At the outset of any new year most people tend to evaluate their priorities. This of course is a good thing. In fact, I believe that one of our problems is that we do not assess ourselves often enough. Let me encourage you to evaluate the level at which you are involved in serving the Lord at your local church. The following list will provide some practical reasons for serving. Keep in mind that this list is far from exhaustive, but provides some compelling motivations for serving our great God! Why, then, should I involve myself in the ministry? In no particular order, here are some reasons to consider:
1. Glorifying God by serving in my local church ministry is the purpose of my salvation.
Sometimes in our evangelistic zeal to emphasize that salvation is not by works, we fail to fully appreciate that we have been saved unto good works (Ephesians 2:10). In fact, God has placed you in your local church in order that you might be edified (built up) so that you might work for and serve Him. To remain sedentary is to neglect God’s very purpose for our salvation. By serving, I behave like Jesus and glorify Him.
2. I have been uniquely gifted to serve.
Several Bible passages help us to understand the concept of spiritual gifts. Among them are Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4. In these chapters we learn how God graciously and supernaturally favors each believer with his own distinct ministry gift! What a privilege is ours!
At our home we open Christmas presents on Christmas Eve. Don’t ask—it’s an old Norwegian tradition. No matter what size our tree is, it seems that it’s never big enough to shelter the number of presents beneath it. How bare that tree looks on Christmas morning after all of the presents have been removed and unwrapped! The gifts begin their life of usefulness only after they’ve been unwrapped.
In a peculiar way, many churches are like that tree on Christmas Eve. They shelter a number of beautifully wrapped, lovingly purchased presents that remain unmoved and still wrapped. We believers have been wonderfully gifted by our Lord for service, yet many are content to nestle themselves uselessly beneath the tree.
3. Ministry service will demonstrate the reality of my faith.
Nobody said it more poignantly than James when he taught us that faith is not primarily about what we know (or have heard), and it’s not primarily about what we say. Quite simply, faith without works is dead.
We love to have fun in the office at Harvest Baptist Church. Awhile ago I placed a fake cockroach conspicuously on the wall (one of those rubbery ones that looks remarkably real). The fact that my secretary is deathly afraid of all things “buggy” provided me no incentive at all—it was strictly coincidental. The prank produced the desired effect! The weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth took on biblical proportions. Good times. Anyway, the point is this: We left that cockroach on the wall to scare a few stragglers, but it had no more effect on our secretary. Why? She now knew it was fake.
Sometimes our faith has zero—or minimal—effect because it is not the real, actionable, demonstrable faith of the Bible. Fake Christianity may temporarily move people, but upon close scrutiny, will have no long lasting influence.
4. The laborers are few.
You’ve heard it before: The Gospels only record one prayer request from our Lord Jesus. “Pray for laborers!” If you are not already involved, somebody somewhere is praying for you to become involved in the ministry. The need is greater than ever. The fields are whiter than ever. Laborers are as relatively few as ever.
A popular business principle is one called the 80/20 principle. Basically it goes like this: typically 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Myriad are the applications to this in the local church: 20% do 80% of the giving, 20% of the people do 80% of the outreach. You get the idea.
I don’t know how accurate the percentages are in any particular church. What I do know is that I’d like to be in the 20%.
5. Children tend to emulate what they see, not what they hear.
When Jesus selected His apostles, He chose them to be “with Him.” How significant. It’s not trite: ministry is more often “caught” than “taught.” Perhaps this principle is what motivated Luke to write of all that Jesus began both “to do and to teach.” Teaching is most effective when doing on the part of the teacher precedes it.
When my oldest son got his driver’s license a number of years ago, I found myself riding shotgun on occasion. One day, as we traveled along a local highway I noticed that he was committing two fatal flaws: (1) He was not wearing a seatbelt, and (2) he was driving 80 mph. Appalling! Where did he learn to be so reckless? Certainly not from the driver’s manual. And definitely not from what I preached to him. Oh, yeah, but then there’s the nasty little thing about my example—oops.
What are your children learning about positive, heart-motivated ministry by watching you? Someday soon you’ll be riding shotgun.
6. The commission is great.
Remember, what Jesus commissioned us to do is what He demonstrated Himself time and again in His personal ministry. Jesus always saw people. In the desperation of their need and in the fragility of their faith, He saw them. Social status, ethnic background, sullied reputation, gender, race, or age—nothing precluded Jesus’ involvement in the lives of others.
Until we contextualize what we do (including the places we go and the jobs we perform) in terms of the gospel, we are missing out on a big part of the reason we’re even here on this planet.
The woman at the well, blind Bartimaeus, and the man by the Pool of Bethesda—they all occupy places on our journey too. Oh, they may have different names and different problems, but they all need Jesus. And we have been commissioned to tell them.
If we are to reach every creature with the gospel, then we need every Christian to embrace the Great Commission.
7. Ministry involvement enhances biblical understanding.
Hermeneutics is the science of Bible interpretation. Obviously the Bible is an important book, and we ought to interpret it in its literal, grammatical, and historical context. Careful attention should be given to the words employed and to the themes surrounding them.
But understanding the Bible also involves a commitment to obey it. Jesus was careful to point this out to His over-educated critics, “If any man will do his [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine…” (John 7:17). As we put the Word of God to practice in our lives, the Lord brings His purposes and His will/Word into focus.
At the wedding in Cana, the participating servants understood Jesus and His ways better than the others in attendance: “But the servants which drew the water knew” (John 2:9b). Service to God enhances one’s knowledge of God.
Loosely stated, the Chinese proverb says, “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.”
Basketball point guards with “game intelligence” and “good court sense” didn’t gain that body of knowledge by memorizing countless schematics of x’s and o’s on some locker room dry-erase board. They developed it over time and in countless game situations on the practice court.
For better understanding of God and His Word, lace up your sneakers and step on to the court.
8. Doing anonymous or little-noticed things for the Lord is like whispering, “I love You” in His ear.
I’m not a big fan of performance-based Christianity. We don’t do in order to measure up. We do because we measure up! Already we are accepted by Him. God can’t love you any more than He already does! You are His peculiar treasure, and His thoughts toward you are precious and innumerable.
Here’s how it’s supposed to work. Focus on Him. See the unconditionality of His favor. Rest in His unwavering love. Allow that grace to foster in you a revitalized energy to please Him, serve Him, and love Him. Contextualize everything you do by the God whom you love.
With this mindset, mundane duties became majestic acts of service. Anonymous gifts become yours and God’s little secret. Serving becomes its own reward.
Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;—Ephesians 6:6
One of my jobs as a teenager was to work at a local hospital. While there I met many different types of people and many different types of workers. One young man named Vince was a particularly hard worker in that he worked hard to avoid work! On one particular afternoon, I ran into Vince “hiding” by the loading dock. In his hand was a broom. Now, mind you, he wasn’t using the broom, he was just holding it. Curious, I asked him, “Vince, why did you bring the broom with you to the loading dock?” To which he replied, “Oh, this? Just in case the boss shows up!”
Maybe Vince has changed since those days, but at that point in his life Vince focused on avoiding responsibility, only feigning work when the boss happened to be looking. His thinking betrayed his wrong view of the nature of work itself (that it was somehow a bad thing) and of the motivation to work (the taskmaster might show up).
For us believers, the boss is always watching. But our motivation is not one of duty or fear. He loves us, and we love Him! What we do is of inestimable value because He orders us to it, energizes us in it, and rewards us for it!
9. I will forge long-lasting and valuable friendships.
One of the major fringe benefits of working for the Lord is the culturing of genuine friendships. Those to whom we feel the closest in life are typically those with whom we work. Adam and Eve began their marriage side by side, working together—he the garden worker and she his helper. The close connection we have with our coworkers often surpasses even that which we share with our own neighbors.
Some chapters of the Bible are more difficult to read than others. One of them is Romans 16, mainly because some of the names are impossible to pronounce! But what a tender passage it is. Paul takes time to assign value to his coworkers in ministry. Read it. Sense his heart.
Paul and Barnabas, Paul and Silas, Aquila and Priscilla, Peter and John—and the partnerships go on. With fondness I remember those with whom I conducted ministry way back in college, and then as a young man in Connecticut, and now for these many years in western Pennsylvania.
Ministry partners are the best lifetime friends and great sources of encouragement.
10. I will stand before the Lord.
He loves me. He died for me. He has given me purpose. Only what’s done for Him matters. I will meet Him face to face. Someday. Maybe today.
Involvement in ministry is a life of service for Jesus, like Jesus, and with Jesus. In fact, it’s all about Jesus. Now if that doesn’t incentivize service, I don’t know what will!