Where Is Your Focus?
We don’t serve because it’s what we’re supposed to do. We serve because we’re made to joyfully reflect the goodness of the gospel in how we sacrificially love others.
Everyone has a routine on Sunday mornings. For me, it can sometimes feel hectic and a bit rushed. I get sleepy kids out of the car and into the children’s ministry. I grab a cup of coffee and say hi to a few friends as I scan the auditorium for a seat.
I finally have a second to breathe and think. But then, it begins. The rapid fire internal dialogue. See if you can relate to one of the two following examples:
Option 1: The line for kids’ check-in took forever. The coffee isn’t my favorite, but I’m exhausted, so it’ll do. That person didn’t say hi to me when I passed by. These announcements don’t directly affect me so I’ll just check Facebook real quick.
Option 2: The line for kids’ check-in took forever. I wonder if they need an extra set of hands at the next service? I’m so thankful we have coffee on Sundays because I’m exhausted. That person didn’t say hi to me when I passed by. I’m glad I initiated a conversation since she was a first-time guest. These announcements don’t directly affect me but I bet my neighbor would love to go to that membership class.
The distinction is clear. One example reveals a focus on ourselves and our expectations. The other has an outward focus. It recognizes the value of people, not just what they can offer.
Inward Focus: Serving the Idols of Consumerism
“Hey, can you help me with ____?”
We all get this question, whether it’s at church, at home, or at work. When I hear the start of a request, the true condition of my heart reveals itself. This question uncovers idolatry, which runs much deeper than a simple answer to someone’s request. My focus and my priorities become obvious when I have to choose between serving joyfully and my personal comfort.
To be honest, it’s easier to serve the idol of comfort than to serve other people. Our family attends the 8:30 a.m. service. It would be much easier for me to go home after that and lay the baby down for his morning nap. However, I currently serve during the 10 and 11:30 a.m. services in the Hospitality Ministry. Week after week, Providence Kids teachers gladly endure my three-year-old’s boundless energy and work tirelessly to keep my baby content while I greet. Those teachers serve me greatly by caring for my children, and it encourages me to serve others in the same way.
Is serving exhausting? Sometimes. Does it make for a long day for our family? Yes. Would it be easier to just say no? Absolutely. But it is worth it. Not serving means missing out on the joy of being a part of what God is doing in the church body. The joy of serving God and his people far outweighs the inconveniences.
Outward Focus: Serving God and His People
First Peter 4:10-11a says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”
God has given us spiritual gifts to glorify him, not ourselves. They were not given to us for our comfort but to build up the body of Christ. Thinking rightly about spiritual gifts and serving helps us to turn our focus from ourselves and toward God. In his book, Perspectives on Pentecost, Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. writes:
The way to determine our spiritual gifts is not to ask, “What is my ‘thing’ spiritually, my spiritual specialty, that sets me apart from other believers and gives me a distinguishing niche in the church?” Rather the New Testament on the whole takes a much more functional or situational approach. The question to ask is, “What in the situation in which God has placed me are the particular opportunities I see for serving other believers in word and deed?” “What are the specific needs confronting me that need to be ministered to?”
According to Gaffin, asking the right question “will go a long way not only toward discovering but also actually using our spiritual gifts.” Our context matters. Where has God placed you? In what ways has God gifted you? What opportunities do you see?
We don’t glorify God solely through our abilities—we also glorify God in our willingness to step up and be used by him in whatever situation he has placed us. We don’t serve because it’s what we’re supposed to do. We serve because we’re made to joyfully reflect the goodness of the gospel in how we sacrificially love others.
"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV).
Editor's Note: Looking for a place to get involved? Check out the Serve page of our site for a current lists of service opportunities. If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, email firstname.lastname@example.org.