Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Habits of this Highly Effective (But Lost) Church Lay Leader: Week 6 - Serving: Working up a Sweat

"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him." - John 4:23 (ESV)

We've made it to the sixth topic of our series on the heart of the worshiper. This series has turned out to take a lot longer than we anticipated, but I think sometimes we don't always see the big picture that God has in mind. So, I am glad that we've been flexible thus far and that you are still with me as I share my zany thoughts from my days prior to becoming a genuine Christ-follower.

To tell you the truth, the idea of talking about serving the Lord is one that makes my head swim.... There are a lot of things we need to address when we talk about service.... Who we serve, What we serve, When we serve, Why we serve, How we serve, How much, and then we need to discuss some of the fallacies of service. We need to discuss our motives for serving. We need to discuss spiritual gifts and how those are used within the body... And if I honestly tried to cover all of this, it would take six months to read one blog post!

Rick Warren has written a fabulous book called, "The Purpose-Driven Life" which addresses serving God. There are similar books out by Dr. David Jeremiah and Max Lucado on the subject as well. If you are looking to go deeper on this topic, those would be great places to start.

For the purposes of this blog, and to keep the continuity of the previous blogs, I am going to share my own experiences relative to serving in the local church body prior to knowing Christ. And then I am going to share what God has taught me as a Christ-follower over the past nearly nine years.

I believe I shared with you last week that I was invited to church by one of my neighborhood friends, who also happened to be a PK. She had invited me to join a youth choir at her church because she knew that I loved music. I think I also told you that particular choir was going on tour to Texas.

I learned right away that service was supposed to be a big part of the Christian life... and I have the physical scars to prove it! The very first time I ever remember going to that church was to go to work at a pancake breakfast in order to earn money for the choir tour.  I had not even been to a choir rehearsal yet, but I was already working in the church.

After the pancake breakfast that afternoon, I helped to wash windows along the church nursery wall. This was an outside wall, and beneath us was a paved driveway that led to a carport typed awning (this was in the 70's) for a drop-off point for parents. Now, mind you, I had never even so much as cleaned my room at home or had to clean a bathroom mirror! So this was an entirely new experience for me. But I wanted to earn my way to Texas, and so I climbed up on a rickety step ladder and began to clean those windows! Side by side with my little PK friend, we were working for Jesus. Or something like that.

Okay. Now, I was a very short kid -- always the shortest one in my class and I hadn't gotten all that much taller by the time I reached the seventh grade, and so reaching some of the spots on those windows was a challenge for me. At one point, I gave up and climbed up on the very top of the step ladder. The ladder gave way, the bucket that I had on the shelf fell, and I went backwards! The next thing I knew, I was down on the pavement! I had a gash in the top of my head, and there was fear that I might have had a concussion as well. It wasn't pretty. But I helped earn my way to Texas.... and as far as I could tell at that point in my little warped teenage brain, that was also a step on the journey to earning my way to Heaven as well.

The only problem was that I didn't know how much I needed to do to get into Heaven. So, I continued to do nice things. I tried to make sure that I was at church nearly every Sunday from that day forward (surely God would count that toward getting in) and that I did plenty of good things for him. My resume was filled with all sorts of lay activities in the local church, as well as professional opportunities in churches and para-church organizations or agencies. If I had one of those Sunday School pins to represent each of the things I did over the years, I believe I would have tripped over it!!!!

But those things all became moot point because all of those activities were about me.... and boosting myself in the congregation and getting God to notice....

Here are some of the things I have learned since following Christ about service:

1) I am to serve Him because I belong to Him.... Not because I want to belong to Him. Do you see the difference?

"8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." - Ephesians 2:8-10

2) My service to God is a way of showing others that I do, in fact belong to God.

"22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." - James 1: 22-27

3) My service to God is for the benefit of His kingdom. Therefore, I am to serve humbly and follow Christ's example. It isn't about me.

"1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." - Philippians 2:1-11

Did you notice what Jesus did? He took the form of a servant... and humbled Himself by being obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (v.7)  Our example of servanthood comes from Christ Jesus, Himself!

4) God designed and calls each of us to fit into a specific local body of believers to complete the specific mission that God has destined for our churches. We are to use our spiritual gifts, our natural talents and our life experiences to help our local church to reach the lost and to encourage the saints. He did not design anyone for pew warming!

You can find spiritual gift lists in  Rom 12:3-8 ; 1 Cor 12-14; Eph 4:7-13 ; and 1 Peter 4:10-11.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then He has given you certain spiritual gifts to be used within the body of Christ. Those came at your salvation. Discover your gift, and use it for His benefit within your local church. If you fail to use your gifts within your local church, your church will not be able to accomplish fully her mission that God has designed for her within your community.

There are many good gift surveys available to help you discover your areas of spiritual giftedness. Your pastor or educational minister could probably help you to find a survey and help you discover your own gifts. I seem to remember that "The Purpose Driven Life" had a good gift assessment survey in the back of the book as well.

5) Don't confuse "spiritual gifts"  or natural talents with THE GIFT or THE GIVER! God has given us the GIFT of HIS SON! One of my biggest issues I think was that I often confused the idea of serving with having a relationship with Jesus.

If you are questioning your salvation, the best thing to do is nail it down!

God loves you and has a plan for you:

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not persish, but have everlasting life." - John 3:16

There's a problem - God is holy and we are not. 

"There is none righteous, no not one." - Romans 3:10

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." - Romans 3:23

The penalty for sin is eternal death. .
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 6:23

God made a way for us through Jesus and His death on the cross.
"But God commended His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8

All we have to do is ask Him to be the Lord of us. The word "Lord" is probably best translated in today's terms as "Boss." When you ask Jesus to be Lord of you, you are asking HIM to call all of the shots on your life from this point forward. He's in charge 24/7...

"because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved." - Romans 10:9-10

If you have made this decision, the next step will require some courage on your behalf, particularly if you have been in the church for a long time, as I was. You will need to talk with your pastor or another church staff member and tell him of your decision. He will guide you from there as to next steps (believer's baptism and so forth.)

I will be praying for each of you.... as you find your place of service and for some of you who will be nailing down your salvation experience for the first time!

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