The Wonder of the Church: Part 3 – Making of Believers
21. Servant Hearted (1)
Matt 20:28 the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many
Matt 23:11,12 The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Mk 9:35 Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Purpose: I said at the beginning of this Part that we would recognise the needs that we have as we come to God and then what He does to meet those needs. I am not sure I’ve done that in each of the recent studies, but I feel it is important to do it at this point. Now I also said at the start of this part that we would move on from the general ways Christians are different from non-Christians to consider just what happens when a person does actually become a Christian, in God’s eyes as declared in the New Testament. Looking back I wonder if this study should have been partnered with No.17 on Humility, because the old life we had lived prior to coming to Christ was, we have noted many times, self-centred and godless. However in the process of coming to Christ, there came this recognition of this attitude and we repented of that and turned from it to become others-centred and godly. The first ‘other’ is of course God and the result of making Him the centre of our life is godliness, and that is expressed in various ways. One of them is in humility and another is in taking on a servant heart – a heart to be available to God to be used by Him to bless His world, starting with the Church.
Servant-hearted? Our verses above clearly indicate Jesus’ desire for his disciples to also be servants. We said previously that Christians are to be seen as disciples, those who learn from the ‘master’ and who become like the ‘master’. Well this master came, he said, to serve as a servant. A servant is one who does the bidding of another and although we see Jesus using such language as, “What is it you want” (Mt 20:21) in response to the mother of James and John coming to him, it is clear from what follows that he is not here to automatically do our bidding. However, a short while later in response to the cries of two blind men, Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mt 20:32) and, in response to their faith, healed them both. In the latter case we might suggest that Jesus ‘served’ them – using his power – because that conformed to his mandate (see Lk 4:18,19 and Mt 11:5), the will of the Father for him. Thus we must suggest that when Jesus speaks of himself as a servant it is one who serves the will of the Father, the will of the Godhead decreed before the foundation of the world.
A Starting Expectation: Perhaps we should first recognize the fact of expectations that we find in many Bible-believing circles, the right expectation, that God wants us to be those who are doing, the expectation that the Christian life should be a ‘doing’ life, an active life. Now because of that, we can find many ‘doing things’ in the church context but for not the right reasons, and this takes us to the heart of the subject of ‘servant-heartedness’. They ‘do’ for the sake of doing, not because it is the natural Spirit-led flow of life and of their relationship with the Father. So, check out these (wrong) ways of thinking why people ‘do’ stuff as Christians:
Wrong Attitudes: So in our starter-verses above we see Jesus teaching that he wants us to be servants and, like him, we are to be first and foremost servants of God, ones who obey God’s calling, but what do we so often find as we look around the church? What is it motivating people to be ‘doing stuff’ in church?
First of all there are those have a pious look about them that says they are serving God but what it is in reality is that they are seeking to appease God. They still think they need to get God on their side or appease Him for their failures (sins), which they seek to cover up by the public display of service. As we pointed out in the previous study, their serving to please and get God on their side, to make sure their salvation is complete is, of course, error. Our salvation is complete and we cannot add to it, so serving for this reason is a wrong way of thinking.
Second, there are those who seek to impress others. and this can be true in several different ways. First, this can be most simply the member of the congregation who wants to please the Pastor, the Minister, or whatever other name the leader is known by. After all he preaches his heart out that we should be servants of God and so we want to please him and honor him, so we think we are serving to bless the minister, but actually that is a wrong focus. At this point someone might be asking, “But does it matter as long as we’re serving?” Well actually, yes, because our serving should flow out of our relationship with God, not with the minister.
Second, it is also possible that the leader isn’t serving for a right motive. We would hope that he/she is serving God and that is as a result of a specific calling, but it is quite difficult to be a minister without having that sense of being observed by the congregation, some of whom at least will be thinking, “Is he/she earning their money?” so another aspect of this one is that the Pastor-Minister-Leader may feel driven as an ‘employee’ of the people not as a Spirit-led child of God with a special calling.
Third, in this ‘impressing others’ category, there is also personal fulfillment issues in the person serving, not only the main leader, but it could be the church secretary, a deacon, even a worship leader. Being seen to be an ‘out-front person’ is without doubt a potentially ego-boosting experience and it is only attention to that previous study on humility that can stop a subtle growth of pride in ‘being a leader’.
So, third, returning to the primary general wrong attitudes that we can hold, there are those who serve out of a guilty conscience because they feel they ‘ought’ to serve and ought to be seen to be doing something. One of the greatest temptations of the modern church (and this is primarily at leadership level) is that we hear what other people are doing, we hear of their successes and so if they are successful in that way then, we think, if we do the same thing we too will be successful. So we scour around the Christian world and come across a variety of things that others are doing, maybe even established organisations that can be most helpful in a particular ministry, and we leap at those things as ways that will show God we are being obedient. They are quite likely to be things that could come under the umbrella of ‘reaching out into the community’ or even ‘growing the church’ – and that surely must be good (we think). But was it what God wanted?
And so? Well there is a lot there to digest and think about and we have yet more to cover, so let’s end this particular study with a summary statement: we are called to be servants but that means servants first and foremost of God, and the way we express that servant-heartedness should be as an expression of our loving relationship with Him and the things He puts on our hearts to do. We’ll consider some more of this in the studies ahead.