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Servant Leadership

Texts: 1 Peter 5:1-10; Acts 6:1-6; Jeremiah 10:21; Matthew 20:24-28; Proverbs 3:34; Revelation 12:7-9

May 13, 2017

Sir Michael Atiyah got a chuckle last Thursday when he told Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, “I'm sorry to hear you’re standing down.” The Duke replied, “Well I can’t stand up much longer.” Buckingham Palace announced the Prince’s retirement at a top-secret emergency meeting on May 4. Prince Philip's well-earned retirement comes after decades of dedicated service to Britain and Her Majesty. Philip is Patron, President, or a member of over 780 organizations. In typical style, the Duke and the Queen were back at work an hour after the announcement.

This marks the end of an extraordinary lifetime service to the country. Philip has carried out more than 22,000 solo engagements, given more than 5,000 speeches, and assumed thousands of others behind the scenes duties since 1947. At 95, Philip puts the younger generation to shame. He undertook 219 official engagements last year, more than Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry put together.

Prime Minister Theresa May said, “His patronage of hundreds of charities, his contribution to our United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the wider world will be of huge benefit to us all for years to come.” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn praised him, saying, “His Duke of Edinburgh's Award has inspired young people for more than 60 years in over 140 nations.” Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Philip “has dedicated his life to public service, and his charity work has benefited millions of young people across Scotland. He gave over 50 years of service to Edinburgh University during his time as Chancellor there. He has always served with enthusiasm and a healthy sense of humor.”

Philip gave up his military career to support his wife and devote himself to royal service. A symbol of continuity within the monarchy and public life, the Duke is the person the Queen relies on above all others. His private secretary Michael Parker revealed: “He told me that his job, first, second and last was never to let her down.” [1]

Servant leadership, the topic of this week’s lesson, is not only a fine ideal—it’s also the most effective leadership style. The lesson begins by discussing the need for effective leadership in the church. Peter likens a successful leader to a shepherd who devotes everything to caring and providing for the flock. Good leaders are living examples of true Christianity, humbly serving and willingly devoting all to those who submit to their leadership. These are leaders people follow.

Peter also reveals some characteristics of bad leaders: they serve under compulsion, they are greedy for money, they lord their position over those under their leadership, and they’re proud of their position. Their ultimate fate is simple and terrifying: God opposes them (1 Peter 5:5). Good leaders live to serve first, second, and last—just like our True Leader, Jesus, who leads us through this life.

~ cb

[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4472736/Prince-Philip-retire-royal-duties-95.html?ITO=1490