Doers and Delegators

We tend to associate the highest godliness with the humblest service. Jesus proved his holiness when he stooped to wash the filthy feet of his disciples. He proved his submission to God when he willingly faced the unjust suffering of the cross. In both cases, it is what Jesus did that displayed his godly character. This is the heart of what Christians refer to as servant-leadership, of displaying the highest kind of leadership through the lowest acts of service.

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Successful Christian churches, ministries, businesses, and organizations are dependent upon people who are willing to serve. They thrive when people humble themselves to carry out whatever tasks need to be done. The high-powered lawyer and the struggling small business owner unite when they step into the church and serve shoulder-to-shoulder to brew the coffee and mop the floors. Their actions prove them to be leaders in godly character.

We need this kind of leadership, this leading by doing. No church or other organization can last long without it. We are right to honor those who exemplify it.

But there is another kind of leadership that is equally important, though far less common. For a church or other organization to be successful, it needs doers, but it also needs delegators. It needs people whose first instinct is to do and people whose first instinct is to delegate. These are very different skills or traits of character and a thriving organization depends upon a healthy balance of both.

Many ministries within the local church fail to thrive or even collapse altogether because the leader of that ministry is an eager doer but reluctant delegator. When there is a difficult situation or when a key person fails to show up, her first instinct is to just do the task herself. This may be a godly instinct born from a desire to serve, but it may actually prove unhelpful in the short-term and harmful in the long. The far better approach may be to delegate the task to someone else. The leader of a Christian organization may see a problem and respond by addressing it himself. It’s a mark of humility to joyfully scrub a toilet or empty the trash. But it may also be the mark of a person who is reluctant to lead or afraid to exercise authority. Doing rather than delegating may not be quite as noble as it at first appears.

Our churches need loads of doers, people who are willing to do what needs to be done, regardless of whether that task is high or low, visible or unseen. In fact, every Christian should approach every area of life with a deep desire and willingness to do. No task is too low for one who has been saved by the one “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

Yet our churches also need their share of delegators, people who are willing to do, but who have learned to delegate. The way they serve their church best is not to do what needs to be done, but to delegate those tasks to others. The way they serve their church is to ensure the task is being carried out by the appropriate person. Their godliness is expressed in accepting and exercising the authority of leadership with its delegating power. These are the people whose ministries tend to grow and to thrive.

If you are called to lead, you need to display godly character in your acts of service. Go low! Serve God by serving others! But understand that you can only lead skillfully and successfully if you are willing to delegate. Sometimes the way to do is to delegate.