servant leader

Servant Leader or Controlling Leader – Part 1

The Centurion

In Matt. 8:5-10 a centurion pleads with Jesus, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus tells him, “I will come and heal him.”

Jesus marveled at his answer:

“The centurion answered and said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, “Go,” and he goes; and to another, “Come,” and he comes; and to my servant, “do this,” and he does it.’ When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!’”

It goes on to say that “Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.’ And his servant was healed that same hour.”

Understanding the Proper Order of Authority

So what was the centurion’s great faith? The MacArther Study Notes say, “the Roman centurion was over 100 men and he appealed as a mediator between Jesus and his servant. The centurion understood his own sense of unworthiness. He also knew that the Jewish tradition said that if a Jew entered a Gentile’s house they were ceremonially defiled (John 18:28). The centurion did not want Jesus to suffer under the law for his sake, he had enough faith to believe Jesus could heal him right where he was.” (pg. 1374 commentary The MacAurther Study Bible)

I believe the centurion knew the proper order of authority and he operated from that place of knowledge. He understood he was a man under authority and he had authority over men. I believe he knew Jesus had supreme authority. He understood the proper order to operate in the highest realm of obedience.

I also see where the Centurion didn’t abuse his authority, but sought the best for those who worked under him. He cared for this man that served him and he wanted Jesus to heal him. Nowhere else do we see this kind of care from a Centurion to his servant. Jesus marveled at his great faith that operated out of a place of love, not from his physical authority.

We are all leaders in some form or another. Leading our lives, homes, schools, businesses, churches, and the list goes on. There are leaders over us who have leaders over them. Above all, Jesus has supreme authority. How can we know if we are leading in a way that brings about the order that Jesus marvels at? To which he would say, “I have not seen such great faith”?

Understanding What Servant Leadership Is Not

Now we understand proper authority. We know how to operate in it. This is prerequisite to learning what leadership is not. Correct the areas in your life that cause your leadership to be ineffective and truly powerless of God’s presence.


Have you ever given someone leadership in your life only to find that leadership to take the form of control? Leading and controlling are two different things.

Doesn’t Value You

A servant leader sees your worth and value. This leader desires to see you grow to your highest potential. A person who is a controlling leader doesn’t see your value or potential. A controlling leader restricts your voice or works from growing in a healthy way. This person stops other’s dreams and visions. Controlling leaders believe that if they can’t make it happen on their own, then it just can’t be accomplished.

Restricts Your Growth

One who is a controlling leader can’t allow you to grow, because that would mean they would have to grow, too, or you would pass their potential. Capping God’s plan for your life isn’t in your make up. To the controlling leader, they can’t have you grow further in your potential because you may pass them by. Why does this matter? Because living the “ground hog day” kind of life isn’t your cup of tea, but they can’t take risks for fear of failing or not having the position and authority over your life that they need to feel important.

A servant leader rejoices at your growth and success. The servant leader sees you as their equal. They want to see you grow to your full capacity. This leader encourages you to take risks, knowing you’re not always going to succeed in everything, understanding this is one way you will grow. To remain stagnant is unacceptable.

Fears Your Failure

A controlling leader will think their negativity is discernment, helping you to not fail or make a mistake, but they operate through their selfish desires and weak ambitions. A controlling leader doesn’t want you to grow, because it makes them feel uncomfortable, and they feel as though they look weak. Taking a risk is out of the question, because if you fail, they fail. People will see them, and they will feel humiliated. They make everything about themselves, their motives, and their ambitions.

A servant leader encourages you to keep going, to learn, to change so you can truly grow in every area of your life. Leaders correct and instruct, but it will be for your growth, not because of their fears. When you fail, and you will, a leader will walk with you through it. They will talk with you as one who sees your value, never wanting you to stop trying. If you stop trying, you stop growing; and when you stop growing, you eventually die. When I say die, I mean in your walk with God and your walk with people. You will begin to have nothing to give, because you’re not trusting God and you’re not trusting man.  If you’re putting too much faith in what you can do, then you’re not trusting God in what He can do.

Next month I will give you some examples of what to look for in a leader, and how to spot a controlling leader.

Ask Yourself

As you ponder leadership, ask yourself, “What best describes my leadership method? Do I lead to make leaders, or do I control others to veil my weaknesses?” If it’s the latter, realize that no one grows healthy in this kind of leadership, and you will eventually fail. You will hurt those around you and lose their trust.

Leading well isn’t easy. In our own strength, we will fail. Only by the power of Jesus Christ, will we succeed in servant leadership. When we trust in Him to lead through us, this creates a beautiful cycle. Servant leaders are built and released. They then continue to build and release other servant leaders after their own kind.

Till next month, lead well!

Mary Haynes