Service is a part of a Christian’s DNA. It is built into our new nature. Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Eagles are made to fly, wolves are made to hunt, canaries are made to sing, moles are made to dig, and Christians are made to serve. No creature is happy outside of the environment for which it was created.
Jesus Christ modeled service for us when He came to this earth. “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Our Saviour, the Lord of all, who by His divine power holds the entire universe together, was a servant. How could any Christian look at the example of his Lord and not realize that God intends for us to serve?
Think of the love that our Saviour showed by dying on the cross for us. “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead” (2 Corinthians 5:14). Yes, it is our duty to serve. Yes, there are great needs to be met. But far more significant is that Christ’s love and sacrifice compels us to serve Him.
You Have a Place to Serve
How do we get a new Christian to become involved? How do we get a complacent, self-satisfied believer who has been camped out on the back pew for the last twenty years to become a servant?
From the pulpit and in the Sunday school classroom, Christians must be taught the concept of service. The members must understand that it is not the job of the pastor to do the work of the church, but that the pastor is responsible, “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). In other words, it is the job of the pastor to develop the saints so they may do the work of the ministry, and the body of Christ may thereby be edified.
Some members feel they should not have to serve, but there are many people in our churches who think we don’t want them to serve. They feel they are not good enough.
There was a man in our church who looked a little rough. He wore a leather motorcycle jacket and had a long ponytail, but he came faithfully to every service for some time. Then he simply stopped coming.
I learned later that he had gone to a smaller church so that he could serve. Along the way he cut the hair, lost the jacket, and made other progress in his Christian life. He told me later that he thought ours was such an educated church that you had to have a college degree to teach Sunday school. I explained to him that we don’t even require our Sunday school teachers be able to read and write! After experiencing some disappointments in his other church, this dear man came back and was a faithful, active, and involved man in our church for many years. He left our church again, but this time to start a church which he pastors to this day.
People need to be told of their opportunities for service. They must understand that not every area of service requires a great singing voice, a thorough knowledge of the Bible, or a perfectly mature Christian life. There are shrubs to be trimmed, flower beds to be weeded, restrooms to be cleaned—the list goes on and on. But many of our people are not aware of the needs of the church.
In our church some ministries are open to everyone, while others require training and require various levels of leadership requirements. There are some churches that would let a man go to the bar on Saturday night and then teach Sunday school the next morning. But I believe that the teacher’s life should follow the preaching from the pulpit.
The Right Person for the Job
After we explain the opportunities for service, how do we approach our members? Scripture tells us to, “Look well to the state of thy flock.” We need to know where our people are in their Christian lives. We need to have some understanding of what their spiritual gifts are, where they are in their spiritual development, and how that relates to the needs in our church. It is then our responsibility to try to put our members to work in the areas where they can be most productive.
Most of the time, we recruit workers by making an announcement from the pulpit or listing needs in the bulletin. While there are some who will respond to this, it is much more effective to pray about the church’s needs and ask God whom He would have you approach about meeting those needs. Then go to the people individually and seek their involvement in the work of God.
Even if the place of service is simple or mundane, God can use it to develop a heart for service. One well-known preacher said his first job in a church was to turn the lights on and off in the restrooms. Two young people from our church have spent years on the mission field in Cambodia, and they still use the lessons they learned working on our bus routes and Sunday school classes. I preached my first sermon in a rescue mission. We never know where a person could go in his work for the Lord Jesus Christ, nor will we ever find out until we help him get started.
The Hudson Taylor of the South Pacific
It was the middle of winter in London, Sunday, January 3, 1814. While Mrs. Tonkin was on her way to the evening service, she saw John, one of her husband’s employees, waiting outside a bakery on City Road. He was waiting impatiently for his friends who were long overdue to meet him so they could go drink beer together.
Mrs. Tonkin did not reprimand John as she walked by, nor did she pass by, pretending not to recognize him. Instead, Mrs. Tonkin warmly greeted the seventeen-year-old and invited him to come to church with her. At first he tried to make excuses. (Boring old church was the last place he wanted to be.) But his friends had let him down, and there was Mrs. Tonkin gently urging him to join her. Finally, the young man agreed to go.
John said later of that night, “I recall the sermon and the great power with which the Word of God took hold upon my heart as I sat there. Mr. East, the minister, took a most impressive verse of Scripture for a text: ‘For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’” That night, John Williams saw the futility of life without Christ and decided to turn from his selfish ways and come to the Saviour.
John was a valued worker in the ironmongery, and he also directed his diligence to his spiritual growth. Soon he was teaching Sunday school and attending a special class for prospective preachers. Before he reached his twenty-first birthday, he married and sailed off to become the “Hudson Taylor of the South Pacific.”
John became friends with Robert Moffat, and learned lessons from Samuel Marsden in Sydney. While sailing to Tahiti, he studied the ship on which he sailed. He made drawings of its construction, and learned sailing and navigation from the captain. When he and his wife Mary arrived in Tahiti in 1817, it soon became apparent that John was no ordinary missionary. John learned the language faster than anyone had ever done—preaching his first sermon in Tahitian after only ten months. Then he volunteered to lead a team to start a work on the island of Raietea. Thus began the monumental work of John Williams.
What God did through John Williams is a wonder. During the next twenty-one years, God worked marvelously through His willing servant. Practically the entire island of Raietea turned to Christ from idolatry and infant sacrifice within three years, and the churches began sending out their own national missionaries. From there John moved to Rarotonga (Cook Islands), again seeing most of the island converted. Then, when no ship came to carry John to the next island, he and the Christians on the island built a boat. The “Messenger of Peace,” a seventy-five-ton ship constructed almost entirely of jungle materials, carried John and the Gospel to what is known today as the nation of Samoa. John continued to bring the Good News to more Pacific Islands until he was martyred on the island of Erromanga (part of modern Vanuatu) at the age of forty- three.
John Williams lived a life of service to the Lord, but it started with someone who was willing to bring him to church, and a pastor who gave him a place to serve in his church. Not every member of our churches will become a John Williams, but every member needs the opportunity to serve.