The sixth part of our series on how to live as a Christian is all about serving: to our church, neighbours, and community. Serving is fundamental to what it means to be a Christian. Growing as a Christian will involve growing in serving others. In the first part of the series, we talked about following Christ’s example. When we serve, we are simply following his example. This is what he said:
Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’Mark 10:42-45
So what does it mean to serve, and how do we go about it? Let’s take a look at serving in those three areas. We’ll look in most detail at serving our church, and then look more briefly at our neighbours and community.
Serving our church
The first people who we serve are the church. But who exactly is that referring to?
Who is ‘our church’?
If you see ‘church’ as a building, or an event, you’ll be confused. Church here means the people, fellow Christians. In our church we tend to call it the ‘church family’. This could include both Christians in your own church, Christians in the town you live in, or Christians from across the country / world. But probably most often we would be thinking about our own local church.
Why should we serve our church?
Jesus said: “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). The command to love is one which is given to all people, and Christians have a special responsibility to love other believers. This was covered already in the section on church.
How do we serve our church?
Jesus said we should love “as I have loved you”. Jesus loved us by serving – he loved us by giving up his life for us. But it wasn’t just a spiritual thing! He also served in practical ways. One of the most famous moments in John’s gospel is Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. This was dirty and lowly work, something which only a servant would do. When he’d finished, he said:
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.John 13:14-15
So Jesus himself gave us an example to follow. This doesn’t mean that we should wash each other’s feet specifically! – Obviously that’s not really needed in 21st century Britain. But we should be prepared to serve each other in practical ways. We should not be above serving in any way.
There are lots of examples of serving:
- Helping to make tea and coffee and wash up;
- Helping to make and serve food;
- Setting out or stacking chairs;
- Welcoming people who come into church;
- Deliver leaflets or publicity etc. to your local area;
- Helping with gardening for the church or for church members;
- Helping members of the church family with their shopping if they can’t get out;
- Giving lifts to people who don’t have a car.
The list is endless! The important thing is not the specifics of what we do, but whether we are prepared to do what it takes to serve others.
Serving with our gifts
The last thing to look at about serving our church family is thinking about our gifts.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.1 Corinthians 12:4-7
What Paul says is that we have all been given different gifts. All of our skills, talents, passions, as well as our possessions, have been given to us by God as a gift to us. We’ve all got different gifts: some people are good at music, or art. Some people are good at administration. Others are good at teaching, or sports, or drama, or hospitality… there are many gifts. But, the key thing is, our gifts have been given for the benefit of others.
God wants us to use our gifts to serve others. So, for example, if you’re a musician, use your musical gifts to help others praise and worship him. If you’re good at drama, use that gift to help bring the Bible to life. There are many gifts and many ways of using our gifts.
When we come to Christ, we offer him everything. He will help us to use our gifts to serve others in the way he wants us to. And don’t be surprised if he uses you in some unexpected ways!
Serving our neighbour
Our neighbour here doesn’t mean the person we live next door to. It means anyone in need who we come into contact with. It could be anyone we meet.
One of Jesus’ most famous parables is the parable of the Good Samaritan. He told this parable because an “expert in the law” wanted to get out of serving others. They wanted an excuse to avoid loving people! Jesus said that there are no excuses. We simply have the duty to love others wherever we may be.
Let’s take a moment to think about some of the implications of what that does and doesn’t mean:
What serving our neighbour does and doesn’t mean
It doesn’t mean being a doormat. If someone is abusing trust, perhaps by persistently asking for money, then we don’t have to keep giving. That wouldn’t be good for you or the other person. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is actually not to help.
We need to think carefully about what is good and right. Homeless charities, for example, usually advise against giving money to homeless people. This is because that money might go on drugs or alcohol, which would not help them. Serving our neighbour means we need to actually think about what’s best for them. Maybe by helping in a soup run or food bank.
We can only do what we can do. None of us have limitless resources: we can’t help everyone! It’s difficult in an age of social media where we see so much need and are so connected. But God has given you finite time, money, and resources: it’s important to use them wisely. Only God is infinite – which brings us to the last point.
The best thing we can do is pray and share the good news. The most loving thing we can do for anyone is to pray for them and share the good news with them. Don’t overlook this important aspect of caring for others! We need to make sure we care for people’s spiritual needs as well as physical.
Serving our community
Last but not least, we come to serving our community. Christians are known for being community minded people. Nicky Gumbel said on Twitter a couple of years ago:
Christians should be known as people who care. That’s because God wants us to love others. Christians should be people who have concern for everyone, especially the poor and needy.
There are lots of ways of getting involved serving your local community. Your church will probably be involved in some already which you could join. Or you might be able to set up something new! Here are a few ideas:
- Community baby / toddler groups;
- Homeless shelter;
- Food bank / soup run;
- Community cafe or shop;
- Bereavement groups;
- Friendship groups.
There are hundreds of ways of getting involved with the community. If you want to serve your community, the best thing is to pray and ask God to help you know how. He will lead you!