The Church with Good News: Serving
Welcome to the church of the NT. If you know your NT, you know that except for 3 Matthew references, we do not read of the church in the Gospels. The church as we know it begins on Pentecost in Acts.
So, a text in Luke may seem strange for our title: A Serving Church with Good NEWS. But then Luke is the author of this Vol. 1 which is followed by Acts--his Vol. 2. Also, Luke is a gospel of reversals. The kingdom we read of in Luke is a place where the normal way of thinking about our world is turned upside down. For example, high places low, Simon the Pharisee, Good Samaritan, grateful Samaritan, Rich Fool, Two Brothers, Publican and Pharisee. Lazarus and rich man. These reversals reflect principles of greatness. Acts 17:6, turned world upside down. Reminds me of a popular children's song: "I'm Inright, Outright, Upright, downright happy all the time." Perhaps Luke is not such a strange beginning place to talk about a church that understands what it means to serve.
Let us read the text and pray.
One of the first phrases I heard when I learned conversational Spanish was "At your service." In restaurants, hotels, airports, and other places in Latin America, one can hear, "At your service"--often as a question? As much as to say, May I serve you?
The Luke 22 passage we read is about the nature of Jesus. The Greek concept is slave, not mere servant. This is the highest position in the reversed kingdom. What job do you want? Slave. Would you brag about it? Put it on your resume. I was a slave.
Many are willing to be a servant, but want selective clientele. Serve, yes--church leaders, friends, some family. But we don't want to serve those who need it most.
We have not glorified the doormat, to be a doormat is bad, except down at the church house in the kingdom of reversals. Serving/slavery is good. When one is committed to serving, one knows also that manipulation is not serving. In the secular world, manipulation permeates relationships, people are crafty and coercive. But not so in the spiritual kingdom.
We resist manipulation through humility. Whatever you want. I remember when a new member came to the church I was working with. This was a church with servant elders--the best eldership in OK. But then I didn't know this church. This family had come from a church where people got their way by throwing their weight around. I remember the elders' meeting where one of the elders, an older kindly gentleman, said, "That's not how it's done in Christ's church."
How can we overcome the tendency to self? How can we become genuine slaves to everyone around us. The key is in our text. I know who I am. Jesus knew himself, he was at ease with self. This is the difference between coerced slavery and chosen servanthood. Love chooses to serve; humility encourages service.
From our text....
I. A PATTERN FOR SERVICE
Jesus left us an example--he showed us how to do it.
The Christian spirit is a spirit of service. Not a spirit of self, but of service. Focused on others. Jesus, Others, You. Serving: Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45; Luke 22:26.
- A. Negative: The Power Pyramid--how not to do it.
Among Gentile pagans, world, society, even our culture....authority is used, abused, misused, lordship and superiority are valued, better than you, positional authority. These people are given titles, Good Ruler, or take titles, or call themselves good rulers, but may not be so seen by followers. We are today familiar with this world--selfish, individualistic, each for self. Rights without responsibilities. Stretch limits, take advantage. If Christians are not careful, we adopt such thinking and actions. So observe...If this hierarchical model is stable, right side up, normal, heavy at bottom, typical triangle, may seem ok. But even so, is not to be so in church.
The world around us, the Gentiles show us how not to do it. Not so with you. The goal is not control, but growth. This is equipping, maturing, knowledge, faith. It is amazing how few church leaders are serious about the Eph. 4 admonition--helping others on board. In the kingdom, the pyramid is upside down. The greatest is the servant of all. Submit--to all.
Gayle Erwin tells beautiful story about his dad--partially paralyzed, brain damaged, mother had to become breadwinner. Father died, statement of sons. "Our father did not leave us a financial empire...many things a dad does ours could not do. He did leave us something he had. He left us a love for God, love for Bible, love for people... We feel he has left us things that will last. So we stand before you as his sons and declare publicly that we will follow his God."
I don't know what your hopes and dreams might be for this church--but for me, I hope you will follow God.
- B. Positive: How to do it--as little children (Mark 10:13-16). A child is not a threat, is transparent, is forgiving, is loving, is innocent. We are the younger, the lesser, the least. Live life like that. Take the hand-me-downs, take the second best. I was a first born, but Y is 25 out of 26. (Illus: Zwink). We are to be as the younger, even if we are leaders. We are to be as the younger--regardless. What do you want? Doesn't matter. Elders at FG: Bob has about 1000 ideas a week, and we are lucky if we can use one of them. We are bringing up the rear. You go first, you go ahead. Have you seen this attitude in the church? In yourself? Go ahead, do it your way. Go ahead....
II. THE POWER FOR SERVICE.
Jesus empowered us to do it.
We are to SERVE everyone. We can do it by his power, spirit. According to gifts, talents, abilities. Eph. 4. There is no room here for self-exaltation.
When we learn to serve, learn how to follow Jesus in this vital aspect of Christianity--we will eliminate the tendency to Christian ghettos. Hiding the light under church pews and in nice buildings; don't want some to come, stand away from sinner with advice. Jesus came as God with us. How do we do it? Good: Explain, better: demonstrate, best: inspire.
We learn the role and the method: Rom. 7:6, serve in the new way of the Spirit. Romans 12:7 If (the gift) it is serving, let him serve....
III. PRINCIPLES FOR SERVICE
The church is upside down. The world works in one way, but you should not be like that! Note four principles.
- 1. EQUALITY.
All are equal. All matter. Lowliest is as important as highest. Young-old. Educated - uneducated. Rich - poor, temporary college student--permanent members, top-bottom, master-servant, teachers-students, elders-members.
Normally, v. 27, the greater is the one at the table. Note the rhetorical question. This cannot be an accurate description of the kingdom, for Jesus Christ came serving. Note the parallels in Mt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45.
Jesus' willingness to serve, to suffer, to give, are evidence of his servant heart. Servant leadership. His willingness to give self for others. In this kingdom (vs. 29), all are equal.
- 2. MINISTRY.
Service. Those at the top serve and submit to all the others. When you get to the bottom, you have arrived at the top. Greatest is least, least is greatest. Lowly are exalted, greatest is last. To humble self is beginning of exaltation; to exalt self is to come to nothing. First are last, last are first. Imagine it, "I'm last, I'm last...." Emphasis in this upside down kingdom is on service, ministry. Purpose of leaders, task of leaders. ad-ministry, to move others toward minister, Eph. 4:11ff. Finding is losing, losing is finding. Nonsensical by world's standards. Saving for self is losing and giving to others is receiving. Ac 20:35.
- 3. MUTUALITY.
Fellowship, koinonia. Church is family, but in one sense, more than family. To say family is incomplete, one-sided, only one facet. Koinonia is togetherness, end of isolation, no Lone Ranger Christians. Not saved in isolation, not keep saved in isolation. No member isolated from others nor ignored when church is functioning normally. No member should isolate self.
Mutuality is submission. Rethink Rom. 12:5. We belong to one another. Each submits to others, each seeks welfare of others. Must know, be known. Implies there is no human hierarchy. Mutuality means no manipulation, coercion, only willing service.
Mutuality is possible because in following example of Jesus Christ who served, we empty self, consider selves as nothing. Essence of this upside down church is, "Can I give myself away?" How often? To how many? How much can I be like Jesus who is my example, Phil. 2:1-11.
We hear much about love today, yet misunderstand. Often love is mushy, oozing, useless. Real love serves, submits, gives, as in John 13. No greater love. Love obeys, meets needs, cares, acts. Love provides connections
- *with one another--opportunities are about us, service, we are a loving and serving community. Networking, organizing, serving one another, meeting needs, encouragement.
- *with God--we seek to walk with God, spiritual strength. Commitment to the cause of Christ, dedication to the direction of the divine being.
- *with others--we lovingly serve others, our community through the gospel in a meaningful way that builds relationships, diminishes loneliness and alienation, honors persons made in the image of God, and seeks friends forever.
In summary, whole story told: service. In the upside down church, everyone serves. All seek a place of service, ministry. No more important question, "Where can I serve?" What can I do? Where can I give my life? We are here to serve one another. Sharing Service is at the heart of Christian fellowship. Service is hard because of our world focuses on greatness. Authority is a Gentile - pagan way of dealing with life, even when the person in authority has the well-being of others in view. You are not to be like that. The greatest is the servant. To be great, serve all.
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Last updated March 20, 2005.