Do You Want the Title or the Towel?

Do You Want the Title or the Towel?

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One of my favorite memories from college was an annual tradition on our floor that took place the last weekend of school. We would gather in the lounge and take part in what I can only describe as a very sacred thing. We would wash each other’s feet, following Jesus’ example in John 13. One of our RAs would start and pick another girl and take a few moments to affirm the godly characteristics she saw in her, and then would take a washcloth and bowl of warm water and wash her feet. We continued until each girl had been affirmed and had had the opportunity to affirm someone else. It truly brought to life John 13, when the night before He was betrayed and crucified, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. Jesus, the perfect and holy Son of God, did something usually reserved for the servants: He washed the dusty and calloused feet of His disciples, even the ones who would betray Him, deny Him and doubt Him.

I thought about this when I listened to Chris Brown, co-senior pastor at North Coast Church, speak at a leadership summit I recently attended. His talk was all about servant leadership and what it really means in Mark 10:42-45, when Jesus told His disciples, “”Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave to all.’” One of the things he said is that an insecure leader needs the title and the towel, but a secure leader picks up the towel and serves others. It all comes down, Brown said, to whether we want to expand God’s kingdom or our own reputation. Whether we’re a leader in an official capacity or not, we have to decide what’s more important: that we’re the one spreading the Gospel or simply that the Gospel is being spread.

He also encouraged the older leaders to make room for the younger leaders — to create room at the top for those who are the next generation and who even might be able to do it better. It was interesting to think of servant leadership in terms of being willing to share the influence and title and position.

I think Brown’s advice doesn’t just apply to leaders. Serving someone else and making his or her success your goal is good advice for friendship, the work environment and in marriage.

Have you been impacted by a leader who was first and foremost a servant? How can you apply being a servant leader in your own life? 

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  • --I think it's nice to appreciate each other's excellent characteristics, but I am not into foot washing, either doing it or receiving it.

  • --Yet another reason for an interstellar hitch hiker to always remember his towel when traveling the galaxy.

  • --@Dreamer Guy, " I am not into foot washing, either doing it or receiving it." Perhaps that's why Jesus commanded us to to it.

  • --@Dreamer Guy, " I am not into foot washing, either doing it or receiving it." Perhaps that's why Jesus commanded us to to it.

  • --Something tells me that Jesus' foot washing example is more metaphorical than literal (other than the fact that it literally happened). I'm sure @DreamerGuy can still be a Christian if he doesn't like touching feet.

  • --@G&B: That was my thought process exactly.

    Either way, Ashley's point is good and important and should not be derailed by foot phobia. ;)

  • --"what I can only describe as a very scared thing. " - yes I suppose to some people the act of washing each other's feet is pretty scary ;)

  • --@BDB, props for the Hitchhiker's reference

    Re: Dreamer Guy's comment, I'd say it’s pretty situational. If we’re in a situation where washing someone’s feet is the loving thing to do, then it is something that should be done.

    Matt 5

    46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same?

    Part of godly love is doing that which is “not ordinary” by this world’s standards. When we show love when it is convenient/comfortable to do so, we are doing what the ‘tax collectors’ and ‘gentiles’ do.

    If you look at wherever God defines love, it seems to be as a verb (such as 1Jn 4:10, 1 Cor 13, Jn 14:21, Luke 10:27-36). It is not a feeling. Rather God seems to define love as doing beneficial things for others when we DON’T feel like doing them.

    Another thing to think about: which is harder, for a foot-phobic to wash someone’s feet or for Christ to let Himself be persecuted and crucified, even knowing how little we’d appreciate His act of Love?

    Now this doesn’t mean that God would tell DreamerGuy to wash someone’s feet (although God is known to ask us to do that which we would rather not do), BUT God does call us to be WILLING to wash someone’s feet if we ended up in a situation where that is the *loving* thing to do.

    But instead when it comes to things like this, our hearts try to shout out God’s voice. We say “Ew, there’s no way I’d ever do that!” rather than thinking first of our neighbor or family in Christ. Doesn’t God tell us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves? Obviously we wash our own feet (at least I hope you do)? Doesn’t God tell us to love each other as Christ loved us? When the situation called for it, Christ washed our feet.

    Additionally, I think that would be a great witness of God’s love- to wash someone’s feet when we would hate to do it.

  • --On a related note, I've been to a few weddings lately where the groom has washed his bride's feet during the ceremony.

  • --@MontanaMoxie that sounds like an awesome idea. Like the previous blog talks about, weddings should be about God and I think this is an awesome way to incorporate that truth

  • --@GrinAndBarrett, I'm always amused at how when the Bible tells us to do something that we don't want to do the Bible is being metaphorical but when it is telling other people to do something it is being literal. @DreamerGuy can still be a Christian if he doesn't like touching feet but he can't be one if he does like touching other men.

  • --@Nemo, considering that Jesus said, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand," and later, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me,” it's pretty obvious that he is not focused specifically on pedi-cleanliness.

  • --I attended a wedding where the bride and groom washed each others' feet. I thought it was kind of cool, my mom thought it was "just weird" haha.

    I remember reading the biography of Darlene Deibler Rose (Evidence Not Seen), a missionary woman who served in Asia with her husband. She went with him when newly married, and at one point, after days of hiking through jungle, her sick husband took off his boots to reveal mud-encrusted, cut-up, blistered,  pus-filled feet. She did not want to touch those feet. But she remembered the Scripture that said "how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news" and she washed and dressed his feet. That part really stuck with me.

  • --I’m probably most impacted by one of our pastors, towel-wise. His name is Ric, and he was appointed Senior Pastor coming in from outside to a church with some problems (as I understand – I wasn’t there at the time) and served in that capacity for 23 years. A few years back he and the Chairman of Elders publically washed people’s feet in our services. But more significantly, and arguably more unpleasant, almost all of the time for that 23 years Ric was the one who cleaned the toilets at the church. I helped him do it a few weeks ago in preparation for a conference, and the respect levels jumped even higher!

    In terms of handing over, a couple of years ago, Ric felt God saying it was time to step back and hand over the reins. His son-in-law was serving as Executive Pastor at the time, with the public affirmation that this was training for a Senior Pastor role, either at our church or somewhere else. So after a formal recruitment, discernment and member-approved process last year, Ric handed over the baton for his son-in-law to take over as Senior Pastor. After a six month sabbatical to let the new guy make his own stamp on things, he returned as Pastor of Evangelism under his son-in-law’s leadership.

    He’s not perfect of course, but so many people I know have been amazingly blessed by his leadership, both by what he does and how he does it.

    Oh, and as for foot washing at weddings, I’ve thought of that one myself, and I’m thinking it might be awkward depending on what she’s wearing on her feet? So my (as-yet hypothetical) plan instead is to wash her feet at the rehearsal session for the ceremony the night or two before, so that she’s ‘washed’ and ready to go on the day. :-D

  • --Shining someone's shoes or doing their laundry strikes me as a closer approximation--culture to culture--of Jesus' actions in the upper room. For most of us, having our feet washed is only symbolic (and kind of weird/uncomfortable). As I understand it, having one's feet washed in that culture was common. The point, I thought, included 1) the symbolic aspect of Jesus cleansing us, and 2) no service should be too lowly for us to give another, regardless of our position in a social/spiritual hierarchy. Being people's servant by practically serving them, rather than by symbolically serving them, seems more valuable to me.

    At the college I attended, rather than hazing, the senior class washed the freshman student's feet. That was okay, but even better was the fact that the girls who washed mine prayed for me then and were friendly to me when they saw me around campus later.

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