Greatness and the Call to Servant Leadership
// George DeTellis, Jr.
One summer, while working at a Christian camp, we stood around the campfire with the sun setting and the cool breezes from the north enveloping us. After sharing the vision to our new team, my wife passed out short pencils and index cards.
She asked us to write something on our card that we wanted to give to God—a gifting or a talent—whatever was on our minds. One word came to me, “greatness.” I wrote it on the card. I was struck by the word. What was I feeling? We folded up our offerings and one by one we placed them in the campfire. Greatness, why did I want to give God greatness? We all desire to be great. We can even feel a moral obligation to make something out of our lives. We donʼt want them to say of us, “He never amounted to much.” The need for accomplishment can come out of a sense of responsibility or guilt. What about you? Do you desire greatness?
There were two brothers who were Jesusʼ disciples. They desired greatness, too. So much so, that they asked Jesus if they could be the leaders to sit at the right and the left of Jesus in His kingdom. Jesus did not scold them for their desire to be great. He redefined greatness. He told them that whoever would desire to be the greatest would be the servant of all. Like Jesus, your greatness will be a reflection of your service to others. A servant leader is focused on the needs of others. A celebrity leader wants all the attention focused on him. Jesus calls us to be servant leaders.
It was a wet summer that year at camp. We were having rain every day. The third week (on Wednesday) the director of our counselor-in-training program quit. She was swamped emotionally. I could see the morale of our team starting to tip like a canoe. I knew I had to do something fast. I decided that I needed to surprise the team with breakfast in the morning. That night, I went to Samʼs Club and bought a carload of food. Late into the night, I started prepping for French toast, scrambled eggs, and blueberry pancakes. In the morning I picked up Steve, my maintenance man, at 5am and we started cooking sausages on the outdoor grills and roasting bacon in the oven. Smoke overtook the kitchen from the old gas ovens and smoke detectors started beeping. My wife arrived at 7am with an electric skillet and rescued us by making the scrambled eggs. In the chapel where we held our staff meetings, I put up a big sign: Staff meeting this morning in dining hall. When the staff arrived, there was a surprise feast waiting for them. After breakfast, I gathered everyone around in a circle. “I know the weather has been difficult lately, but I want you to know that I appreciate you,” I said. It was a breakthrough moment. We were all in this together. We were going to make it. The next day, a sixteen-year-old counselor said to me, “What you did yesterday for the team, that was great! I want to do something like that. Would it be okay if I bought pizzas for lunch today for all the children in my group?” “Sounds great, Joshua!” I said. ~George DeTellis, Jr.