Church Life

The Oxymoron Church: Demanding servants

So maybe this Oxymoron Church thing is going to hit harder than I thought. Talking about community wasn’t too bad, but love was a rough one. Let’s try to ease up with a look at servanthood.

To be a servant implies we have to answer to someone else. It means there is one who has a higher rank or privilege than we do, and our mission is to fulfill the needs of those above us.

There are a couple of angles we could take here, but we will save at least one for another post. For today the focus is on how servant applies in the context of believer to believer.

You would think a Body of people who believe in community and are motivated by love should be a prime example of servanthood. Already known for its failures in the areas of community and love, the Oxymoron Church has forsaken the life of the servant.

Ask a Christian whom they serve and most will give the same answer: Jesus. He is their Lord and Master, the King of kings who rules their lives.

This is true, of course. Jesus’ word is to be our command and we are to live according to that word, or Word. As Paul tells us, we belong to Jesus since He purchased us with His blood. We are not our own, but His.

These statements form the foundation of the next step for living as servants. We are meant to serve one another.

Wanted: full service church

Service is a valued element of church life in the Oxymoron Church. People want to see as many Christians serving in the church as possible. The flaw is in their definition of that service.

The members of the Oxymoron Church believe others need to serve in the church to meet their personal needs and preferences. “Serve me” is their mantra.

Here are some examples of the “serve me” cries of the Oxymoron Church:

  • We need someone to staff the nursery.
  • We need someone to teach the kids.
  • We need someone to be with the teenagers.
  • We need someone to shovel the steps and mow the lawn.
  • We need someone to start a Bible Study (or prayer) group.
  • We need someone to greet people at the door.
  • We need someone to show visitors where everything is.
  • We need someone to setup and cleanup for our potlucks.

But, Chris, we do need people to do those things. That’s true. So if we have enough people in the church to need help with these and all the other puzzle pieces of church life, why are we constantly asking for help?

The simple is this: Too many churchgoers want to be served without having to serve anyone else. The cry of “serve me” is quickly followed by “serve yourself, too.”

We can come up with a lot of “spiritual” sounding excuses for why others have to serve us at church, but we don’t have to do the same. “It’s my only day of rest.” “I can’t focus on the sermon with my kids in my lap.” “I need to have someone further in the journey lead me.” “I already spent my years helping out.”

When we only take from others and do not give of ourselves (beyond our finances) we become more and more selfish. Pride sets in as we consider our needs to be more important than those around us.

We also like the feeling of having our needs met so easily. Like a body receiving a fresh blood transfusion every few hours, we feel better than if we are the ones giving the blood. Of course, the body that needs blood so often is probably on the verge of death.

Not just helping those in need

Demanding our own needs and desires be met without helping to meet the needs of other is wrong on so many Scriptural levels. Jesus offers the simplest case against such thinking.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve …” (Mark 10:45a NIV).

Notice how the context for Jesus’ statement is not when He was telling followers to do good deeds to the poor, destitute, and forgotten. This is not part of His “whatever you do to the least of these” message (see Matthew 25:35-45).

Only the cold and cruel heart stands unmoved by pictures of loss and devastation, those wasting away because of famine, the orphaned looking for hope and love, or even animals which were mistreated and abused.

While works of basic need-meeting are wonderful, and we should be active in what is called “social justice” around the world and in our own cities, they are not a sign of a Jesus follower.

Jesus declared the purpose of His coming as an act of service as He reminded the Disciples of their relationship with one another.

If money were not a concern, a vast number of individuals and families would line up to help dig wells, feed the hungry, and hold the fatherless. You would probably be one of them, even if it were only for a short time. How many of us welcome the chance to serve our equals, or our betters, in our lands of blessing?

Our choice to serve fellow believers is proof of how well we handle the hurdles of community and love the Oxymoron Church is terrible at overcoming. If we truly love each other and understand how every individual in the Body of Christ belongs to all of the others, we will always be willing to serve.

In the same way, we are many, but in Christ we are all one body. Each one is a part of that body, and each part belongs to all the other parts. (Romans 12:5 NCV)

A personal confession

Serving in the church can be a tricky topic to discuss. I believe every churchgoer can find a place to serve, regardless of age, previous service, and with some restrictions even without a profession of faith. If you receive spiritually from a church, you should give physically of yourself (again, aside from finances).

This belief is so strong in me, I started writing a book encouraging believers to dismantle their excuses and get busy fulfilling the good works we were saved to accomplish (Ephesians 2:10). Afraid of my tone and the possibility it would sound like a rant instead of a rallying cry, I quit after 9 or 10 chapters.

Through my years of ministry I have “filled the gap” of missing volunteers to do so much more than just the work of the ministry. Growing up my pastor said he would never shy away from cleaning toilets as a service to the church. In a church so large he didn’t have to, but he would.

I know what it’s like to clean bathrooms, vacuum and dust the sanctuary, repair a roof and water drainage, shovel steps and driveways and sidewalks, sweep and mop floors, clean up after floods, patch and paint walls, change light fixtures and more.

I am never bothered to do what needs to be done around the church. What bothers me is when a churchgoer demands that I, as the pastor, do something they want done, and never offer a hand in filling the need.

If you are serving, I applaud you. Leadership gurus tells us about the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule. Typically 80 percent of the work is completed by just 20 percent of the people. Thank you for doing more than your fair share of the load to make sure the important things don’t fall apart or cease.

If you aren’t helping, you can’t hide it. Everyone knows. It’s time to “get your rear in gear.” Unless you are utterly handicapped, you should be doing serving in some capacity, and doing it to the glory of God.

Start small. Don’t ask to be in charge. Be willing to pick up bulletins at the end of service. When it snows, stop by the church clean off a few steps or in front of a side door. Offer to lead visitors to where they need to go, without offering your thoughts on the latest sermon or Mrs. Talksalot or how no one else was there to help them.

Serving is about our commitment to be people of love in holy community. If you want to fulfill your calling to the church, serve it. Don’t worry about thanks or promotion. Just serve.

Want to add to the conversation? Your comments are welcome below.