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Servant Leaders

Servant Leaders

Words of Faith 8-14-17

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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1 Corinthians 16

   [15] You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers, [16] to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it.


       Before the farewell greetings that were standard in Paul's letters, there was one last commendation for a family that had served in leadership in Corinth. Paul had just made effort to commend the various traveling preachers that might come through Corinth-- Timothy and Apollos. Preachers, pastors and evangelists are all different in temperament and appeal, but should be received with peace. Now Paul commended a particular family of leaders and those like them.

       The commendation of "the household of Stephanas" was evidently prompted by the Corinthians lack of respect for them. Stephanas was one of the leaders who brought questions to Paul from the congregation. By personal experience the apostle knew full well that the Corinthians were capable of disrespect. Paul pointed out that this family was the "first family" of European Christianity and should be honored in leadership with others like them.

       Paul recognized the household of Stephanas to be positioned as ordained by God and urged others to submit to them and others like them because they were totally committed to serving God's people. The KJV renders-- "they have addicted themselves" to serving believers. Most ministry families are like that. The Greek actually means "to arrange oneself in an orderly way". The family of Stephanas had taken a careful and orderly approach to serving the Body of Christ and Paul commended them for this. While they were not collectively appointed as "deacons" the word diakonia is used to describe an entire family that had "devoted themselves to service".

         Such families do exist at the call of God. We can think of some high profile ministry families. God often works through families. Moses, Aaron and Miriam-- the first prophet, preacher and worship leader team-- were siblings. The twelve disciples included three sets of brothers. Barnabas, the missionary companion of Paul, split off to travel with his nephew John Mark at the call of God. This encouraging family relationship resulted in the Gospel of Mark being written.

         God definitely likes to use families in leadership. They can be a great blessing if believers will receive them. Apparently, the church at Corinth had grown disrespectful toward the family of Stephanas. Scholars suggest this may have been because of jealousy or suspicion or the same "class" distinctions that were going on in the house churches. We do not know for sure.

         Paul called upon the Corinthians "to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it". The word translated "submit" means to obey or be under-- but the context is one of freedom not ponderous servitude. Paul exhorted the Corinthians to be under the servant leadership of this family and those like it who were absolutely committed to serving the Lord and caring for the Body. Servant leaders are easy to submit to because they are "addicted to serving the people of God". They do not "lord over" those they serve (1 Pet. 5:3).

         Paul knew that the church at Corinth could not move forward without leadership. He could not keep directing things from afar. They did not need pious, ego-centered leaders. They needed servant leaders devoted to the Body of believers. This was critical to the forward movement of the church.

         Are you receiving the leadership of the servant leaders God has appointed over you? The families God has called? Have you been disrespectful of some servant leaders because of petty issues or disagreements? Have you rejected some out of jealousy or suspicion?


         Father God, help me to see You at work in the leadership of my church. Help me to find my place of servant leadership. Help me to arrange my life in an orderly way that serves others. In Jesus' Name.