The Wonder of the Church: Part 3 – Making of Believers
22. Servant Hearted (2)
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
Recap: In the previous study we noted verses at the beginning that point us toward this subject that show that having a servant heart starts by seeing it in Jesus and then follows by the expectation that any disciple of his will be the same. We concluded by noting that 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. In that study we noted three wrong ways of thinking about serving but now we need to go on and see this serving from a slightly different angle.
The Errors: The reality behind these wrong attitudes or ways of thinking that we considered in the previous study, can be expressed as a number of ensuing practical errors, the things that are wrong in this apparent appearance of ‘serving’ or the way we go about serving. In observing the errors we can then see the way things should be.
First, there is the reality of the problem of ‘service’. Most simply put, first of all, there are too many needs in the world out there for us to meet all of them. Unless we have a large and diverse congregation, we will be limited in manpower and ability. I remember a well-known Christian leader of many decades ago warning of this; we are not called to meet every need of society, there are too many of them. Second there is the truth of the reality behind those problems: many of them will be resolved when the individuals in question meet Jesus and allow him to straighten out their lives.
So, our first realization is that although we are called to help people and love them, that help and love is first shown by sharing the Gospel with them, to help them see that through Christ they can come into a living relationship with God who has a plan and purpose to bless their life once they accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord, as we have considered earlier in these studies. So failing to perceive the extent and nature of the needs around us, is the first error, which can lead us into unnecessary stress as we think we need to be all things to all men. No, the answer comes when we address the second error.
Second, there is the danger of human wisdom in the absence of God’s wisdom, and so we see a need in the world around us and leap at it. We need to remember what we’ve just said and realize that when Jesus gave the picture of the vine and branches (Jn 15) he was conveying a picture of life flowing from him to us. That ‘life’ includes, wisdom, revelation, direction, purpose and power. Now the important thing to note is that those things come when we wait on God, submit to Him, listen to Him – and we need to do this collectively, not simply as individuals. The fruit of failing to do that is fruitlessness! We start projects and they totter on with little, if any, fruit. Failing to listen to God, receiving His direction and anointing is the second error and it leads us into human-wisdom, human-effort centred activity, which so often results in our resources becoming rapidly depleted so that physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion sets in, making us vulnerable to enemy attack.
Third, there is the error of failing to ‘discern the body’, failing to recognise the hearts and the gifting of the people in our particular part of the body. Who or what is on their hearts? How are they gifted? How can we equip and release them so that what God is already doing in them can be further released to bring forth fruit? I have always been challenged by a mega-church in the Far East that ran on a cell basis and each cell was restricted to people of the same station in life, so one group might have been made up of bankers, another group shop workers, another group social workers. Now I am aware that there is a school of thought that says sanctification works best when you totally mix people but, consider, who are bankers best at reaching? Other bankers!
Let’s consider this a little further, not forgetting that ultimately we are thinking about what happens when a person becomes a Christian. Consider: “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10) Now whatever else you might think this verse says, it implies that when we come to Christ, God already knows the sort of person we are and what our potential is. Now potential is a combination of natural gifting, spiritual gifting that God wants to give us, and availability and openness of heart. All those things, I believe, contribute to what God can do with us. In the New Testament the Lord used a scholar (the apostle Paul), a professional, a doctor (Luke), an ordinary fisherman (Peter) and another ordinary fisherman (John). As a result, churches were planted all over the place and an amazing repository of fundamental teaching was produced (Paul), an early history of Jesus’ ministry and that of the early church established (Luke), a church established under apostolic calling (Peter), and the long-term witness of that church built up with deeper understanding of Jesus (John). Different people, different personalities, different abilities, different potential. So who have we got in the part of the body where we are located? What is my gifting? How do all these things fit together? What is God putting on our hearts (not merely the heart of the leader)? What is God saying through the prophets and prophetic people? If we pay attention to these things, we will not have square pegs in round holes, people serving out of guilt trying to fulfil someone else’s ministry, people running out of resources and becoming a problem themselves.
Fourth, and I believe this is often a major problem in the modern church, we look to what needs doing in the church, and the perceived needs of the community around the church, while failing to care for the sheep within the church. I wonder in how many churches, where a large number, for a variety of reasons, have been wounded or damaged by life, are now living by putting on a brave face, being one of God’s children, and their inner needs and hurts are not being ministered to because the church is too taken up with ‘outreach’ without getting the balance. That is both uncaring and unrighteous and stops people being effective members of the body of Christ, because deep down those hurts from the past produce doubts and questions in the present. It also probably means that when people from outside are helped, are saved, their deepest needs are similarly not addressed because the whole work is too shallow.
Fifth, because the church direction is lacking God’s wisdom and empowering, the various areas of service are not being done as they should and so are done badly, resulting in little fruit and blessing, and those involved become weary and exhausted and downcast. There is also frequently a failure to recognise the spiritual dynamics or spiritual warfare (which we’ll consider later in the series) involved in what we are doing, and thus we can find the enemy running rings round us. The error here is the failure to understand the situation and failure to equip and empower God’s people to cope with it.
A Right Approach: So how do we sum up these things? First we must be clear: service is not to be a legalistic outworking of the guilty conscience of the church. It is to be the loving expression or outworking of the relationship we have with our Lord, whereby we come to realise who we are – sons and daughters of God – realise that He has purposes for us (see Eph 2:10) and when we move in them, He will guide us into what He wants us to be doing and that will bless both us and those we serve. Moreover He will guide us as to how we do it (with wisdom) and empower us with His Spirit so that we will be fruitful.
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (Jn 4:34) As we do what God gives us to do – in His way, with His empowering – it will be like food and will nourish us. Moreover, note the words, “and to finish his work”. We will not have projects that fade away from lack of energy and lack of fruit. Consider the will of the Father for Jesus for three years: success, blessing, thousands taught, thousands healed, many delivered from demons, some even raised from the dead. THAT was fruitful service.
And So? Is it down to The Leader? We are a body and so there are many different gifts and abilities within the local body. Collectively we need to wait on the Lord for His vision – that builds, restores and blesses the church internally, and then blesses the world round about us with His love and goodness. One man gets only a partial vision. “victory is won through many advisers.” (Prov 11:14 Also 15:22, 24:6) The good news is that we are not called to serve alone. Service is the flow of life from Jesus to his people (vine and branches), a flow through the body of Christ with its many parts that blesses both the servant and the served. May it be so. As we move into the next part of this series, on what the Church actually is, we will start with the vital subject of ‘vision’ that we have just mentioned.
(Here again at the end of this Part we present an overview of the series)
Part 1 – Falling Short?
- Wonderings about Church
- Concern for People
- Challenged by Scripture
- Wondering about ‘Fitness for Purpose’
- Problems with Religion and Revival
- Appearance & Performance (1)
- Appearance & Performance (2)
Part 2 – A Different People
- Repentance and Conviction
- Needing to be ‘Saved’?
- A People of Faith
Part 3 – Making of Believers
- A Guilt-Free People
- No Longer Orphans
- Growing in Sonship
- The Yeast of Humility
- Getting on a Learning Curve
- The Reality of Sacrifice
- No Add-ons
- Servant-hearted (1)
- Servant-hearted (2)
Part 4 – Pondering on Vision
- The Significance of Vision
- More on ‘Why Vision?’
- The God Focus
- Spiritual Expressions
- Building People
Part 5 – Starting from Scratch
- Clear your Mind
- A New Creation
- Life (1)
- Life (2)
- Being Together
Part 6 – thinking about Leaders
- Local leaders – overseers
- Local leaders – shepherds
- Local leaders – elders
- Local Leaders – The Nature of the Church (1)
- Gifts of Ministries – Introduction
- Gifts of Ministries – to plant
- Gifts of Ministries – to build up
- The Servants – Deacons
- The Nature of the Church (2)
Part 7 – Unique Ingredients
- Another quick look at ‘Vision’
- Power – for Life Transformation
- Power – for Life Service
- Power – for Living
- The Need for Faith
- More on Faith.
- Finale – the Church on God’s heart