Servant of All
by Mark A. Taylor
The past six months of 2020 have caused many followers of Jesus to appreciate even more the opportunity to gather in his name as the church—his body of believers. Prior to the “silent virus” that has consumed our country’s headlines, it was so easy for us to take for granted the freedom we have every Lord’s Day to pack up our families and head to the church building. As so many face-to-face meetings were interrupted during the COVID-19 outbreak, many Christ followers grasped just how holy this thing called community really is. Yes, we have continued to worship together through online worship experiences and have been able to spend time with family members and small groups through the magic of Zoom calls, but a large part of our corporate church experience has to do with serving one another by being Jesus’ hands and feet to each other.
Several years ago David Katz published an article about the growing need worldwide for butlers. Fueled by the popularity of shows like Downton Abbey and remarkable growth in the number of multimillionaires, the demand for butlers is growing in many places. Who knew?
Katz interviewed butlers and butlers-in-training all over the world. And the picture often wasn’t pretty. He says this:
“What I saw was the intense, sometimes thankless existence I suspected. A butler supervises his boss’s household staff, oversees his meals and entertainment, and attends to his every whim and desire. He must be equal parts concierge and Michael Clayton-esque fixer. In that sense, the basic job requirements haven’t changed much in a hundred years. What has changed: the boss. Forget about the dainty lord ringing for his cup of tea. The butlers of today serve paranoid money managers, manor-owning supermodels . . . And they all have stories—horrible, hilarious . . . stories—that they never get to tell, because nobody talks to the butler.”
Jesus Said It First
Nothing in the article made me want to be a butler. Spending my days with the task of satisfying my boss’s whims seems like a dreadful existence. But then I come face-to-face with the challenging paradox of Jesus: “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35, NIV).
Jesus didn’t talk about service just once. Service is central to the lifestyle he wants for his followers. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,” he said (Matthew 20:26, NIV). “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matthew 23:11, NIV). Jesus, the Lord of the universe, demonstrated his own servant spirit when he knelt to wash the feet of the disciples on the night before he was crucified (John 13:1-17). And may I remind you that his disciples had been walking on grimy, dusty roads that had been traveled by donkeys—and such a thing as hand sanitizer didn’t even exist!
Easier Said Than Done
It’s a beautiful thought, service. Like so many grand doctrines of the Bible (such as forgiveness, obedience, and sacrifice), it is wonderful to contemplate, easy to encourage—and difficult, very difficult, to live out. Years ago a friend said something I still remember: “It’s easy to talk up service—until someone treats you like a servant!”
“You want me to stay in the church nursery a second hour, just because the worker you recruited didn’t show up?”
“You expect me to keep on working with her, when everyone knows how difficult she is?”
“Help the pastor? I thought we hired him to help me!”
In his book, I Am a Church Member, Thom Rainer says:
“As a church member . . . I am supposed to be last, not first. I am supposed to be a servant instead of seeking to be served. . . . Membership [in the church] is a gift, something to be treasured. Membership means we have the opportunity to serve and give rather than the legalistic option to do so.”
Yes, it is a gift that we have been given and sometimes we don’t understand how wonderful that gift is until we experience a crisis such as we are currently facing.
The What and the Why
Paul wrote the Romans, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought . . . . For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:3-5, NIV).
Each of us has something unique we can do in the body of Christ. There’s no need to intrude on a role better filled by someone else. It’s not just that what we do should match our gifts and talents. It’s why we serve that’s most important: “Each member belongs to all the others,” Paul said.
The human tongue tastes not just because it’s good at it, but because the whole body needs the nourishment that enjoyable eating provides. The heart doesn’t pump because it enjoys the beat, but because the body will die if the heart doesn’t keep the blood flowing.
So it is in the body of Christ. My membership in this body is not for myself, but for the good of the whole body! My very existence in the church is not to please me, but to serve all the others in the church and in our community who need me. What a thought! I’m here for them, not for myself. They’re depending on me, and I can’t betray or ignore them. I’m here to be a blessing to my neighbors inside and outside of the church. I may never attain the high standards of a Downton Abbey butler, but I can find great joy in serving Christ and his community of faith.
In his research studying those who were butlers and butlers-in-training all over the world, David Katz said a lifelong butler remarked, “I’ve seen more unhappiness where I’ve worked than anywhere else. [The millionaires] are suspicious. Worried. They don’t seem to have fun. It’s really quite sad.”
The greatest Lord of all, our Father God, gives us many opportunities every day to serve others—through our church’s ministries and in one-on-one service to others in the community. You might have a talent for working with babies, children, or teenagers. Maybe you enjoy running the cameras in the Auditorium or greeting new visitors at the doors. Your help might be exactly what the church needs. Interested? You can check out all the ways to get involved here.
The wonderful thing about serving is that we honor Jesus by serving his body, we bring joy to others, and in so doing we reap many blessings ourselves. Being servant of all is an honor and a privilege. Where is God calling you to serve these days?
Mark A. Taylor retired in 2016 after serving as an editor and publisher at Standard Publishing for more than 40 years. He and his wife, Evelyn, have been members at Christ’s Church since 1983.