The Impact of Servant Leadership.

This article was featured in Ennoble | Insights from the True Charity Network: The Impact of Servant Leadership – True Charity


Jon Barrett, Executive Director of CVCCS

Guest Contributor

In 2021, I had just assumed the role of the Executive Director of Conestoga Valley Christian Community Services in Lancaster, PA, when I was invited to a True Charity Foundations Workshop. I was skeptical about attending, partly because I felt I had a good handle on helping people in poverty, but also because I had never heard of True Charity.

Thirty seconds into the first session, I was skeptical no more.

I was also stunned.

I quickly came face-to-face with a convicting question: Was I really helping people? I learned my view of charity wasn’t very biblical–and that in my zeal to help others, I had harmed those I tried to help. By failing to use discernment, I was enabling people drowning in poverty to do nothing more than tread water. Instead, I should have been helping them permanently escape its rough waters.

I was challenged to change how I approached charity and to adopt a different view of my role as the leader of a faith-based non-profit. I learned our clients needed transformational charity rooted in Jesus and the biblical concepts of affiliation, bonding, exchange, and freedom. When I returned home, I aligned my leadership strategy and our organization’s vision with the True Charity movement. We slowed down, focused less on numbers, and spent more time getting to know our clients.

There’s a catch, though. Relationships take time. They require meaningful conversations–which means listening intently, sharing stories, and establishing connections. It is NOT easy–and that makes going back to the old way of doing things very tempting.

This leads to a key question:  As charity leaders, how do we avoid that temptation and stay on the right path to true charity? It starts with godly, servant leadership– and David, king of Israel, teaches us at least three great lessons about what that looks like:

#1. Servant leadership is based on strength and courage that comes from cultivating a deep, abiding relationship with God.

David was FAR from perfect. Nevertheless, God called him a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14) because, despite his weakness, David regularly found strength in his relationship with God (1 Sam. 30:1-6 is a great example).

He knew the successor to his throne, his son, Solomon, would need the same thing. That’s why David told him to “… be strong therefore and prove yourself a man. And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways … that you may prosper in all that you do …” (1 Ki. 2:2-3) and “know the God of your father and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind …” (1 Chron. 28:9). Godly leadership must include God’s presence first!

#2. Servant leaders lead justly.

In the nonprofit world, making sure people are treated justly (or “as they ought to be treated”) is a common passion. David’s last words (found in 2 Samuel 23:1-4) show us what that looks like:

Now these are the last words of David. Thus says David the son of Jesse; thus says the man raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel: “The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel said, ‘The Rock of Israel spoke to me: He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, like the tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain.”’

Note God’s portrayal. Each description adds another dimension to being a just leader (I appreciate David Guzik for these insights):

  • “The son of Jesse” reminds us that David came from humble beginnings. Jesse was not a man of wealth, influence, or reputation. At times, David forgot that, and pride and selfishness took over. In each case, though, he humbled himself, went back to God, and “returned to his roots,” so to speak.
  • “The man raised up on high” shows us David was exalted by the King of the universe so that he could confidently function as the king of Israel.
  • “The anointed of the God of Jacob.” David didn’t anoint himself nor was he anointed by man. He had a unique enablement from God.
  • “The sweet psalmist of Israel.” God gave David a beautiful gift of eloquence and expression. This title reminds us of David’s deep inner life with Him.

Guzik continues ,Ruling in the fear of the Lord is the key to justice in the work of a leader. When leaders rule in the fear of God, they recognize that a God of justice reviews their work and will require an accounting of how the ruler has led” (emphasis added). . . David reflected on how a wise ruler is blessed when he rules with justice. Though David’s reign was not perfect, it was blessed–and his reign is the one most identified with the reign of Jesus the Messiah.”

#3. Servant leaders lead holistically.

David’s life shows he was a well-rounded leader. Here are five distinct traits that demonstrate what that looks like:

  • Be yourself. David wrote psalms in different styles–which means he wasn’t afraid to be himself. We shouldn’t be, either.
  • Wait. Despite his impulsiveness at times, David learned to wait for God to act. In Psalm 37:7, he says, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently.” Waiting involves trust. Impatient decisions are always the worst decisions, particularly when it comes to charity. Leaders must avoid being overrun by the frenzy of trying to meet every need.
  • Cultivate love. David thirsted for God like a deer pants for water (Psalm 42:1-2a). When under pressure and surrounded by enemies, the one thing he asked was to dwell in the house of the Lord (Psalm 27:4)–that is, to be with the One he loved and who loved him. Cultivating love for others starts with our love for Jesus (Matt. 22:37-39).
  • Rest. David allowed some of his men to rest even in the midst of a major battle (1 Samuel 30:9-10). If we don’t learn to rest in the Lord, we’ll suffer significant consequences that come from running on empty.
  • Be careful. In 2 Samuel 11, we find David in Jerusalem when he should have been in battle with his men. In an idle moment, he saw Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop. Lust turned into adultery, adultery turned into murder, murder turned into a cover-up, and a cover-up turned into chaos (2 Samuel 12–20).

David’s life helps us remember the purpose of just leadership is to point others to the only place Jesus’ glory and transforming power is available: the Cross. It is only there that one finds everything necessary for true change in a lost and broken world.