Serving in Your Local Church

Posted: September 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

There is a great discussion over at The Gospel Coalition surrounding the church, pastors, and members serving in various areas.  I encourage you to watch Tim Keller, Michael Horton, and Matt Chandler flesh some of these things out. 

Click Here for the video.

This has set me to thinking a bit today about people serving in their local congregations.  The idea of service is firmly rooted in the Bible.  Jesus would be the supreme example of service as He lays down His life for the church.  He would say very plainly that He came to “serve, not be served” (Matthew 20:28).  Service, then, is part of what it means to imitate Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1). 

In our churches we often hear this language of service thrown around.  Where can I serve?  How can I serve in this body?  What area of service is available for me to plug into?  These questions reveal the heart of someone who, in some sense, gets it.  They know they were not saved from Satan, sin, and death so that they could then put their feet up and coast through life.  We are saved and then sent.  We are made alive by God and there are good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).  So, those who want to serve the church in some capacity are not far from the kingdom!

However, we could take a false step at this point if we are not careful.  Many times we think that the church (as an organization) needs to provide “ministries” that presents members with opportunities to use their gifting.  If the church isn’t providing these “ministries”, then the members will not have a place in which they can serve.  Therefore, the simple church (with little programming, few events, etc.) is stifling its members in terms of exercising their particular giftedness.  At least that is what some would say.

So where is the balance?  I think it is somewhere in the middle.  I am not for doing away with all “programs” (hate the word program if you like) and I am not for creating an unhealthy number of “programs.”  I think what we do in terms of Sunday School, small groups, AWANA, VBS, and Upward have great potential for good.  These “ministries” can be great outlets for discipleship, fellowship, and gospel advancement.  However, these “ministries” or “programs” could also be hindrances.  If your church is running these events, and more, simultaneously, or at rates in which the congregation can’t keep up, they can begin to wear your members out.  Burn out sets in.  So, making sure to have a healthy number of “programs” or “ministries” for your local context is a crucial issue to prayerfully consider.

Now, that was a kind of sidebar.  The real issue is whether or not the church needs to provide these “ministries” so that people feel they have a place to serve.  Should our members be looking for a “program” to jump into so they can be useful in the kingdom?  If a church doesn’t provide these “opportunities”, is it hindering the Christian from serving?  I think the answer to all those questions is, not necessarily.

When people are of the mindset that they need to find a “program” or “ministry” to serve in or they can’t serve, they miss something really important.  They miss the fact that God has saved them and now sends them into the world, not into a “program.”  He sends them into their workplace, school, neighborhood, and families.  They are to be His “witnesses” (Acts 1:8) in whatever sphere of life they find themselves in.  This is their “ministry.”  This is where they are to “serve.”  They are to get to know those God has providentially placed in their sphere of influence, build relationships, meet needs, and share Jesus with them.  This is the work of the ministry!

So, when I hear, “Where should I serve?”  Or, “How should I serve?”  I want to say, “serve where God has you.”  And by that I mean, serve your neighborhood.  Tell your co-workers about Jesus.  Moms and Dads, pass on the faith to your children.  Preach the gospel to those God has placed in your life that are outside the church.  Go, and be the church that is in the world!

And, I also want to be able to say, “I have a need in our AWANA ministry for a godly lady, or man, to help teach our kids what it means to follow Jesus.”  It is not a bad thing to be able to point a gifted teacher to a Sunday School class that needs a teacher.  It is a good thing to take a person who can’t teach, or do much of anything else, but loves people and put them on a team of greeters where they serve those who visit our Sunday gathering. 

But, if those ministries do not exist; if the church has simplified (which I am all for), and there are only a limited number of places to serve in terms of “programs”; the opportunity for service has not faded away.  No, it is still there.  Go…and serve…the world…with the gospel of a crucified and risen Savior who calls them to Himself.


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