In a previous post, I discussed the importance of serving in the Christian life. This post will focus on a couple of ways that we can serve.
Service at Church
Diversity of Gifts
Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12 discuss the variety of gifts within the church. Both are making the point that we need one another. There are certain things that God has equipped you to be better at than me and vice versa. Not only do we have these gifts, but Ephesians 4:16 says, “…when each part is working properly, [it] makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” So we have different gifts, and we are called to use them.
We have established that each member of the local church is gifted to serve, and they are being built up to serve and do the work of ministry. The question then becomes, “how are we plugged in?” There are two basic categories for being plugged into serving at a local church; the first is organic, and the second is formal. Organic service is doing things that are not part of a regular church program. It’s seeing trash outside and picking it up; it’s writing encouraging letters to people in the church. Then there are formal ministries that you can be involved with. These are treated differently. It is the formal ministries that often gives way to two different mentalities.
You Need Me
The “you need me” person maybe has understood that they might be gifted in an area, and perhaps it’s even been confirmed by others. But, this person thinks that having the gift requires that it is used in the local church. They reduce the local church to a platform to showcase their gifts instead of seeing their gifts as a way to help the church wherever the needs might be. In this trap, it’s unthinkable that their gift might be just organic for a season. No, it must be public and noticeable. This tends to reveal vainglory.
I Need to Serve
The second person understands that the “building up in love” from Ephesians 4 is the goal, not how they use one of their gifts. This person looks for the church’s needs and is meets them even if it’s a little outside their comfort zone or gifting. They understand that gifts are meant to build up the body, not them as an individual. They are ok with serving in the shadows in the local church if that is what is needed.
In a sports analogy, Nick Foles of the Eagles demonstrated this beautifully as he backed up Carson Wentz. Almost the whole season, he just helped out the starting quarterback from the sideline. That was what was needed from the coaches; this was how his team was going to be better. Then the starter got hurt, and he came in. He led them to a Super Bowl win over the Patriots. He was the Super Bowl MVP. What did he think about his abilities and gifts? It didn’t matter because he let everyone know that his role was Wentz’s backup. He desired the good of the team more than personal glory.
Too often in ministry in the church, we don’t have that kind of patience, that kind of “anywhere you need me, coach.” It can be easy to use ministry to shine the spotlight on ourselves.
One of my continued prayers for my students is for when they graduate. I want the question in their mind not to be “will I go to church.” Instead, I hope it’s “how will I be involved in the church I will be attending.” If you are reading this, I hope that is you as well. But, we should also know that service is not limited to the local church; we are also called to serve those around us.
Service Outside Church
Who is My Neighbor vs. Who Can I Be a Neighbor To?
In Luke 10:25-36, a lawyer asks Jesus the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells a parable and, at the end, asks a different question. After giving two examples of people who did not help someone in need and another unlikely person who did help, the question is: “[Who] proved to be a neighbor.” This is much different than the lawyer’s question. Jesus was, in essence, saying the question is not “who is my neighbor,” but who can we be a neighbor to.” God has placed a lot of people in our life that we can serve and help. This isn’t limited to the local church or our family, but many others who cross our paths.
Of course, the question then comes, “How can we serve them?” I am going to offer two ways that we can serve in various areas of life.
Vocation as Serving Others
First is the idea that your career is a way that you can serve others. The Reformers in the 16th century stressed that every lawful job is important and serves our neighbor. This is true from the accountant to the software engineer. We can serve others through our work, and because of that, all lawful work has value. This counters the idea that only full-time ministry matters. Some reading this may be in full-time ministry, I pray that God blesses you if that is what He has for you. But please don’t reduce serving to only full-time ministry; if we do that, we risk seeing how every job is a way to serve God and others.
Life as Serving Others
Not only can jobs be a way to serve others, but we can serve in the everyday activities of life. Small moments throughout the day can create opportunities to serve. Pray for that God shows you these opportunities and take advantage of them when they come! It doesn’t need to be a huge thing. Often it is merely the small intentional things that God uses to turn our hearts away from us and towards others.
What About You?
What opportunities do you have in this season of life to serve others? May God, by His grace, help you reflect Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve.