A church always functions best and most faithfully when its members live out the teachings of Jesus. While it’s important for believers to think rightly, it’s perhaps even more critical that they live rightly. As the old saying goes, “Anyone can talk a good game.” What turns heads and hearts, especially in this day when people no longer grant as much respect to the church as in day’s past, is for people to align their verbal confession with their behavioral one.
The one teaching of Jesus that must not be watered down, much less ignored, is his teaching on service. Jesus spoke of his own mission as taking on the character of a servant. He did not come “to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). As the Apostle Paul reflected on the core significance of Jesus for humankind, he wrote about how Christ “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). The point is that if Jesus expressed God’s calling upon his life in this manner, how can his disciples do anything less?
Unfortunately, not every Christian has understood this reality. Particularly in privileged places, people have instead given themselves to the prevailing ideology of a culture that promotes self instead of empties it. We have too often been blinded by the celebrity images that inundate us on a daily basis and have been led to believe that power enables us to get our own way instead of working to make God’s way the consummate goal in life.
How then do we correct both our thinking and our acting? One way is to find models of folk who will flesh out for us such faithfulness. Because so many of us are visual learners, it always helps when there are people who step forward to show us the way.
As I read Scripture, God has always called segments of His people to step forward who have tender hearts and open hands. In the Old Testament, God spoke of them as shepherds (Jeremiah 23:4; Ezekiel 34:1-31). Most of these leaders were admittedly “professionals.” However, in the New Testament, we find the Holy Spirit calling out “lay people” who have the gift of mercy and helps to care for the more vulnerable members of the church (Acts 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 3:8-13). The idea behind the concept is that these servants, or as the Greek renders it – “Deacons” – fill this essential office to a T.
This Sunday morning we will have the opportunity to recognize our servant leaders. We will offer gratitude for those Deacons who are stepping down for a time of rest for the labors, appreciation for those who are continuing on in their responsibilities, and lifting up those who are beginning this leadership role. One of the aspects of this day’s worship aspects that I especially enjoy and am challenged by is the testimony of the Deacons who are being “set apart” (ordained). Their witness inspires me to hear how God is at work in our midst.
So, as you come to our combined worship this Sunday at 10:30, be prepared to pray for those whom God has led us to elevate to this tremendous responsibility. Listen to their hearts and pay attention to their stories so that you might give more consideration to what you can do in the places to which God has called you to be a blessing. Most importantly, emulate their example as the Holy Spirit gives you opportunity, both in our church and in the world, that the way of Jesus may take deeper root.
I remember something I heard many years ago: “The highest honor anyone can be given is the chance to serve.” That’s not in the Bible, though it certainly does not contradict divine teaching. In a day when people too often rush to distinguish themselves by power, prestige, position, and possessions, be open to how you might do so in your life by humbly and selflessly showing Jesus to others. As you do, you will find great joy, and the presence of Christ will be shown forth to His glory, which is always when Jesus’ disciples and His church are at their very best.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).