Pastoral Ministry
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The Gift of Service

Acts 6:2-4 KJV

"Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. [3] Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. [4] But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word."

You recognize this text as the genesis of modern Deacon Ministry. This evening we are not studying the text to find out more about the role of the deacon, instead, I want us to focus on the last phrase of verse two to discover more about the gift of service. As a reason for the election of deacons, The apostles say they should spend their time praying and preaching/teaching and that the congregation should find others to settle the dispute in the church and "serve tables." Does this phrasing indicate that the work of the apostles was more important that the work of the servants?

In 1985, the church I was Pastoring was in the middle of a building project. I'd just completed seminary and was about to turn 26 years old. The 4800 square foot building was a stretch for our congregation that was averaging 25 at the time. Because of a shortage of funds, I served as owner/builder, and did much of the work myself. I rose early in the morning to meet subcontractors and stayed on the building site until late at night to work alongside our members. If I could put off a visit, I did. My sermons were little more than a few words scrawled on a notepad. Most of the time, I winged it. Four months later, we completed the building at a cost of $27.00 a square foot! Mission accomplished, or was it? Not really--I did a good job on the building and a poor job as a pastor.

I learned my lesson, Four years later, rapid growth necessitated another building program. This time, I didn't serve as owner/builder and I didn't drive a single nail. In fact, I attended very few planning meetings. We elected a committee, and they made the decisions and briefed me along the way. Did I shift my priorities on this building program because I thought my pastoral work was more important than the building?

Did the apostles, by their actions, make a separation between sacred and secular? Did they believe the work was less important than their own?

What work is more important, the work of the leader or the servant? Or another way to ask the question is: is the work of the leader spiritual and the work of the servant secular? Not an easy question to answer, especially since,

  • The lines between leadership and service are easily blurred.
Jesus introduced the concept of servant-leadership in Matthew 20:26 NLT "But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant," He began His public ministry by providing wine at a social--working behind the scenes to make a party go smoothly. He concluded his public ministry on His knees washing the dirty, stinking feet of his followers. Neither actions were coveted by anyone; they were the duties of common servants.

In Romans, Paul called Jesus a servant of the Jews. Romans 15:8 NLT "Remember that Christ came as a servant to the Jews to show that God is true to the promises he made to their ancestors."

Was Jesus leading or serving? Jesus did not see leadership on one side of a spectrum and service on the other. He believed the path to true greatness was service in Matthew 23:11 NLT "The greatest among you must be a servant." And in Mark 10:43 NLT "But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant," Not only are the lines between leadership and service blurred, but

  • People often view service as fulfilling an obligation.
Muhammad Ali said, "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth." That may be the Moslem view of service, but it is not the Christian view.

The Apostle Paul, a noted Christian leader, calls himself a servant in 1 Cor. 3:5 NLT "Who is Apollos, and who is Paul, that we should be the cause of such quarrels? Why, we're only servants. Through us God caused you to believe. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us." If service isn't fulfilling an obligation,

  • Is service one tool or component of a leader?
Can we conclude, then, that service is an internship that leads to leadership? No. One cannot exist without the other and the leader, who is consumed with his mission, can and will function in either mode. Service is not fulfilling an obligation, but it is fulfilling a component of a mission and a calling.

If Paul was a servant and Jesus was a servant, then how can anyone relegate the work of service as ordinary or secular? There is not a separation between the sacred and secular.

  • Service is sacred too!
Billy Graham said: "The most eloquent prayer is the prayer through hands that heal and bless. The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service."

Service takes many forms. Paul saw his preaching as service. Col. 1:25 NLT "God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his message in all its fullness to you Gentiles." He also saw evangelistic work as service. Col. 1:7 NLT "Epaphras, our much loved co-worker, was the one who brought you the Good News. He is Christ's faithful servant, and he is helping us in your place." Could any of us call these acts of service ordinary?

  • Service is touching Jesus.
When Mother Theresa accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she said. "I choose the poverty of our poor people. But I am grateful to receive (the Nobel) in the name of the hungry, the naked, the homeless, of the crippled, of the blind, of the lepers, of all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared-for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone."

Even while being honored, she brought attention to the downtrodden she served. Why? She knew the spiritual nature of her work. She was doing more than touching the needy; she was touching Jesus. Five years prior to accepting her award, she said, "I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper's wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?"

Her words remind all of us of the words of our Lord when He said: Matthew 25:40 KJV And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Whether it is cleaning the wounds of a leper or handing out food to Grecian widows, all service is important and spiritual.

As I look back on the work of the Building Committee of the First Baptist Church of Palm Desert ten years ago, I know that without their work, my pastoral work would have been hampered. I gave the attention to the building that I deemed necessary and gave the lion's share of my attention and energy to my pastoral responsibilities. My work wasn't more important. It was just different.

In our text, the work of the Apostles wasn't more important than the work of the deacons, it was just different. Their work wasn't more spiritual or more necessary.

Has God given you the spiritual gift of service? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done? Then use your gift of service to God's glory and the edification of His church. 

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