Equipped for what?
The call onwards and upwards is a call of being equipped in order to serve
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, TO EQUIP HIS PEOPLE FOR WORKS OF SERVICE, so that the body of Christ may be built up” Ephesians 4v11-12
A short blog post today, but an important one. Christ came to REDEEM man and to restore us to how we were originally intended to be in the Garden of Eden. As image-bearer’s made in the likeness and image of God we are also commanded to bear fruit. God wants us not only to be faithful but also fruitful in our following of God,
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you” John 15v16
In the New Testament we see local churches as the visible expression of the gathered and sent redeemed and worshiping community. We are His body! Since Jesus is now ascended and back in heaven, His people the church are now called to represent Him in this hour. One of the most visible and tangible ways that we do this is to SERVE the Lord. Yes, that’s right…we serve! In becoming more and more like Christ and growing in maturity as sons of God (our true identity) we are now called and commanded (yes God commands his people) to be Christ’s representatives – his hands, his feet, his ears, his help, his voice and so on, in this world.
Jesus forever demonstrated for us that if you want to become ‘more’ in the Kingdom then we need to learn to become serve,
“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all'” Mark 9v35
Some people have their own difficult circumstances that requires all their time and serving to be poured into that eg. caring for a loved one who is unwell or aged. Others may be in a season of their lives where demands on them are peaking and so their serving output is restricted to that for a time (and in doing so they are serving faithfully and not less!) eg. a heavy workload, caring for a new baby etc. As such, this command to serve will also be seen in the everyday circumstances and roles of our lives eg as a Mum, in the workplace, as a carer, etc.
So what does serving in and through a local church mean?
- It involves a time commitment and effort – there is no easy way round this. The nature of being a blessing as ‘servant of all’ means that we need to give of ourselves. If we approach serving in and through our local church, or in the work-place or any other aspect of life, from the perspective of convenience – then we are missing a core ingredient of serving. Serving will always involve some aspect of inconvenience or effort on our behalf! Serving costs us something eg time, ‘me-time’, etc.
- Serving meets needs – whether it be serving on a roster with children’s work, cleaning the premises, visiting vulnerable and lonely people, delivering food parcels, emptying bins, serving tea, picking someone up, or helping on a team, no matter what – serving is about meeting needs and being ‘part of’ what God is building rather than a spectator or arm-chair critic of what’s happening. Serving meets needs – practically. Serving does the talking with more than rhetoric (good intentions). Serving is love in action.
- Serving is the outflow of grace in our lives – we don’t serve to earn God’s love, we serve as an overflow of His grace and love in our lives! We love because He has first loved us! Too many in our day either serve for the wrong reasons eg to earn approval (legalism) or don’t make ourselves available to serve much at all because we put ourselves first rather than the Lord (license). Serving is a Kingdom response to Grace! It demonstrates gratitude and pursues God’s Kingdom over our own self-appointed thrones.
- It takes all types of serving and giftedness – too often people neglect their own contribution or feel it is too inadequate. As the slogan goes ‘Every little helps’! Your contribution is vital and needed.
- We are all part of the priesthood of believers – there is no opt-in or opt-out clause. This is who we are as believers in Christ. We offer spiritual sacrifices to God (1 Peter 2v5) as a result of his grace and Kingship in our lives. When the body of Christ serves and each part does its work, the body is built up and thrives….the opposite is true: when believers neglect to serve and leave it to the few, then the body suffers and our witness and work in the community suffers. God wants His people to bear fruit for Him, “From him (Christ) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4v16)
- Serving in general and in specifics – I believe that local churches need people to sometimes also serve in areas that they don’t feel is their ideal role. This is especially true of pioneering church plants where key ministries may be short on help and it gets left to a faithful few. Sometimes I hear people say, ‘I don’t feel called to this or that…’ yet at times the real reason behind this is inconvenience. In the long-term however we do need to hone the gifting that God gives us and use it more specifically. In this a gifting is identified, and a ministry using that grace gift is pursued. We move from what’s real towards the ideal in time.