the truth in love and enjoys even greater love and unity. When the body is divided, it breaks itself down by gossip and slander and jealousy and selfish ambition and service is frustrated and frustrating.

Build genuine, loving relationships in the church, which are the wellspring of service in the church.


Often when people think about serving in the church, they think about the formal ministries, but that is not where most of the ministry in the church happens.

Quote Dever

Example: We have a long sandy driveway because we live on a plot up the road. It’s very sandy in summer and very muddy in winter. Someone came to our house and said, why don’t I do on your driveway what I did on mine. It wasn’t a formal ministry, its wasn’t necessary, our driveway has been like that for years, but it was a practical demonstration of love and concern.

It might be taking someone a meal, or giving them a lift to a job interview, or helping them move, or helping one of their kids with their schoolwork, or visiting them and praying with them in hospital. The needs and possibilities are endless when you live in community with other people.

Formal ministry can easily become selfish and hypocritical when that daily, spontaneous, informal ministry is not happening.

That is why we have small groups – primarily to help you build relationships in which you can serve and be served.

Small groups!

Focus, humility, holiness

4: Holiness (12-13)

Note the “therefore” at the beginning of vs 12. This is not a separate idea, but a connected one. Therefore, because of what Christ has done for us – this is what we must do for Him.

God is working in you and you too must work.  The work He is talking about here is not the external work of service, not the many things we must do in the church – it’s the work of working out our salvation with fear and trembling. It’s the work of sanctification, of growing in likeness to Christ, of fighting sin, of consistent obedience.

We cannot effectively do God’s will in the church or in the world until we have done God’s will in our lives.

Holiness is our service an worship to Christ

There is a tension here because we can get so busy serving God in the church, that we don’t pay attention to our own souls, to our own spiritual growth and walk with Christ and that is fatal to Christian service.

Christian service takes effort, it takes discipline, it is hard work, but it always dependant effort, We work, trusting God to work in us, to enable us, to strengthen us, to give us wisdom. If we become disconnected from God then we become disconnected from the source of power which energizes our service and makes it effective.

It doesn’t matter how effective I am at teaching God’s word, how many degrees I have to my name, how long I have been the pastor – if I am unfaithful to my wife, or dishonest in my dealings, or angry in my disposition, if I fail in my fight against sin – I have failed the church and must step down from the office….

The Puritan preacher, Murry McCheyne said something that I think about almost every week, “What my people need more than anything else, is my personal holiness.”

4: thankfulness (14-18)

Nothing is worse than a grumbling servant. Someone who agrees to do something, but then does it with a long face.

God tolerates a great deal of sin, but He is quick to deal with grumbling – because it is an affront to His grace and calls into question His goodness.

That was the sin of the wilderness generation whom God sent out to wander in the wilderness until they all died – rather than trust God, they grumbled against Him and said, would have been better if God didn’t save them from Egypt.

Here in Phil 2 it is our thanksgiving that makes us light in a dark world, that distinguishes us from the world and shows we are holding fast the word of life.

Service is hard, it involves suffering and sacrifice. Christ didn’t serve from the comfort of heaven – He took on our infirmaties and died on a cross and God will ask nothing less of those who would serve Christ.

Even if we are pouring out our life unto death, Paul says, we can rejoice and give thanks. We should have this mindset – that sacrificial suffering in the service of Christ is  the highest privilege. In fact he states that explicitly in 1:29 it has been granted to you as a special privilege, not only to believe upon Him, but to suffer for His sake – to suffer in your service of Him.

Rather don’t do it, then agree to do it and complain about it….

Somehow, if we are going to serve Christ effectively, we must embrace the sacrifice and suffering and cost involved because serving Christ is always costly.

Eternal perspective (16)

I think that will require us to have the same eternal perspective as what Paul expresses here in vs 16. You can see what He is thinking about, what He is concerned about – the day of Christ.

What will matter on that day when Christ returns? When I way up the cost and the benefits, the losses and the gains, the pain and the product – what will be my evaluation on that day? We have to keep that day at the forefront of our minds.

5: MODELLING(19-30)

He goes on to give them two human examples of exactly what he has been encouraging them toward. Timothy and Epaphrodutus.


Timothy 19-24

·      I have no-one like him. He is a choice servant, he stands out among all my collegues and companions and ministry partners. Not because He is so intelligent, or has such great learning, or such great giftendess or skill, or preaching ability or administrative ability. He possesses this one quality – He has genuine concerns for others rather than merely looking out for himself.

·      He is seeking to serve the cause of Christ in their lives and has no ulterior motives.

Epahrodutus 25-30

·      Epaphroditus was sent out by the church to serve on their behalf and was willing to give his life to make up what was lacking. He was willing to pay the ultimate price, to give his life unto death, to do whatever it took.


We can thank God for the leaders He has provided. They ought to be a model for us of what Christian service is all about and to help us in our service.

As we call these men up and dedicate them to the task – let’s dedicate ourselves to Christ and to serve effectively with them.

Focus, humility, unity, holiness, thankfulness

Elders: David Brown, Frank Lerumo, Kirk Kruger, Jhan Luus, Frans VanZyl, Robin Woolley

Deacons: Michael DeViliers, Cypril Manoa, Joshua Chanyandura and Bryan Hendrikz.