To serve, or be served

Follow me in this scenario: A church member attends church for years. Though he or she attends fairly regularly, he adds nothing consistently to the efforts of the church. He does not teach a Bible class, does not repair widow’s storm doors, does not look up visitors to church.

How long does it take to develop a habit? Thirty days?

This church member now has a well-established habit of not adding to the church’s success in any way.

So let’s begin with one central question: Is it the church’s function to serve us, or is it a vehicle by which we can serve?

Many seem to join the church for the same reason they might eat at a fancy restaurant. They want great food and great service, and they are annoyed when they don’t get it.

So, in a word, do we join the church to be served, or to serve?

As a preacher for over forty years I cannot count the number of times I have spoken to people who have left the church because it did not serve them in the way they wished or expected.

Yet it seems obvious to me that if everybody is waiting to be served, nobody will serve.

The hallmark of a Christian is to serve: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26).

Jesus’ life was characterized by this very quality: “Even as the son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

Can I challenge you today? Ask yourself, am I an integral part of my congregation? (For some of my readers, this might start with making a commitment to one particular congregation). If not, here is a benchmark with which to aim: Determine that you will regularly contribute to at least one activity of the church this year. If it is regularly writing cards to visitors and shut ins, so be it; if it is teaching the Wednesday night first grade Bible class for a quarter, do it; if it is looking up the congregation’s elderly and serving them, fair enough.

If twenty members do what I have just suggested, the effect on their congregation will be incalculable.

Try it. You’ll see.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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