This week 3000 pastors will attend the Shepherds’ Conference. For them, it will be a time of spiritual refreshment, encouragement, conviction, exhortation, and fellowship. Logistically this does not happen without a lot of man hours both leading up to and during the week.
Monday the campus will be transformed with 600+ ants working on different tasks.To the outsider (or from an aerial view) it will look like chaos. But like ants, each one has a task that fits into the grand scheme of things. The result is a well-oiled machine providing meals, snacks, a coffee bar (both espresso and pour-over bar), shoe-shine stations, internet cafe, phone charging station, concierge, bookstores (yes, multiple), educational seminars, and of course worship! Wednesday morning 4000 people will be on campus to either volunteer or participate in the conference.
From an attendee perspective it is overwhelming. But think about this from a pastoral perspective . . . 600 of your people have taken time off from work or their daily lives to serve these men whom they most likely do not know! That is encouraging!!!! One of the unspoken or unthought-about encouraging factors is the volunteers who serve the pastors because they love Jesus.
People serving people in the church faithfully encourages pastors (whether they be your sheep or someone else’s sheep). But does participating in a conference mean you serve the church? Do you have to be one of 600 volunteers to consider yourself involved?
On one hand the answer is yes. Volunteering for an event, hosted by your church, serves the local body. A person loves Jesus, is committed to this particular ministry, volunteers, trains, prepares, and serves others. But does that make someone a servant? Not necessarily.
Consider, you can sign up, serve on Wednesday, go home, attend every Sunday, and not be involved in your church until next year on Shepherds’ Conference Wednesday. You can simply walk into church every Sunday, sit down, leave, go home and make this your weekly routine. Someone can ask you, “Do you go to church?” “Yes, every Sunday for 20 years. I even serve at our annual Shepherds’ Conference.”
But are you involved? Ask the NT authors what it means to be involved in the local church. They say nothing about filling out a volunteer sheet, just showing up on Sundays, or having a title or specific task (like greeter, usher, snack coordinator, musician).
Instead, NT authors say things like,
- “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2)
- “But to each one of us a gift was given (grace is translated gift here) . . . for the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ . . .” (Eph 4:7, 12)
- “Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb 3:13)
- “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire each one of you (all) show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish (dull) but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:10-12)
- “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Heb 10:24-25)
All of these Scripture references command and encourage the believer to be actively involved in other believer’s lives. This means we need to know others and spend time with them. You can not have a friend if you never say hi to them, know where they live, or spend time with them.
God equips every believer for the purpose of working in the church to help mature other believers and thereby maturing the church. Believers are to know other believers well enough to be able to confront sinfulness, encourage, exhort, help, and serve others.
We should know others well enough to contemplate throughout the week who and how we can encourage, serve, and love others. This is not just a Sunday morning thought, but something we spend time praying and thinking about. The Bible emphasizes serving and loving others within your church. Every letter was written to a church to encourage those in the church how to live and love. The author of Hebrews connects serving the church with sanctification (6:9-12). Those who don’t serve and love others will become dull / sluggish. But those who do habitually serve and love others will grow in maturity.
The emphasis on serving is broad enough to include taking time off from work to serve at a conference, but specific enough to indicate both habitual practice and relationship oriented. Therefore as a pastor I am thankful for those who sacrifice their time to serve at this conference. Yet I am also encouraged by those I know, who cannot take time off to serve, but show up and invest their lives in others within the local church. Their faithfulness and habitual love prove they are full-time servants!
Andrew Callaway (@abiloo43) said:
Preach it brothers! I hear you loud and clear. This has been on my mind for a few years and is on my mind due to a current issue. This is a bit of a fuzzy area because we want people to serve and serve people but as Shawn pointed out there seems to be a few “loophole” gifts to get out of serving directly with people. (i.e. Personal vs. Non-personal)
I have heard a helpful distinction made by our brother Kurt Gebhards. He contrasts Service vs. Ministry. He defines “service” as “doing something” and “ministry” as “ministering to somebody”. He developed an extremely helpful chart characterizing the differences between service and ministry. For example:
1. Service ends in an accomplished task.
2. The task that you are performing never undoes itself.
3. Service is easily seen by men.
1. The work of ministry never ends.
2. The person you minister to is prone to stray.
3. Ministry is often done in private.
“Ministry’s fruit is eternal; service’s fruit is temporal. The chair (service) will burn.”
Note however: While i like this distinction, various versions of the NT translate “diakonia” as either “service” or “ministry” in Eph. 4:12-
NASB- work of service
ESV- work of ministry
HCSB- work of ministry
KJV- work of the ministry
NIV- works of service
I hate to put service in a bad light but a difference should be shown. For the sake of clarification I like to use the service vs. ministry distinction.
While we need people to care for others as “snack coordinators” the greater deeds involve being in other people’s lives. The point being, we all should be ministering to others.
Again from Kurt, “Service involves hard work. Ministry involves heart work.”
Thanks for your helpful words Jason and conjuring up our thoughts.
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Kyle it easily saddens me too because those are the people who show no maturity. All we can do is pray and be a good example because the Lord changes hearts. And, when I want to be encouraged, I think of all those around me who are faithful and they truly do encourage me! 🙂
Kyle Sanderson said:
Thanks for that Jason. Sadly I know of a person who fits what you described. It saddens us for dear souls to not be more involved and take in more of the life of Christ’s body, does it not?
Good to see you last Thursday at SC! Hope you enjoyed the day!
I believe your example is a good example of someone doing something for others because you love Jesus. But the question remains is a person who does “chores” for the church because they love the Lord the entire story?
It seems to me a person could “serve” the church once a week and no one know said person. That person can go on through life and never know how to specifically pray for or serve a person. He/she could avoid relationships and yet still feel like he/she serves the church.
Yet, no matter what our gift is (or we think it it). We must know people and allow them to know us! We must be involved with others. It’s the easiest concept and yet the most difficult because it requires getting involved with other sinners.
It requires getting to know another person. We then learn about him. We see sin, selfishness, love and joy. It’s both painful and joyful at different times. And yet through the painful struggles, we’re tempted to abandon and leave, but we must remain consistent and strong. We must keep treading through the mud because we love Jesus and others. Jesus faithfully stands behind us, guiding us, through our sinfulness and we must do the same for others!
Think about the pastor. He preaches and equips. Those are his gifts. But what if he never spends time with his people? Can he say, “I’m not gifted that way?” Would we then exalt said preacher? No, we expect him to do both. If given the choice between doing a “chore” or having a relationship because you love Jesus. Do both! This is a both / and issue more than an either / or.
I cannot think of a biblical category for non-personal service. Serving in the Bible seems to be something done because you love Jesus and people. Because you consider others as more important than yourself you serve them by loving them.
I can think of instances where your service is non-relational in a sense (like playing in the worship band, serving, cleaning, or some specific task at a specific moment). But those should never be done in place of relationships in a church. We are a part of the body and we may do things that require little to no interaction at times, but we are still plugged into others enough to know how to love and serve them.
Can you think of any?