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Leadership and Discipleship, Part 1: Servants of the Lord, Masters of Culture

Written by Gary North on March 19, 2016

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do if heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ (Col. 3:22-24).

Servitude is a manifestation of point two of the biblical covenant model: hierarchy/authority/representation. In this passage, the master is a representative of God to the servant. Like God, the master is in authority over the servant. But because the Christian servant also serves God, he becomes a representative of God to the master. It is this twofold servitude that is characteristic of life: service to men and service to a supernatural being. The primary question is: Which supernatural being?

In His stay on earth, Christ served His Father by serving God’s people. Christ was a suffering servant. But we tend to forget that this servitude was the foundation of Christ’s authority to bring judgment against His enemies. God the Father announced: “Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust” (Matt. 12:18-21). Judgment unto victory: this process of dominion in history begins with faithful service. This is why Jesus set forth the fundamental principle of leadership: “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matt. 20:27).

Leadership Begins With Followership

The teacher is the master; the student is the servant. Teaching can be highly personal, as when a mother teaches a child in the home. The tutorial is an extension of parental teaching: the parent hires a specialist to teach the child. For skilled trades, the apprenticeship system is adopted: a master of a trade teaches a young person the fundamentals of that trade.

Education in our day is increasingly bureaucratic and impersonal: a teacher instructs a group of students. This form of teaching relies on the formal lecture rather than “hands on” instruction, the written examination rather than the production of a representative final product. It is an extension of the tutorial. The tutorial costs too much per student instructed, so parents or other buyers of instruction pool their funds in order to purchase the services of a single tutor: the division of labor. In doing this, the character of education moves from the personal to the impersonal, at least in the early phases. But as time goes on in a society that honors at least God’s external laws of success, capital accumulates and technology improves. Then the personal element reappears: the videodisc and the CD-ROM combine the cost-effectiveness of a large classroom with the personal structuring of education in a specialized tutorial.

In all forms of teaching, there must be hierarchy. Someone hands out grades or certifies performance: sanctions. The master who possesses a particular skill imparts this skill to the student. The student is told what to do. He must meet a standard imposed by the master. He must follow instructions. The teacher brings judgment on the students work. The student is required to do exactly what the teacher tells him to do, given the limits of the student’s abilities. Only through this subordination to the master and the master’s standards can the student become a master himself. He must follow before he can lead.

A Question of Standards

When the student receives his certificate of graduation, he is no longer under the formal authority of his teacher. The hierarchical relationship ends. The student moves from follower to independent agent. If he then takes on students, he becomes a master. By what authority does he become a master? First, on the basis of his certificate of graduation: mastery over a specific set of skills appropriate to a master. Second, on the basis of market performance: those who seek a teacher hire him as a master. His certificate allows him to compete in the market of graduates. His superior performance in this market– or at least his superior advertising allows him to become a master.

What about the standards of performance? His master imposed them originally. After his graduation, the market imposes them. No longer does the master bring sanctions in terms of a set of standards. Now a new master appears: the customer. The customer decides whether or not to buy his product or services. There is a shift of authority: from the standards of the master to the standards of the consumers.

When seeking a master, the buyer of teaching services presumes that the master will act as a representative of the future consumers who will impose their standards. The teacher is believed by the purchaser of teaching skills to be able to impose performance standards on his students so that they will be able to earn an income in the future when they are granted their final certificates of performance. The master gains his authority because he is believed to be an economic representative of a higher authority: future consumers. The performance standards that he imposes on his students are supposed to be the same as the standards that will be imposed by future consumers.

The goal of the purchaser of instruction is to have the job’s performance standards imparted to the student. The student is expected to internalize these standards. These standards are supposed to become almost instinctual for the student, so that he will be able to serve customers more effectively. He is not expected to think consciously about the application of these standards to routine tasks after he graduates. The fundamentals of his trade become so instinctual for him that he can then concentrate his attention on the fine points of the trade. He is always expected to be improving his performance, which means that more and more aspects of the trade must become instinctual to him. The mark of his mastery of the trade is the ever-widening circle of performance that becomes easy for him because everything within that circle has become almost automatic. He “feels” what is correct.

Understand, it is not that he is expected to abandon the standards that had been enforced by his former master. On the contrary, he extends these standards into new areas of responsibility and performance. As a student, these standards were placed over him: rules that guided him, pressured him, and judged him. As a performer, these standards are still over him in the sense that they must be honored if he pursues success, but they are not merely over him; they are also inside him and under him. Because they have become automatic in his behavior, they become his tools of dominion. Because he has moved from student to master, his relationship to these standards has changed. He is a master in terms of these standards. This is what Paul had in mind when he wrote of God’s law: “But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Gal. 3:23-25).

God’s revealed law is not to be regarded as being strictly external over us; we are supposed to internalize its precepts. David wrote: “wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes” (Ps. 119:9-12). Like the adult who looks both ways before crossing a street without ever thinking about the painful sanctions that his parents long ago brought against him for failing to do this as a child, so is the mature Christian who has internalized the fundamental principles of God’s Bible-revealed law.

(For the rest of my article, click the link.)

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