To serve or not to serve?

To quote the bard (not that one, Dylan), “You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame, You may be living in another country under another name. But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes”

If we listen to Bob the question in the title of this blog may be irrelevant. Bob just wants us to choose who we’re going to serve. His options are “the Devil and the Lord”, and maybe our existence boils down to that dichotomy, but I think it’s more complex and thus worth asking the question.

For most of the Christians I know, especially my partners in Circle of Hope, it’s not really of question of whether or not they will serve but how they might serve. In Circle of Hope there are tons of ways to be involved! Cell leading and hosting, Public Meeting teams, maintaining our building, taking care of kids, counting money, compassion teams… I haven’t listed them all but you could pretty much fill up your whole schedule with “doing stuff.”

Someone who finds themselves in that predicament might ask the question “to serve or not to serve?” I’m not trying to give you an answer but I will give us 4 filtering questions to consider as we answer the question for ourselves.

1) Can anyone else do it? Jesus said “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” This is a promise as much as it is a prophecy of the inevitable. If you demonstrate your capacity in one thing you will be asked to do other things because others have seen how available and capable you are. You could say yes to every need but you might also consider how you could train someone else to do one of your things. Can you replace yourself? This could be an opportunity for discipleship. If no one else can do it, then you probably should, even if you don’t want to do it that much. Our collective need is an important factor in your decision I hope. Your gifts were not given to you alone. (Romans 12)

2) Do you like doing it? Our desires are not inconsequential. We will do what we love the best just because that’s the way we work. Some tasks are, however, not very lovable. There are those weird people who really enjoy the satisfaction of mopping floors. If that’s you, then you should probably join our cleaning team because you are a rare bird. Figuring out how to like your task even if it isn’t a natural “fit” for you is important too. Choosing to enjoy something is not a popular notion, nor is it an impossible one. You can choose to serve in way that is not ideal for you. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9) The last part of this verse is the most commonly quoted, but I want to highlight the first part. We can decide in our hearts what to give of ourselves and be content with that. This verse implies our active role in the decision. That’s what I’m hoping to stir up in this post.

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This servant is a personal favorite of mine (my son, Oliver)

3) What is the need? At our Circle of Hope outpost in South Jersey there is plenty of need. We have an awesome building that is well situated in our target area but it takes work to have a big property like ours (snow removal, weeding, roof fixing, litter clean-up). We also have a lot of big ideas about how we want to be the church- artful Public Meetings which require lots of attention and creativity, and cells that all have at least three leaders- cell leader, apprentice and host. You may be in a season in which you feel like you want to hang back–you’re tapped spiritually and emotionally–there’s too much to be involved in–“Do I have to do it all?” You may ask.  The answer is, of course, “No.” There are any number of good things you can do with your time, but I’m banking on the fact that you want Circle of Hope to thrive and you are taking the needs of the community into account along side your own needs. Again, you’re not in this alone.

4) Does God want you to do it? This is probably the most important and probably the hardest to answer. The temptation is to get caught up in our human relationships and the human organization. It’s easier to react to people who are right in front of you than attune our spirit to God’s voice. Our initial reactions to being asked to do something or our consistent resistance to doing what we really want to do could just be the noise that drowns out what God is saying.

Blessings as you discern how you will use your gifts for our common enterprise!

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