Saturday, November 21, 2020

What if the Church...Were More Interested in Serving than Deserving?

You can either serve, or de-serve.  You can't do both.  For this reason, I've learned that the best church leaders are the ones who first say "no."  I always preferred those who felt that they didn't deserve it, and had to be convinced to say yes, over those who put themselves forward as leaders in the church.  I've met both kinds, and probably so have you.  

One type of church leader rises to power because they are influential.  Either they step up and nominate themselves for positions of recognition, or their buddies drop their names in the hat.  These were the popular kids in school--the mean girls on the cheerleading squad or the jocks with perfect teeth who bullied kids in the cafeteria.  The other type is the grown-up nerd who got stuffed into the locker, or the girl with who developed compassion because she was picked on as a kid.  I've seen both kinds of leaders in churches, and by far, the best ones say "no," and have to be convinced to say "yes."  The biggest problems I've had in churches were always from those who put themselves forward.

It's not that I'm fond of low self-esteem, but I've noticed that the ones who say, "I'm not worthy" are generally too busy serving to waste much time occupying positions of power.  On the flip side, the ones who like sitting on thrones usually don't want to get their hands dirty, either.  When it comes to choosing leaders, I always looked to those who were already serving, to give them a title.  That's so much better than finding people who want a title, and hoping that they'll serve.
James and John, the "Sons of Thunder"


In Matthew 20 and Mark 10, Jesus' disciples James and John--the popular kids with the nickname "Sons of Thunder" came to him, asking for the kind of favor from him that only people with a sense of entitlement might expect.  They wanted to be Jesus' right-hand and left-hand men when he sat on his glorious throne.  "You don't know what you're asking," he said.  He was about to undergo the kind of "baptism" (more like blood-bath) that only comes from putting yourself dead last, after everyone you've vowed to serve.  None of his followers could be worthy of such positions unless they abandoned themselves completely.  Little did they know that Jesus' only throne would be a cross, and they certainly were not prepared for that.  They were all about deserving, but Jesus was all about serving.

All this leads me to ask: What if the church were more interested in serving than deserving?  It's not just individual church leaders that we find exalting themselves like James and John, desiring glory instead of self-sacrifice.  Not just leaders, but entire churches take this stance when they focus more on their own comfort and position than the needs of the world around them...

When they clamber after influence in the community while God's children starve, shiver, and overdose on their very doorstep... 

When they ignore the historic and systemic racism that has dealt death for generations, all at the hands of respectable members of their own congregations...

The entitled church puts itself forward like James and John when it insists that it have its own way in secular legislation that governs a whole nation, not just Christians.  It acts like it deserves to lead, rather than serving the world in humility.  

You can either serve, or de-serve.  You can't do both.

So, what would the world look like, if the church were more interested in serving than deserving?  

The church would care less about gaining power, and more about sharing love...  

It would exercise less control and exorcise more demons...  

God's people would learn that it's more important to sit at a table with their enemies than to take a stand against them...

It would focus on shining light instead of cursing the darkness...

It would celebrate the image of God in all people, rather than forcing it's image of God onto people.

For far too long, the church has been the locker room bully.  The mean kid who excludes the Other who is equally precious to God.  If we're more interested in serving others than our own sense of deserving, we'll actually lead people to Christ rather than beating them over the head with him.  We'll refuse a throne rather than seeking one for ourselves.  We'll put others first, instead of putting ourselves forward.  In short, we'll live like Jesus, who came not to be served, but to serve.


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