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The key to creating a loyal leader

| by Bethany Macklin

Some of the most powerful acts of leadership happen in the smallest acts of kindness.

Servant leadership is personal

After one of our many moves due to job changes, my husband and I started attending a new church. Because I was shy and reserved, I often found it difficult to “fit in” to a new church family. So when the announcement of a baby shower for the youth pastor’s wife came up, I decided to muster the courage and attend by myself in hopes I could plug-in with the women.

I drove to the church, my stomach fluttering with each anxious thought. Who will I sit with? What if no one talks to me? What if I don’t fit in?I had been attending a small group for several months but had not made any connections. As I pulled into the church parking lot, my stomach rolled in a giant nervous loop, and I almost drove away. No . . . I said a quick prayer, walked up the steps and followed the trail of blue balloons into the Fellowship Hall.

Pausing at the door, I looked in. The room was buzzing with the happy chatter of the women sitting at round tables talking and laughing like they'd known each other for years. I stepped inside and hesitated, looking for a place to sit. A woman at the back of the room waved, and I looked her way. It was Harriet, the pastor’s wife. She smiled and gestured to an empty chair beside her. I looked around. She seemed to be looking at me, but . . . I glanced surreptitiously over my shoulder. There was no one behind me. 

“Bethany!” Her voice barely carried over the din of voices. I looked back at her. “Here!” she waved again. “I have a spot for you!” I made my way swiftly through the tables toward her. As I approached, she smiled and patted the chair, “I was hoping you’d come. I saved a seat for you.” 

I was stunned and touched. She saw me despite all my awkward insignificance and called me by name. In one simple step, she created a loyal follower.

Servant leadership is powerful

As a biblical leader, Jesus specialized in making people feel seen and loved. There are numerous instances I could list, but I will cite only a few of the many examples pertinent to leaders:

Jesus calling his disciples:

“As Jesus was walking…he saw …Simon…and Andrew…’Come follow me,’ Jesus said…” (Italics mine) Matthew 4:18-19

“As he walked along, he saw Levi . . . sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.” (Italics mine) Mark 2:14-15

Jesus’s encounter with the chief tax collector and social outcast, Zacchaeus:

“When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down and welcomed him gladly.” (Italics mine) Luke 19:1-10.

The “Jesus saw” and “Jesus said to them” pattern so prevalent in his ministry is a powerful reminder that biblical leadership is personal leadership that creates loyal followers.

I wonder what would happen if we really saw that awkward outsider who longs to fit in, or the shy person sitting alone, or those outcasts gathered at the edges of our ministry sphere? Imagine if we made them feel seen and loved. What loyal followers and potential leaders would we discover?

When I think back to the kindness of Harriet, I don’t remember a thing about the baby shower or the conversation at the table. But the picture of the pastor’s wife waving me over to a chair she had “saved” for me made a permanent impact. It was a simple act of kindness, but that image is still etched in my mind. It was personal. It was powerful. And it made me a passionate, loyal leader when she later asked me to join her team.

Some of the most unlikely people are potential leaders. As we strive to follow Jesus’s example of biblical leadership, what small act of kindness will we show to the “outsiders” in our midst? For my pastor’s wife, it only took one simple step to create a loyal leader. 

Who is God calling you to see and call by name?

Photo source: istock 

Bethany Macklin

Bethany Macklin is a writer, speaker and ministry leader who has served more than 25 years in Christian leadership. She has served as a regional leadership trainer for Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) and as Women’s Ministry Director of a thriving church in Northern California. She writes Bible studies on God’s attributes for area churches and has written for Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family, Today’s Christian Woman and other online outlets. As a blogger, she paints a Biblical portrait of God through words that encourage anchored faith and Biblical thinking.

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This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.
Isaiah 48:17 (NLT)
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