By Katie Pearson
“To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” 1 Timothy 1:2
In Paul’s emotional first words to Timothy, we witness firsthand the hallmark of an authentic servant leader in Christ: deep, familial love for his young protege. In 1 Corinthians, Paul calls Timothy his “beloved and faithful child in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:17). He uses the phrase “true child,” which in Greek has two meanings: legitimate child and genuine. Paul makes it very clear to Timothy that their relationship goes well beyond serving a purpose in expanding the church. It is deeply personal and eternal. It is rooted in their mutual connection to God the Father and God the Son. God chose Timothy to lead and strengthened that calling through Timothy’s relationship with Paul.
God wants to use us, too, to inspire others to become all they are created to be in Christ.
While our relationships with those we lead might not be as intimate as Paul and Timothy’s, they should be marked with heartfelt affection. In other words, don’t be afraid to express genuine concern for those in your charge. Rather than keeping people at arm’s length, prioritize developing personal relationships. A few simple strategies include remembering names, asking questions, praying together, and celebrating every step of their journey—including what they learned from mistakes and failure.
The secular world often places leaders in the highest position of honor at the head of the table. This placement doesn’t just acknowledge their role or extend honor; it serves to separate and distinguish them as more worthy and deserving of better treatment. A true servant leader chooses to sit with the people and participate in their lives. Be a leader who hangs out in the kitchen with the volunteers. When you walk alongside those you lead, your influence increases because you establish trust. When you show genuine concern for others’ wellbeing, they are encouraged to labor with joy and fulfill their ministry callings.
How do we know that a more personal, familial approach works? Look beyond Timothy’s perseverance and ministry influence to the work accomplished by the disciples. Jesus poured into them as a brother, father, friend, and mentor. He went beyond serving them to sacrificing his life for their sake—and ours.
Reflection: Loving Father, I pray that my greatest desire would be to see others succeed in every area of their life and leadership, even exceeding my accomplishments. Please help me to love extravagantly, to overcome any temptation to compete or compare. Empower me with the longing to “go low” in order to see your beloved children reach great heights in Jesus’s name. Amen.
Where can you love extravagantly? Who can you encourage and serve? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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