8 Sep 2015
A new academic year; lots of hopes and expectations; lots of plans and projects. I wonder how you’re planning to serve within the church family?
Maybe you are already busy serving in a whole variety of ways and only just made it through to the end of last year. Maybe you just feel guilty when you see the needs around you, so you pretend to no longer notice. Maybe you think ‘the church should run things better’, when all of a sudden you remember YOU are the church. Maybe you are the one who always seems to be doing the asking of others and no one is responding to the gaps you have to fill?
It got me thinking about how we encourage one another to serve…
1. Make it about serving the king in response to being forgiven.
This is the principle of Isaiah 6, where, in the year the human King Uzziah died, Isaiah saw the true king. This caused him to cry out “I am ruined”. In a symbol of what Christ would do on the cross 700-odd years later, the seraphim pressed a burning coal against Isaiah’s lips, and he was purified.
All Christian ministry should follow this pattern. Isaiah encountered two things central to God’s nature: his holiness, and his willingness to show mercy and deal with sin. Then, and only then, did the humbled servant, the broken man who had seen God, present for service. Isaiah’s “Here I am! Send me” wasn’t a gung-ho declaration of ministry bravado, but the response of a servant, who has been humbled and purified, now presenting himself for service.
So, in practical terms, when considering ministry, look first at the glory of the king, so we are humbled. Then recall how we should offer our whole life to serve the king who is high and exalted and seated on the throne; the one behind the scenes of human history; the one who longs to show mercy and deal with sin.
Only this vision can break the shackles of being a people-pleaser, or transform the mindset that seeks to use gifts given by this king to serve one’s own name. Only this vision will help when we suffer and endure hard times for his glory’s sake. In that context let’s speak about Bible study leading, teaching children, Friday Club, cleaning and so on.
2. Make it about serving each other in response to being served.
Consider Mark 10:35-45. Jesus served us first by giving himself as a ransom for many. Since Jesus has served you, humble yourself and serve others. This is the kingdom definition of greatness—to become the least and be a servant of all. In Christian ministry, all leadership is service; others come first. Read Mark and see Christ’s willingness to serve. God will undo all the years of worldly indoctrination about what constitutes greatness and leadership—for this has no place in his kingdom. In its place a new model must be built: ‘For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve’.
3. Make it about the heart, rather than the task at hand.
In the case of Isaiah, there was nothing attractive about the task. He was to preach judgement until the cities lay in ruins (Isaiah 6:9-13). But because he had seen the king who truly rules, and grasped his purposes, he would be faithful to a task that would ultimately be fruitless.
In the case of the disciples, they had to humbly serve each other, instead of clambering over each other to reach the top.
Jesus describes the shocking rejection of this approach to ministry: “Lord, we prophesied and drove out demons in your name” they will say, but Jesus will respond, “Go away, I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23). Why? Because the ministry was conducted without an obedient heart.
Make it about the heart first, rather than the hands.
When it comes to ministry, have a cross shaped mindset. This approach emphasises serving God in response to his holiness and mercy, and serving others in response to being served by Christ. This may very well drive us out of our comfort zones, because we see God is in control. This mindset helps guard against running around like mad, thinking I have to do everything, because it’s all been done in the gospel.
The cross-shaped approach will not guarantee that all the difficulties will disappear. However, it will lay the foundation for working through difficulties in ministry in a biblical and Christ-dependent way.
There are loads of ways to serve right across the church family - two urgent needs are helping out at Small Talk on Monday mornings (contact email@example.com) and cleaning, also on a Monday morning (contact firstname.lastname@example.org).
Church Family News, September 2015