Servant Leadership Bible Study

By Vinnie Casanova
With edits, additions and formatting by Stephanie Nannen and Jason Poon



Jesus called them together and said, “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 of 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
The kingdom of God is sometimes referred to as an upside-down kingdom, because it stands in stark contrast to the world’s values. The verses above describe Jesus’ response to James and John when they made this request: “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory” (Mark 10:37). This is a bold ask, because a king’s “right and left” were positions of incredible honor, authority, and power—second only to the king himself. You can almost hear Jesus sighing as he called all twelve disciples together to explain why James and John’s request was problematic. Sure, he told them, You can sit at my right and left. But if you understood what kind of kingdom I’m rolling out, you might not be so eager to sign up for a leadership role. Jesus explained that leadership in God’s kingdom would be defined by servanthood, sacrifice, and suffering. Jesus said “whoever wants to be great” must become a servant to those they are are leading. Greatness in God’s kingdom is not determined by how much wealth, status, or power a person accumulates. Instead greatness is defined by how well the person utilizes the things entrusted to them (like wealth, status, or power) to better love the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love their neighbor as themselves. In Epic we refer to this upside down kingdom kind of leadership as servant leadership. The article “Epic Is About Servant Leadership” defines servant leadership as “stewarding power for the sake of helping other leaders emerge into the fullness of their identities, and in the context of their stories.” We don’t examine concepts like power often in church settings. Therefore some believers might feel this vague sense of unease about it: Power seems worldly and unspiritual, so I should probably avoid it. Or at least not have too much of it. But power itself is simply a tool—morally neutral until someone utilizes it for good or for evil purposes. An example of this is money. Money itself is neither inherently good or bad, but the way it’s used can be for good or evil purposes. When Jesus lived among us on earth, he was entrusted with great power—but always used it for the benefit of others, not for himself.


Mark 6:30-44

Take time to read the passage silently. Write down 10 observations from the text (i.e. Who? What? When? Where? How? What sticks out to you? What questions do you have?) Then discuss:

  • When the disciples told Jesus to do something so that all the people in the audience could get something to eat (v.36), Jesus could have quickly and easily provided food for everyone there with a single word or snap of the fingers. But that’s not what happened. Take note of everything Jesus did in response, starting in v.37. Why do you think he proceeded like he did? What is the relationship between efficiency and servant leadership?
  • Why did Jesus include the disciples in his problem-solving efforts? How might a less mature leader have handled this crisis? What is the significance of the twelve leftover baskets? What is the relationship between empowerment and servant leadership?

John 13:1-17

Take time to read the passage silently. Write down 10 observations from the text (i.e. Who? What? When? Where? How? What sticks out to you? What questions do you have?) Then discuss:

  • In v.1-4, John gives us some insight into Jesus’ state of mind as he prepared for Passover dinner. How are Jesus’ thoughts in v.1 relevant to the rest of the story? What is the relationship between having an eternal perspective and servant leadership? We read, “Having loved his own who were in the world, [Jesus] loved them to the end.” (Or, in an older NIV translation, “…[Jesus] now showed them the full extent of his love.”) What is the relationship between love and servant leadership?
  • How is v.3 relevant to the rest of the story? What is the relationship between power and servant leadership? What is the relationship between identity and servant leadership? What is the relationship between intimacy with God and servant leadership?
  • Why did Jesus wash the disciples’ feet? Why did he choose to include Judas?
  • What would “foot washing” look like in our current, modern-day setting?


The next time you read through the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), take note of other places Jesus modeled servant leadership. Jesus continually surprised, baffled, and frustrated those around him by living a life guided by values that contrasted those of other leaders in his time—and of most other leaders before or since, for that matter. 

In Epic we value the call to lead like Jesus, who did nothing from selfish ambition, but instead valued others above himself and so looked out for their interests above his own; who did not use his equality with God for his own advantage, but instead became a servant of all (Philippians 2:3-7). 


  • Think of a time when you experienced servant leadership—when someone used their power, skills, or influence to invest in you. What are one or two words that describe how that made you feel?
  • Read Philippians 2:3-7, taking note of how Jesus stewarded his power and privilege. What implications does this passage have for your life and leadership?
  • Take 5 minutes to think about what “tools” God has entrusted to you? (Try and do this first without looking at some of the examples in the bullet below) 
  • A position of influence? An education? A creative mind? A logical mind? Fluency in more than one language? Wealth? An experience of suffering? Membership in the dominant culture? Membership in a non-dominant culture? A bi-cultural identity? Specific skills or abilities? A charming personality? A strong work ethic? Insight and discernment? Spiritual gifts? Physical health? Physical disability? Why do you think God entrusted these to you?
  • Choose one of the “tools” from the previous question. What is one way you could use this tool to build a kingdom for yourself? What is one way you could use this tool to build the Kingdom of God?
  • Describe a time when you have seen someone else on your team demonstrate servant leadership.
  • Describe what a growing culture of servant leadership would look like on your team. How would that impact your movement? The broader campus communities where you serve? Your city?
  • Do you view yourself as a person with power? Why or why not?
  • What heart issues make it difficult for us to live out our calling to be servant leaders? How does the gospel meet us in our journey of learning to steward our power not for our own purposes, but God’s glory?
  • Discuss how well the culture of your movement is defined by servant leadership. 
  • Take 5 minutes and draw or journal what it would look like in your leadership team and in your movement to see a growing culture of men and women stewarding their power to lift one another up. Then share with one another. 


Make a plan to integrate biblical teaching on power, stewardship, and servant leadership across your movement at some point this quarter or semester, whether through oral or written form, live or recorded. And design at least one exercise you can implement alongside the teaching to demonstrate servant leadership, whether within your movement, or from your movement to the broader campus setting.