In some ways, the same is true for pastors and other ministers within the life of the church. Though respect for the pastoral offices are fading from societal consciousness, many churches still afford certain “perks” for their pastors. It might be a prime, reserved parking space, a reduced rate at a church’s daycare, or the use of a church member’s beach house, free of charge. These privileges are innocuous and even great ways for a church to honor their pastor’s or other minister’s service in a unique and appreciated way, especially when other forms of appreciation – like increased salary – are beyond the church’s ability. They can be healthy and encouraging tokens of appreciation. Yet, if the minister lets the privileges go to his or her head, they can be damaging to their ministry and harmful to the church.
|General Jim Gavin|
Gavin’s success had a lot to do in how he related to his men. Over the course of the war, he practiced an incredibly hands-on approach to leadership: he visited the front lines often, jumped with his men into each fight, and refused to accept luxuries denied his men in combat. Even when given a personal command trailer by the British general Miles Dempsey, Gavin refused to use it; he kept his command post as it had been: Spartan and similar to his soldiers' front line positions. General Gavin shared the dangers of his troopers, consciously sought to encourage them by his example, and never forgot for an instant his tremendous responsibility not just to his mission, but his men. His men didn’t forget it; as historian John C. McManus stated in his book on Operation Market-Garden, September Hope:
“Although experienced combat soldiers tended to be contemptuous and wary of their senior officers, most troopers of the 82nd Airborne openly idolized General Gavin. He was known for his hands-on leadership, seemingly always at the front, facing danger, brandishing his trusty M1 Garand rifle, fighting alongside his people, without ever losing sight of the bigger picture so necessary to senior command.” (p. 10)
Such servant leadership became inculcated into the DNA of the 505th PIR and, later, the entire 82nd Airborne Division, because General Gavin chose to make it so. McManus put it this way: “He was fond of welcoming new officers with an admonishment that, in the 82nd Airborne, they were expected to be ‘first out of the door of the airplane and last in the chow line.” (September Hope, 10) And the officers responded with courage in combat and care behind the lines, such as the junior officers who "bought ten young bulls, a flock of sheep, and four thousand liters of beer for a preinvasion barbeque" for their men before the invasion of Sicily. Led in such a way, from the top down, , and feeling cared for by their officers, the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne fought in some of the toughest battles of the European campaign with high esprit de corps and tremendous results, accomplishing the virtually impossible as they followed leaders like Gavin into any fight.
Ministers of the Gospel could find a worse role model than General Gavin…because his system can get results, not just for the army, but for the Kingdom of God. Indeed, his methodology is not far off from the way of Jesus. When his followers began to argue about their place in the Kingdom – trying to claim privilege – Jesus responded by saying,
You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:42-45)
Jesus let his disciples know that following him was not a path to prestige and privilege, but to greater responsibility and achieving Kingdom success through service. Furthermore, he showed them that they were to walk a difficult path…but a path that he would lead the way in walking. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) Jesus himself walked the road of suffering and death to accomplish his mission…and his disciples willingly followed in his footsteps, because he had shown them the way.
As pastors, ministers, teachers of the Gospel, are we “last in the chow line, first out the door”? Are we looking for ways, not to be served, but to serve those we lead? Are we seeking to care for them in the midst of the Kingdom work God calls them to do? And are we leading the way in that Kingdom work, showing them how it is done and joining them in their efforts? Are we being the sort of leader Jim Gavin was – and, more importantly, the sort of leader Jesus was and is? Where are you in the chow line? And are you leading the way out the door?
|A painting of Dick Winters leading his "stick" out the door over Normandy. Winters, a young officer|
in the 101st Airborne Division, exemplified General Gavin's philosophy of leadership.