“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Jesus)
“Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” (Martin Luther King, Jr)
Yesterday I included a piece in my message that I don’t normally include – I called it the Big Ask (and thanks to Rick Warren’s tweet on Saturday night that included the reminder and encouragement that every message should end with the words, “will you?”). We were concluding our series “We,” (We Worship, Learn and Serve) and I wanted to invite our community of faith to not just grasp the idea of serving (as a mental model) but embrace it as the only true pathway to greatness. Part of this flows out of my Significance strength which motivates and empowers me (and drives me) to call our community of faith to be a great church, a church that makes as big a kingdom impact as possible. I reminded our community (and myself) that greatness is not measured by size or numbers but by our willingness and commitment to serve others as Christ has served us.
At the end of my message I asked people to make a commitment, over the next three months, to jump into one of the serving environments we have worked to create. And I asked them to make the commitment on the spot (without checking their calendars in advance).
I was pretty blown away by the response. Of course, many of our heavy lifters, stepped up to the line and made fresh commitments to roll up their sleeves and serve. And for that I am extremely grateful. But I was also thrilled that a number of people seized the opportunity to get out of the bleachers (in our case I mean the literal bleachers as we worship in a gym) and onto the playing field.
This pumps me up on two levels. First, we are following the pathway to greatness as outlined by Jesus. I once heard someone say, “we are never more Christlike then when we take up the towel and serve.” When we are serving others as a response to the way Christ has served us, we will living the life that God intends us to live and in so doing, we are living as collaborative friends of Jesus bringing near the kingdom of God through our actions and our influence.
Second, serving environments are tremendous incubators for spiritual transformation. Last evening I began to read, “Follow Me,” the recent Willow Creek publication which focuses on the latest research on spiritual growth in the Church. Their research identified four categories of spiritual catalysts in terms of spiritual growth: spiritual beliefs and practices, organized church activities, personal spiritual practices, and spiritual activities with others. In light of my message yesterday morning these words leapt off the page:
“Serving is the most catalytic experience offered by the church….Serving as his hands and feet, whether in a church ministry or serving those in need, seems to reinforce growth in one’s relationship with Christ. Interestingly enough, it appears that serving experiences are more significant to spiritual development than organized small groups.”
When we follow Jesus’ example and serve others, we position ourselves in such a way that the Holy Spirit is unleashed within us. Wow – how cool is that!
I never got to raise these questions yesterday in my message, but if you are interested in pursuing greatness on Jesus’ terms, I invite you to spend some time reflecting upon them and then do something about it.
- How do I understand my uniqueness and actively contribute to my community of faith and the world through that uniqueness?
- How is my sphere of influence (home, neighborhood, workplace, church) different and healthier because of my active presence in it?
- How often do I change my plans or adapt my life based upon the leadings of God to serve others?
- How do I tap into the power of God to fuel my serving?
- What is it that I am doing today that apart from the power of God I cannot do?
- Who are my serving partners?