Are you asking the Lord to promote you in ministry? Jesus said, “Those who are greatest among you will be your servant.” You never leave servant-hood, and it’s when you serve, that you truly worship. Jesus left us an example when He took upon Himself the form of a lowly servant and washed His disciples feet. When we serve one another we become like Jesus, helping Him to minister to His Body the church.
An essay on the Biblical model of servant leadership
I was telling someone recently about the day I qualified myself for the preaching ministry. I was a young university science student attending a local pentecostal church, and the pastor of the church had his eye on me as someone with potential for ministry. I didn’t know it but one Sunday after the service he put me to the test by asking me to sweep the floor. I never thought anything of it and gave myself to the task wholeheartedly. My mother had always taught me, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might.” So I swept that floor like it was a mission from heaven itself. I gave myself to the task with such gusto I’m sure I left people choking on the dust! That was the day heaven marked me for ministry, because I displayed a servants heart.
In John 13: 3-17 we see in this passage of scripture the example that Jesus gave us that we should be humble and serve one another. He took upon Himself the form of a lowly servant. Like a slave Jesus girded himself with a towel and washed the disciples feet. Today we have churches that make this event like a special religious ceremony, but back in Jesus day it was nothing more than the most menial of tasks done by the lowest of servants.
At first Peter resisted, but Jesus said to him, in effect, “If I do not serve you, you have no part with me.” The Greek means “to get a section or allotment, a share”. And so we see that unless we serve one another we have no share in the allotment of Christ’s kingdom.
Jesus said, “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.” When the pastor asks for volunteers for the church duties roster, if your name gets added to the roster, then happy are you! If you know a servant is not greater than His master, if you know Jesus left us an example for us to follow, to take upon ourselves the lowest of tasks to serve one another, then happy are you if you are on the roster! The Bible says you are happy. Yes you are! It’s a great honour to serve Jesus in this way. It was good enough for Jesus to serve the disciples doing the lowliest of tasks, and it is not above us to do likewise.
How would you define a servant leader? What are the characteristics and qualities of a person Jesus calls to lead? Jesus said, “Whoever is greatest among you shall be your servant.” You never leave servant-hood. I’m usually one of the first ones to arrive at church in the morning and usually the last to leave. I’m still sweeping the floor, even these days, after 30 years in the ministry. You won’t see me on the roster, but I still do it. The congregation has probably never SEEN me do it, because they are not there when I do. But I don’t do it to be seen. I do it because I care about the things that Jesus cares about. You know the church is YOUR church when you can’t walk past a piece of paper without picking it up, because you’ve taken ownership.
Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Jesus gave us the example when He washed His disciples feet. It was the lowest of tasks, like cleaning the toilet. Some people want the pulpit but they don’t want the toilet. It doesn’t work that way. Where’s my promotion? In the toilet. I think God never removes us from these menial tasks in life because they keep us humble. It’s very easy to get proud in ministry. You would be surprised to know how many ministries supported themselves in their early years in very menial cleaning jobs.
I remember Pastor Peter Mortlock (a great New Zealand pastor) sharing one day about his early years in ministry. It is one of the best
stories on servant leadership I have heard. When he felt the call to the ministry he was the best real estate agent in his company at that time. But he resigned that position in order to plant a church. During some difficult years that followed, in order to support himself as a young preacher, he took up work in a local high school as a part-time cleaner. He found himself one day looking down into a toilet bowl, and asking himself, “I used to be a top real estate salesman, how on earth did I end up here?!” He got called into the ministry, and his first lesson was to learn how to serve.
Some people don’t want the menial tasks – that’s what the servants do. But isn’t that the point? We are called to serve. I like this quote by Kris Vallotton: “Your seat of serving becomes your throne of destiny.”
St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel by all means everywhere at every opportunity, and if necessary use words.” Your life tells the story of who you live for.
My wife put her name on the roster recently for set up, but I took it off. I told her she needed to sanctify her vocational calling as a preacher! She loves to serve but she cannot possibly do everything. Peter said it was not right for the apostles to take care of serving the tables, but to give themselves to the word of God and prayer. I told my wife she would end up robbing the people God has called her to feed if she continued in this fashion. The congregation can put their own chairs out! I won the argument, but then I found myself in her place on the roster, because there was no one else!
If I’m rehearsing music before the meeting, and then preaching, and packing up audio afterwards and running admin meetings and taking care of other urgent admin details, I find I don’t often get to function in a pastoral role. Sometimes people think, “why don’t I get to talk to the pastor on Sundays? He never talks to me, I don’t feel pastored.” Well, there’s a reason for that. Sometimes you just don’t get to see the pastor face to face because he’s too busy washing feet, doing other menial tasks.
There are those in the Body that have not found their place of serving yet. They are a bit like my wife’s antique cups and saucers. She has some very valuable sets of antique crockery that are never used for anything, they are just put in the china cabinet for people to look at. They are set apart. But they are so sanctified they are useless! No one is allowed to use them! Sometimes people can be a bit like that. They don’t like doing the dishes, or getting their hands dirty with such menial tasks. They’re like my wife’s cups and saucers – they are so sanctified you can’t use them for anything!
Some people may say, “Well, I’m on the roster Monday to Friday winning souls.” Well, that’s the most important roster there is, and church may be your watering hole – your oasis. You go to church on Sunday to get your tank filled up again, and don’t want to burn out at church doing a whole lot of duties. Absolutely, I agree. But I’d still encourage people to find something simple they can do when they get to church, because it helps them to be connected.
I have someone in my church who is a senior executive in his company. He has been with us for 20 years but he still does the vacuuming. Why? Because big people aren’t little people. They’re secure in who they are, and cleaning toilets, or vacuuming the floor doesn’t demean who they are. They know who they are. Insecure people betray their insecurity when they think that some of these menial tasks are beneath them. We live in a grace culture, but God is still looking for fruit.
Sometimes we just need a change. I LOVE playing the bass on Sunday mornings now! Sometimes I get just a little weary of having to play the keyboard all the time, but occasionally now I get to play bass instead and it’s just breathing new life back into me! It’s good to have a change, but don’t divorce yourself from the culture of serving.
“It’s acceptable to a man according to what he has, and not according to what he does not have.” According to this Bible verse, every persons offering of service is acceptable to God, because not everyone can serve in the same way. Some people have money, but not time. Others don’t have much in the way of money, but if they came off the roster you would know about it! Some people have time, some people have money. Ephesians 4:16 says we are all knit together in the Body by what each member supplies. Everyone is called to serve. There are many ways and styles of serving but everyone who is called to the kingdom is called to serve. It is a characteristic of someone following Jesus, to have the same traits of servanthood as the Master they claim to follow.
No doubt your pastor is still accepting candidates for the high calling of serving the Lord, and His Body – the church. Some people might even be looking for a promotion. You know it’s an upside-down kingdom. Those who are greatest among us, you will find cleaning the toilets, putting away chairs. Make the church YOUR church, get involved this year.
Sometimes it just comes down to plain old self-denial. We live in such a self-focussed and appetite-driven society gorging itself on food, entertainment and other self-seeking worldly pleasures. Jesus said, “Whoever would be my disciple let him take up his cross and deny himself.” Sometimes people don’t get involved in what Jesus is doing because they’re just not involved in what Jesus is doing. These Christians have yet to be “found” for the cause of the kingdom. Jesus said, “He who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Denying ourselves is actually the first step to finding ourselves in His kingdom, and it’s when we serve, that we truly worship.
Salvation is a Gift (All the big words are free)
Sanctification – Part 1 – Definition & Vocational Sanctification
Sanctification – Part 2 – Becoming a Servant Leader
Sanctification – Part 3 – Moral Sanctification
Sanctification – Part 4 – You shall be Holy
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