“The kid’s ministry is looking for some more volunteers.
“Sign up to help serve at this event."
We’ve all heard these announcements on Sunday. Every church with more than two people needs someone to serve the others. Service is an inherent component of our Christian life. In Matthew 22, Jesus summarized all of the Old Testament law and the commandments with a simple command to love God and to love your neighbor as you do yourself. Serving is one of the primary methods of loving someone. When we serve, we love God by showing humility and obedience to what He has called us to do. Likewise, when we serve, we love others by sacrificing something for them and putting their needs above our own. But perhaps some of you, like me, from time to time feel burdened by the overwhelming needs of the people we serve. Or you don’t feel as though you have anything to offer. Or simply that you’re just too busy or stretched too thin to serve.
I want us to reorient our thinking of service when it comes to volunteering in the church, or even in our own personal lives and the people we can serve on a daily basis. Rather than looking at service as an obligation, an expectation, or a burden, can we instead see service as a gift? In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul is commending a local church for their generosity and willingness to give towards the needs of others. Read verses 11 and 12 with an emphasis on service as a gift, "You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” Generosity can be shown through monetary gifts, but just as much, to be generous in serving others will enrich your life and result in glory and thanksgiving to God. Later in the same chapter, Paul says "Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15). Our generosity comes not from an abundance of goodness and wealth of our own, but because we have received a so much greater gift from God through Jesus Christ. The gift of a regenerated heart, freedom from sin and death, and eternal life with Him forever is a far greater gift than any of us can ever give to anyone. Out of the abundance of joy that this gift of new life brings, we then have something to give to others through our generosity and service.
So any service that we offer to God and others needs to come out of a grateful heart and a God given desire to see others come to know Jesus and receive the same gift. The function of service in the church is to provide for the physical needs of others so that they can open their heart to hear the truth of the gospel. Jesus himself spent most of His earthly ministry serving the needs of others. The feeding of the five thousand, washing the disciples’ feet, all acts of service that then allowed the recipients to be in a position that is receptive to hearing the gospel. In the New Testament church, we see people being chosen out of the congregation to serve the rest by essentially being waiters and dishwashers. After these first deacons were installed, it says “the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem” (Acts 6:7) So by the willingness of a few faithful servants to humble themselves and give the gift of their service to others, the mission of God was furthered and the church continued to grow. I pray that our hearts can echo their generosity and desire to see new people meet Jesus. We would see incredible things happen in our churches.
Serving in the kid’s ministry is a gift to the parents in the church who would otherwise be distracted and not really hear the sermon because they need to take care of their children. It is also a gift to the children who get to spend time with other adults who love Jesus and are willing to teach them the gospel. When you serve on the media team, you give a gift of your talents to present the gospel message in a way that is engaging and incredibly high quality. At the Info Booth, your gift is to the new comers, to those who want to get connected to the community of the church. You can bless the church with your gift of music and leading people in worship of God. Even those who silently serve with no spotlight or recognition, they give a great gift in keeping the church clean, supporting the staff in their daily tasks, preparing food and drinks, and handing out bulletins at the front door.
We all need to ask God to renew our hearts and minds when it comes to our view of service. We need to read His word to understand the full breadth of what it means to serve and be served. Some of you serve too much, out of a selfish desire to impress others or to somehow earn God’s favor. Some of you don’t serve very much at all, maybe because of selfishness or a feeling that you don’t have anything to give. I pray that God would allow you to view your service as an expression of His goodness to you. Your pastors don’t want you volunteering in the kid’s ministry under some sense of obligation. They do not want you to help at the bookstore because you want to check a box to make yourself feel better. That is not a gift to the church.
Jesus wants to see His people cheerfully giving of their time, talents, and treasures because of their inexpressible gratitude for what they have been given, so that others may also receive the gift of faith. Wouldn’t it be amazing if an entire body of believers gave in service to the church so that everyone who walked through the door felt like an honored guest and we didn’t need to have constant pleas for more help in this or that ministry? Wouldn’t it be amazing to see God pour a flood of newcomers and new believers into the church because of the great reputation of love and service and generosity they receive there? That would be an amazing gift indeed.