Servant Ministry

A portrait of Christ and a pattern for his followers

Tony Horsfall

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Servanthood is something to which all believers are called, not just those in full-time ministry, and so understanding what servanthood means is vital for the health and well-being of local churches. Every member needs to appreciate their role as a servant of God. At the same time, the principles of servant leadership provide an essential framework for those called specifically to the work of the Church, whether at home or overseas.

Servant Ministry offers a practical exposition of the first 'Servant Song' based in Isaiah (42:1-9). Writing from many years of Christian teaching and mentoring, Tony Horsfall applies insights drawn from the Isaiah passage to topics such as the motivation for service and the call to serve; valid expressions of servanthood and the link between evangelism and social action; character formation and what it means to be a servant; how to keep going over the long haul in the harsh realities of ministry; the importance of listening to God on a daily basis and also over a whole lifetime.

Many people around the world have been inspired and refreshed by Tony Horsfall's teaching and mentoring. As well as working as an international freelance trainer and retreat leader, he has written a number of other books for BRF, including Rhythms of Grace, Mentoring for Spiritual Growth and Working from a Place of Rest. He also contributes to New Daylight Bible reading notes.


The Servant's identity

  • 1 Behold my servant
  • 2 Emptied and humbled
  • 3 Chosen and loved
  • 4 Servants one and all

The Servant's calling

  • 5 The Spirit upon him
  • 6 Justice, the suffering servant and the law of God
  • 7 Justice, the compassionate servant and the needs of the world

The Servant's character

  • 8 The servant as leader
  • 9 Humility, and the danger of pride
  • 10 Gentleness, and the temptations of power
  • 11 Faithfulness, and the challenge of pain

The Servant's confidence

  • 12 The God who speaks
  • 13 God's presence to reassure
  • 14 God's protection to guard
  • 15 God's purpose to guide

The Servant's attentiveness

  • 16 Listening and responding

From the introduction

Servant Ministry is based on the first Servant Song in Isaiah (42:1-9) and could be described as a practical exposition of this passage. My intention is to explain the meaning of the text and then to apply its teaching to the biblical theme of servanthood. It will lead us quite naturally to explore some significant topics: the motivation for service and the call to serve; valid expressions of servanthood and the link between evangelism and social action; character formation and what it means to be a servant, especially in leadership; how to sustain ourselves over the long haul in the harsh realities of ministry; the importance of listening to God and being directed by him in what we do, both on a daily basis and over the course of a lifetime.

My basic assumption throughout is that servanthood is for all believers, not just for those in some form of 'full-time' ministry, and I hope this comes across clearly because it is vital for the health and vitality of local churches that every member appreciates and understands his or her role as a servant of God. At the same time, my focus will be on those in Christian leadership and crosscultural ministry for whom the call to serve has led to significant life changes that impact them on a daily basis. Inevitably we will cover the topic of servant leadership, and I hope we might grasp the principles behind it in a fresh way while avoiding some of the common misconceptions and distortions. It is my strong conviction that servant leadership is vital for the well-being and effectiveness of any church or Christian organisation in the 21st century. For me, Christian leadership is synonymous with servant leadership.

We will approach the Servant Song through two lenses, seeing it first of all as a portrait of Christ and secondly as a pattern for his followers. Jesus shows us through his life on earth what it means to be a servant, and he perfectly fulfils the picture painted for us in Isaiah. He is an example to us of true servanthood, and we are called with God's help to imitate him: 'Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did (1 John 2:6). Servanthood can never be an optional extra in the Christian life; it is its foundation stone, and all disciples of Jesus must see themselves as servants. Peter says it clearly: 'Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil; live as servants of God' (1 Peter 2:16).

Foreword by Rob Hay, Principal, Redcliffe College

In September 2010 Tony Horsfall came and led a staff retreat at Redcliffe College, ahead of the start of the academic year . The retreat was called "Time to Stop" but it took place about five days before the students started arriving - we didn't really have time to stop! But his focus on our identity and purpose, and his unpacking of the resources available to us, allowed us both individually and corporately to remember during that particularly challenging year, to stop, reflect and reengage afresh in God's service.

This is a book on servanthood that presents a truly biblical view of servanthood - not like being some kind of nice, benign auntie for whom nothing is too much trouble, but rather as a call to live as God intends us to live. I teach a postgraduate class on leadership and I sometimes tell the students that I get fed up with talk of servant leadership, partly because I see many other metaphors for leadership in scripture but also because I think Christians have misunderstood servant leadership and servanthood generally! Tony, however, has not..

God intends us to live and serve secure. Tony starts with identity and calling. This is vital: we need to know who we are: both the reality of frailty and our status as children of the living God loved by a Father who delights in his children. He goes onto justice and compassion - two concepts that often get separated by Christian writers because they find them hard to hold in tension. Tony, however, does not...

God intends us to live confidently. Servants serve a master (in our case the Lord), not every person we bump into. Knowing how God wants us to serve him in each and every situation we find ourselves - whether it demands compassion or righteous anger, clear leadership or wise counsel - is vital to effective Christian living. To be able to do it in confidence because we know who we are and who we are called to be, allows us to serve effectively.

Tony has served the church so well in the writing of this book. It has the potential to make the church a better bride of Christ and each individual Christian a closer reflection of Jesus this side of heaven.

Rob Hay
Principal, Redcliffe College

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Author info

Tony Horsfall is a freelance trainer and retreat leader, whose work regularly takes him around the world. He has written a number of books for BRF, including Mentoring for Spiritual Growth, Working from a Place of Rest and Rhythms of Grace. He also contributes to New Daylight Bible reading notes.


STAR News. Diocese of Peterborough April 2016

What does it mean to be a servant of the Lord Jesus? How is our character formed by serving Him? How do we keep going when ministry seems so daunting at times? Why is it important to listen to God each day? This book, which draws on Isaiah 42:1-9, is full of encouragement, enlightenment and practical insights to serve with confidence. This is a deep, reflective read that has helped me to be true to my calling.

Rona Orme. Children's Missioner Diocese of Peterborough

I believe the unhappiest people on the planet are Christians who don't serve. For in our regeneration, we are wired to serve. For Jesus is the one who said, 'I am among you as one who serves.' Intimacy with Jesus and activity for him make for the best combination of Christian usefulness.

Statistics would tell us that servant is mention in scripture over 600 times, whilst leader is only mentioned 3 times. This desperate imbalance is at the heart of our ability to make a prevailing Christian impact in our nation and beyond. Tony Horsfall's newest book speaks powerfully to this. He offers warm, faithful and close work in Isaiah 42, at the heart of this useful title. The pithy reflections following each chapter add significant value.

This new BRF offering is steadfast, engaging and challenging. The section on motivations is particularly helpful. When speaking of the servant's attentiveness, in the last chapter, around 'listening and responding' I would have loved more here, as this was especially strong. The phrase from 1 Peter 2 will live on long, through Horsfall's faithful efforts here: 'live as servants of God!'

Reviewed by Rev'd Dr Johnny Douglas

Taking the first Servant Song in Isaiah 42 as his springboard the author leads his readers gently and carefully into a fuller picture of Christ and sets out steps on how to imitate the Suffering Servant as well as showing the pitfalls of ministry for those who feel secure in their service.

Not best read at one sitting, the different sections - the Servant's Identity, Calling, Character and Confidence - are helpful reflections not simply for those beginning ministry but also for those who have grown old in unhelpful kinds of church leadership.

I found the section on Character particularly challenging as it described the great temptation to prides which comes with success. The very short yet poignant questions for reflection at the end of each chapter and in the study notes add greatly to the book and readers would do well to work through them in the pages of a personal journal.

A useful one page Appendix on the characteristics of abusive systems in churches and Christian organisations deserves wide circulation.

Revd Andrew Dotchin - March 2013

Book details

  • ISBN: 9780857460882
  • Published: 22 March 2013
  • Status:
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 144
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