Serving In the Church: From a Consumer Mindset To a Servant Mindset
“And he [Christ] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:11–16
As my local church is approaching its annual “Engage Day,” which is a day for new members of the body to engage in ministries of the church that align with their gifting, I found this topic appropriate for not only our context, but for the Church’s overall context.
Before we get into the aim of serving in the church, we need to understand why we, as believers in Jesus, should whole-heartedly, joyfully serve. Servanthood starts with Jesus. In John’s gospel, we have all read the scene of the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus. At the brink of what would be the most exhausting and agonizing day for the Son of God, Jesus, knowing who would betray, deny, and abandon Him humbled and lowered himself to the ground to wash the disciples’ feet. This act of humility was not just about cleaning their dirty feet, but was a synecdoche for the ultimate act of servanthood and humiliation that was to come at Golgatha. After washing their feet, Jesus said, “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.”
Was it convenient for Jesus to wash Judas’ feet? Did Jesus skip Peter because Peter would deny him? No. Jesus knew that in the act of washing feet and ultimately taking on the sin of the world he was not in service of man. Rather, it was an act of obedience to His father who sent Him. So, a very good reason we should serve in humility is because Jesus served and commanded us to do the same, and if our foundation for servanthood is not built on first pleasing the Father, we will get burned out, tired, and cynical.
For many of us, when we hear “the church,” for some of us we think of a building or we may even think of it as the people in the church — which it is. But, I think, at least from what I often see, some who would say they are part of the Body of Christ, the Church, aren’t actively serving in a ministry within their local body of believers. I have been there.
As I am part of a church plant, in our early days, every Sunday morning at 7:30, set up for church was happening at our venue. We were mobile, and setting up wasn’t exactly exhilarating. I remember times when I deliberately would show up to “help” after I knew everything would be set up. This was completely and utterly selfish, and it was a heart issue. While setting up for church may seem like something insignificant, fostering a habit like laziness was only setting me up for failure in the future.
This is true for my context and I believe for many other churches: many of us are slipping into service a few minutes before it starts, and are slipping out right after service. And this is the extent of our contribution and care for the Body. In contrast to this picture of lack of servanthood and contribution to the church, Paul says in Romans 12, “…So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” Did you catch that? Let us use them! If we are in Christ, if we are of the brotherhood and family of God, we are part of a working body.
We have gifts bestowed to us by the grace of God, so to show up week in and week out without using the gifts we have been given is not only a waste, but it’s flirting with sin. It is not a coincidence that the passage immediately following this verse is titled “Marks of the True Christian.” The understanding of how both desperately we need the body and how desperately the body needs us is foundational to the flourishing of our faith. Paul expounds in 1 Corinthians 12 on our desperate need for one another, pointing out that the “eye” of the body needs the “hand” just as much as the “hand” needs the “eye.”
Once we come to the realization that approaching the body as only a consumer is dangerous, we will appreciate God’s design even more — to get to the point where we realize that not only do I need my brother or sister, but that my brother or sister actually needs me too.
“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” 1 Corinthians 12:26