Is your church filled with happy servants?
by By John Crotts
It ought to be.
Although servants lack the glamor of those in the popular up-front jobs at church, serving others is about as close as you can get to being like Jesus on earth. Service ought to be the place of highest joy and eagerness in every church.
Sadly, it is not often that way. While most church families have a handful of dedicated servants – who often keep the whole ship afloat, many other attenders are there to get more than they are to give. Perhaps an unintended consequence of the church-growth movement’s emphasis on catering to the felt-needs of unchurched neighbors in order to reach them with the gospel is that what you do to attract someone is often what you have to do to keep them coming.
Consequently, many churches are filled with self-focused consumers instead of other-centered servants.
If anyone ever had the right to sit back on a throne and expect others to attend to his wants and needs, it was Jesus Christ. As the God-man, of course, his rebellious creatures should have put their faces in the dust before him and sought to do everything he wanted them to do. He could have snapped and had millions of angels taking care of him, but he could have also demanded that all humanity line up and serve him, too.
Instead, King Jesus came to serve his rebel creatures. As he tried to communicate his vision of true greatness to his power and prestige-loving disciples, Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Jesus was quite intentional about showing his followers what he wanted them to think and how he wanted them to behave. Just before he was crucified on the cross, he met with the disciples in an upper room. This was where they had the Last Supper. This was where he offered the beautiful prayer of John 17. But before Jesus prayed, he served.
After the Last Supper, Jesus “rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:4, 5).
Do you remember Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ humble service? He strongly objected.
After responding to Peter, Jesus offered insight into the message of his service. “When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you’” (John 13:12-15).
It was not a random act of kindness that the Son of God performed. In that dry, dusty, environment, where men wore sandals and the filth flowed freely in the roads, foot washing was about as bad as it got. Jesus did the act that none of his disciples wanted to do. His purpose of going so low was to demonstrate how his disciples should behave toward each other.
When the Master is a servant, what must the servants of that Master be?
Jesus’ humble service took him all the way to the cross. Instead of preferring himself, his comfort and ease, Jesus suffered and died on the cross in the place of his people. He died putting the needs of others in front of his own.
The world of Jesus’ day and the world of our own teaches us to live for ourselves, our families, our little kingdoms. It seems that Jesus constantly had to reshape the hearts of his followers away from this terrible tendency (“Which one of us is the greatest?” “Can we sit on your right and left hands in the kingdom?”). Sadly, churches today are filled with the same kind of mentalities.
People come to church to be served rather than to serve. Give me great music. Educate and inspire me with a great sermon. Make sure my kids are entertained. Work hard to put together a program that will meet all of my needs. Don’t ask me for any favors.
While few people would articulate any of these expressions, many people live them out Sunday after Sunday in their churches.
At long last, Peter eventually got Jesus’ point about service to others. In his first letter to churches, Peter wrote, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 4:10, 11).
You have received a spiritual gift from God if you are a real Christian. That gift, whether it be a more up-front speaking gift or behind the scenes serving gift, is to be used in service to the Lord and to his people. The church is the arena the Lord established to show off his glory through the gifts of his people.
A steward was entrusted with maintaining and managing the treasure of another. The steward was accountable for his efforts. You are a steward of God’s grace. You will be accountable for your spiritual serving efforts.
God didn’t entrust you with a serving gift for you to show up on Sunday, sit there, and then leave! He expects you to be busy.
As you do so, he will strengthen you to become truly useful in his service. He will be glorified in your good works.
Don Whitney has said, “Serving God in His church says to others that you love Him and that He is worthy of serving. It says that you believe God is so great and the work of His kingdom so important that the costs of laying down your life to serve Him are not too much” (Spiritual Disciplines within the Church, Chicago: Moody Press, 1996, 106).
If your heart captures the vision of the Lord Jesus Christ as the ultimate servant and the Bible’s command for Christians to serve out of our love for Jesus, longing to be like him, and to please him, then serving in church will be a joy. You won’t ever have to be coaxed or manipulated into service, you will be lining up for the privilege of serving.
When we all get that vision, our churches will be full of happy servants.